Santa Barbara News-Press controversy

Santa Barbara News-Press controversy

The "Santa Barbara News-Press" Controversy refers to a series of events starting in 2000 after billionaire divorcee Wendy P. McCaw purchased the "Santa Barbara News-Press". McCaw felt that as owner of the "News-Press" she had authority to choose its content, while the news editors and reporters felt her intervention unduly compromised the neutrality and credibility of the paper. The tensions between McCaw and the newsroom came to a head on July 6, 2006 when five editors and a long-time columnist abruptly resigned. The controversy has continued to the present, without resolution, and has illuminated issues of individual ownership of news outlets by the wealthy but inexperienced, the role of daily newspapers in contemporary communities, the modern role of unions, and the limits of corporate legal restrictions on reporters, employees, competing news outlets, and community members.

The July 6, 2006 incident

A number of minor disputes between McCaw and the "News-Press" newsroom pre-date the July 6, 2006 incident. In five years after McCaw purchased the paper in 2000, five publishers and several editors resigned or were fired. Newsroom staff felt that from the beginning of her ownership, she unduly influenced reporting of the news, while she felt she had authority as owner of the paper to decide on its content. Publisher and McCaw attorney Joe Cole, viewed by many as a moderating influence, resigned in late April, 2006. [ [ Blogabarbara, April 28, 2006 (archived in WebCite on June 4, 2007)] ] Then, on July 6, 2006, the long-running squabble erupted with the simultaneous resignation of five editors and a long-time columnist, bringing international news coverage. [ "American Journalism Review", December/January 2006, (archived in WebCite on June 4, 2007)] ]

When the Editor, Jerry Roberts, columnist Barney Brantingham, who had been with the paper for 46 years, and four other editors (Managing Editor George Foulsham, Deputy Managing Editor Don Murphy, Business Editor Michael Todd, and Metro Editor Jane Hulse) resigned from the paper, they blamed McCaw's editorial interference with news reporting. Roberts was escorted out of the building by the then-acting publisher Travis K. Armstrong. [ [,1,5255717.story "Los Angeles Times", Saturday, July 8, 2006 , [ S.F. "Chronicle", July 7, 2006.] , [ UCSB Daily Nexus, July 12, 2006] McCaw's perspective was that the editors had allowed an intolerable level of personal opinion and agendas to influence their editorial choices,a] [ [ McCaw Column, "Santa Barbara News-Press", July 25, 2006] and that only management had the power to decide on content, as she detailed in a December 2006 [ memo] .

The proximate cause of the controversy included McCaw's intervention to stop the reporting of a drunk driving "conviction" of Armstrong, [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", June 15, 2006] although Armstrong's "arrest" had been reported in the pages of the "News-Press"; she had also expressed displeasure that editors and reporters had published the address of an empty lot where actor Rob Lowe planned to build a 12,000 square-foot (1,100 m²) mansion. ["Santa Barbara News-Press," June 22, 2006, p. A7 reported the address as 700 Picacho Lane, Montecito, California; the address is also available [ at the public Montecito Planning Commission website. (archived in WebCite on June 2, 2007).] ] Lowe's plans had been contested by neighbors and the issue had been the focus of a televised public hearing, where Lowe testified, of a local planning commission in Montecito. Newsroom employees regarded these interventions as only the latest in a long series that included McCaw's hiring of a publicist to plant articles derogatory toward her ex-boyfriend, and her requests to portray a local architect in a negative manner. McCaw initially hired former journalist Sam Singer to handle publicity caused by the erupting controversy. Singer was replaced in mid-July by Agnes Huff.

Pro-McCaw Staff

The majority of the "News-Press" staff, most of whom are not in the newsroom, have not been active in the controversy.Around 60 non-newsroom staff signed a full-page advertisement in the front section of the "News-Press" on February 14, 2007, in which they thanked Wendy McCaw and expressed their frustration with the anti-"News-Press" actions of ex-newsroom staff and others. ["Santa Barbara News-Press", February 14, 2007, p. A5]

