CITIZEN McCAW: Producers of the film Citizen McCaw, which chronicles the News-Press meltdown saga, plan to screen the documentary on March 7, despite four warning letters from owner Wendy McCaw’s lawyers and a subpoena demand.

The lawyers threatened legal action, depending on the film’s content, producers said.

That would be enough to scare off many a filmmaker, especially five guys financing it themselves, but they announced this week that the premiere will go on as planned at the Arlington Theatre, followed by a Q&A.

On the Beat

Then the film will be released to national TV. (Details yet to be announced.) The looming question: Will Wendy and her army of lawyers go to court to try to block the screening? I don’t see a judge allowing that.

You’ll recall that during the federal trial of the News-Press over firing six reporters (the reporters won), McCaw’s attorneys asked National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge William Kocol to order the filmmakers to turn over the documentary’s raw footage and all production and interview notes. If he’d okayed that, the lawyers would probably still be whacking away at the film. But the judge deep-sixed the fishing expedition.

“The film chronicles events since July 2006, when editor Jerry Roberts and five of his colleagues [including yours truly] quit the Santa Barbara News-Press, citing owner and copublisher Wendy McCaw’s abandonment of journalistic ethics, which McCaw denied,” the producers said. “The film chronicles the twists and turns of community protests, legal maneuverings, a union vote, child pornography charges, a 25 percent decline in circulation, a noticeable drop in the paper’s coverage of local news and issues, and numerous other events, including a surprise ruling in early January 2008, when a federal labor law judge found that McCaw’s paper had violated federal law by firing six of her reporters for pro-union activities. The paper is appealing the ruling.” (Natch.)

And don’t forget Wendy’s $25 million breach of contract arbitration action against ex-editor Roberts (and his $10 mil counteraction). The trial was recently held here in private-these things are confidential-and there’s been no word about any results. The newsroom folks won their union case and contract negotiations are going on. Oh yes, the porn. Last year, the News-Press published a front-page “story” about child porn supposedly found on a newsroom computer. Although several other editors in the past had apparently used the computer, and any porn on it might have been there when the paper bought it used, only Roberts’s name was mentioned. Roberts, who hadn’t been notified of the story in advance or been asked to comment, held a press conference denying any connection with the porn, and threatening legal action for the smear. So far, he hasn’t filed a suit.

The Santa Barbara producers are billing the feature-length documentary as “an epic struggle for the soul of journalism” with national implications relating to media ownership and journalistic ethics. Is a newspaper a public trust or a plaything?

Producers are Rod Lathim, well-known locally in the cultural scene; cinematographer Charles Minsky (Pretty Woman, etc.); screenwriter Peter S. Seaman (Shrek the Third, etc.); PBS filmmaker Sam Tyler (Good to Great, etc.); and cinematographer and editor Brent Sumner of Studio 8 in Santa Barbara.

Tickets are $15 for the public and $200 for VIPs to help cover costs. The high rollers will get prime seating and access to a reception with producers and special guests who appeared in the film. Tickets go on sale Friday at the Arlington box office, online at, or by calling 963-4408. Those interviewed include former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee of Watergate fame, journalist Ann Louise Bardach, former NBC newsman Sander Vanocur, and Reagan biographer Lou Cannon.

IN REMISSION: Ex-NP editor Jerry Roberts’s stomach cancer is in remission, but The Santa Barbara Independent‘s piece, “Before and After,” which he wrote last January about his battle with the Big C, will be included in a new book by author Jamie Reno, Hope Begins in the Dark. Reno is a journalist who writes for Newsweek and is a musician in his spare time. He’s been living with lymphoma for 11 years. The book focuses on 50 people living with lymphoma.

WHAT A BARGAIN! Blogger George’s comment about the visit of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier: “Sure, it cost $4.5 billion dollars to build, but that’s a measly 18 days of the Iraq War, so a bargain.”

IT’S 2008, STUPID: If you’re still writing “2007” on your checks like the rest of us, get a load of this cartoon in the current New Yorker. A guy in a toga says to another guy: “There I go-still writing ‘BC’ on my checks.”

HEAT OF THE NIGHT: The 1967 thriller In the Heat of the Night is being re-issued in a 40th anniversary collector’s edition, just in time for director Norman Jewison’s appearance at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.


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