The Goleta Valley Voice is dead. That’s what the weekly community paper’s editor Jim Logan learned today, December 3, at about 2 p.m., when he was informed that the Santa Barbara News-Press, which has owned the Voice for nearly three years, was shutting down the Goleta publication.
The closure – in addition to the shut-down of Valley Living, which covered the Santa Ynez Valley – is part of the latest round of cost-cutting measures by owner Wendy McCaw, who attracted the ire of the Santa Barbara community and journalists around the world when she began interfering in the News-Press newsroom back in 2006. That tampering led to an exodus of longtime employees, a successful but still stalled unionization drive by the remaining reporters, multiple firings of union leaders, and a slew of breach of federal labor law charges. As a result, the News-Press‘s coverage has dwindled to a fraction of its former breadth, and the community has largely shunned the paper and its ownership ever since, making advertising sales more challenging than ever. And all this trouble has been magnified by the nationwide newspaper industry slump.
According to a press release from the paper, by closing the two papers, the News-Press was able to lay off 17 employees. The two papers will be “incorporated and expanded” into the daily newspaper under this “new operational structure.”
Don Katich, the director of news operations, explained in the press release, “This reorganization will provide us the structure and resources necessary to provide the quantity and quality of relevant and topical news that is not currently served by our weekly products or by other media.” In the same release, copublisher Arthur von Wiesenberger chalked up the cuts to the “ever-changing industry,” and said the reorganization of the sales, printing, and production departments and the consolidation of news-gathering operations represent a focus on the “core product.” As of this publishing, Katich had not returned calls for additional comments.
As for Logan, a father of two who was raised in Goleta and took pride in covering his hometown, the bitter news – just three weeks before Christmas, he pointed out – wasn’t entirely unexpected. “The truth is that I spent the last two-and-a-half years running the Voice wondering every single day when I got to work if it was going to be my last,” he explained. “And it finally happened.” Also getting laid off were community editor Martha Lannan and staff writer Lara Cooper. Logan is not sure what happened to Michaelo Balcazar, the sales person assigned to the Voice.
Logan has worked in journalism since the 1980s and was hired as editor of the Valley Voice about two-and-a-half years ago, just after McCaw purchased it. When former publisher Joe Cole – widely known to be a level-headed buffer between McCaw and her businesses – left the paper in early 2006, Logan knew things might get rough, and then came the July 2006 meltdown. “We always struggled to sell our ads,” said Logan. “But Wendy poisoned the well so much that no one could sell anything for us when people found out we were owned by the News-Press.”
That poisoning was especially unfortunate, believes Logan, because he and his staff had been doing a solid job of representing Goleta, a place generally ignored by the news pages of the News-Press. “We turned the paper around. People really liked the Voice,” said Logan. “I thought we did good work in covering Goleta, but it’s no guarantee with Wendy. Wendy would fire Jesus to save a buck.”
At the same time, Logan is relieved. “It’s a huge psychic relief not to be working for Wendy McCaw anymore,” he explained. “I felt pride in covering my hometown, but at the same time, you’re taking Wendy’s money. It’s just a psychic wound you walk around with. That was hard – always having to apologize in some way.”
As for future plans, Logan said he is also a substitute teacher and that he’ll be heading to Trader Joe’s to apply for a job.
UPDATE: Martha Lannan, who was also laid off today, was the community editor of the Voice. She had worked there for 10 years under three different owners. She said, “I was extremely disappointed, but I can’t say I was surprised just because of the way Ampersand [the News-Press parent company] has been running things for a long time.” Like Logan, she is proud of her work, explaining, “I think it’s a product that has delivered important information. I hope someone else fills the gap.” As for future plans, Lannan doesn’t have any yet, but said, “I enjoy the field very much. I really enjoy covering the people as well as the politics of Goleta.”
UPDATE: Lara Cooper, the staff writer for the Voice who was also let go on December 3, offered these thoughts: “We just really did our best to cover Goleta, report the news, and be truthful with people. Working there was very difficult, because people wouldn’t trust us if they knew our paper was owned by Wendy. But over the last few years, I feel like we earned the right to cover the community again. That’s something the News-Press might never be able to do, at least not under this ownership. Goleta is a fantastic community, one that all three of us loves dearly.”