This effort to demonstrate staff support for McCaw's decision to fight, among other things, the reporters' vote to unionize the newsroom, was viewed with great skepticism among the local media punditry and blogosphere. By this point in the controversy, it was well known that McCaw was unlikely to tolerate opposition support among her staff. And while there is no evidence the 60 signors were threatened or co-erced to sign the ad, being asked by management to participate put employees sympathetic to the unionized reporters in the uncomfortable position of either outing themselves to management or lying about their convictions to the public in a widely circulated newspaper. A central personality in the travails of the "News-Press" has been Editorial Page Editor Travis K. Armstrong. Armstrong had previously written for the opinion page of the "San Jose Mercury News", where he focused on law, education, Native American issues, and gay issues. He also briefly wrote editorials for The "Monterey Herald" in Monterey, California. Armstrong's "News-Press" pieces are strongly skeptical of local politicians and certain local groups, particularly those who advocate government-supported housing in Santa Barbara. He has written that a number of the targetsof his criticism have treated him poorly. ["Santa Barbara News-Press", May 16, 2007, p. A10] Armstrong's critics claim his pieces are unnecessarily caustic and unsupported by facts, and as Editorial Page Editor Armstrong has consistently refused to print letters to the editor that are critical of the paper's position.

Associate Editor Scott Steepleton and Director of Human Resources Yolanda Apodaca have carried out McCaw's wishes through personnel evaluations, redistribution of beat assignments, and dismissal of workers.

The paper announced the hiring of controversial, conservative radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a Montecito resident, to replace local columnist Brantingham in late July. Schlessinger went on a "sabbatical" in January, 2007, after writing her twice-weekly column for less than six months. Her column resumed on March 11, 2007. Many of her columns were supportive of management's position on the "controversy" and anti-union. Dr. Laura's column was suspended again on May 20, 2007, perhaps because of concerns about the content of her son's MySpace page, [ [ "Washington Post", May 24, 2007, [ "Salt Lake City Tribune", May 23, 2007] but returned two weeks later on June 3, 2007. ["Santa Barbara News Press", June 3, 2007, p. A2] The U.S. Military is investigating the MySpacewebpage, [ [, May 31, 2007 (archived in WebCite on June 3, 2007)] ] and some have suggested that the webpage was a forgery. [ Citizen Journalism Today, May 25, 2007 (archived in WebCite on June 3, 2007)] ]

The "News-Press" started blocking access from its internal computer system to certain websites in Spring, 2007. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Apr. 25, 2007] ] The blocked websites include: Edhat, the "Santa Barbara Independent" , Craig Smith's Blog, the "Santa Barbara Newsroom" , Blogabarbara, Facebook, Youtube and Wikipedia.

ubsequent Separations

Approximately 70 "News-Press" staff, constituting about 1/3 of the total employee base of the paper, have resigned or been let go since the controversy erupted.

Three staff resigned within days of July 6, 2006: Sports Editor Gerry Spratt, Reporter Scott Hadly, and Presentation Editor Colin Powers. The latter two resigned in response to a letter from owner Wendy P. McCaw that accused news staff of improper behavior. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", July 14, 2006 , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", July 20, 2006 , [ "San Jose Mercury News", July 13, 2006]

The first nine resignees received an "Ethics in Journalism" award from the Society of Professional Journalists on August 11, 2006. [ [ SPJ Press Release] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", August 29, 2006] McCaw argued in a letter that the Society was being "used by this group to further their own political and personal agendas." [ [ Editor and Publisher, August 14, 2006] The nine resignees were awarded the Payne Individual Award for Ethics in Journalism in Spring, 2007. [ [ Payne Award Website] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Apr. 24, 2007] ]

There have been three additional major waves of firings or resignations, as well as a slow attrition of employees. Six columnists who wrote about local communities or issues were let go in mid-August, 2006: Bill Etling (Santa Ynez), Stephen Murdoch (Montecito), Amy Orozco (Carpinteria), Rochelle Rose (Goleta), Helen Thomas (Santa Maria), [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Aug. 16, 2006] ] and local surfing columnist Michael Kew. Popular Life Section columnist Starshine Roshell had her column subsequently cancelled. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Aug. 18, 2006] ] In September, mental health columnist Dr. Michael Seabaugh resigned, after the "News-Press" published an apology for his criticism of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Sep. 13, 2006] ] [ [ Healthspan Blog, Sep. 13, 2006] ] [ [ Editor and Publisher, Sep. 15, 2006] ]

Six veteran news reporters (Melissa Evans, Dawn Hobbs, Rob Kuznia, Barney McManigal, Tom Schultz, and John Zant) were fired by the "News-Press" on Feb. 5-6, 2007. [ [ "Santa Maria Times", Feb. 7, 2006] ] [ [ UCSB "Daily Nexus", Feb. 7, 2006] ] [ [,1,5325822.story?coll=la-headlines-california&ctrack=1&cset=true "Los Angeles Times", Feb. 7, 2007] ] [ [ Editor and Publisher, Feb. 6, 2007] ] The reporters had displayed a large sign on a SantaBarbara overpass stating 'Cancel Your Newspaper Today' during morning rush hour on Feb. 2. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Feb. 2, 2007] ] An attorneyfor the "News-Press" said display of this sign constituted behavior disloyal to the "News-Press", and was sufficient grounds for dismissing the employees; a Teamsters attorney argued that the display of the sign was protected behavior under labor law. The "News-Press" unsuccessfully contested the awarding of unemployment benefits to Hobbs and McManigal.Fact|date=July 2007According to the "Santa Maria Times", as of May 7, 2007, only one reporter covering local news – Nora K. Wallace – remains at the "News-Press".

Seven staffers resigned in April and May, 2007 in response to the "News-Press" April, 22, 2007 article (see below) concerning pornography and former Editor Jerry Roberts.Fact|date=July 2007

The director and two editors of [ "Blue Edge"] , a surfing magazine owned by Wendy McCaw, resigned on June 22, 2007. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", June 28, 2007, (archived in Webcite on July 2, 2007]

McCaw held that the editors and reporters who quit did not want "goals to improve the quality of the paper, to have accurate unbiased reporting, and more local stories that readers want to read." She said "they no longer would be permitted to flavor the news with their personal opinions." [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" news release, August 18, 2006] Her co-publisher and fiance von Wiesenberger described the problems at the "News-Press" by making an analogy with a hamburger stand where the manager and workers (the editor and writers by analogy) employ graft to destroy the hamburger stand (the "News-Press"). [ [ Discussion Forum, September 8, 2006]

The following separated from the newspaper from July, 2006 through June, 2007, after the initial nine who have received awards: Security Guard Mike Mantino, Page designer Lindsay Foster, Special Sections/Inserts Editor Ann Peyrat, Assistant Sports Editor Kim Burnell, Copy Desk Editors Paula Pisani, George Hutti, Amy Weinstein and Allan McCabe, Photo Editor Len Wood, Life Editor Andrea Huebner, Travel Editor and Column Illustrator Al Bonowitz, columnist and reporter Starshine Roshell, Advertising Staffer Melissa Olson, Website Staffer Dianne Elliott, Assistant City Editors Dale Myers and Bob Guiliano, Business Editor Edmond Jacoby, columnists Bill Etling, Stephen Murdoch, Amy Orozco, Rochelle Rose, Helen Thomas, Michael Kew, Dr. Michael Seabaugh, Martha Smilgis, Judy Foreman, and Buddy Winston, Chief Financial Officer Randy Alcorn, Executive Assistant for News Joy Wells, Accountant Toni McDonald, Systems Director Raul Gil, Director of Classified Advertising Sarah Sinclair, pressmen Ramon J. Lopez and Carl Batchelder, Graphic Designer Mary Koenig, Classified Advertising Assistant Nicholle Chaparro, Book Reviewers Lin Rolens, Susan Miles Gulbransen, and Fred Klein, as well as reporters Camilla Cohee, Josh Molina, Chuck Schultz, Shelly Leachman, Hildy Medina, Mike Traphagen, Colby Frazier, Leah Etling, Frank Nelson, Melinda Burns (winner of numerous journalism awards), Vladimir Kogan, Kim Pohas, Anna Davison, Dawn Hobbs (winner of numerous journalism awards), Rob Kuznia, Barney McManigal, Melissa Evans, Tom Schultz, John Zant (a 38-year "News-Press" veteran sportswriter), Steve Bonser, Leana Orsua, Dan Shiells, and Tom Jacobs. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Aug. 10, 2006] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Sep. 5, 2006] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Sep. 7, 2006] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Sep. 13, 2006] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" press release, Oct. 3, 2006] , [ "Santa Maria Times," Oct. 4, 2006] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Nov. 13, 2006] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 8, 2007] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", January 11, 2007] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", January 15, 2007] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", January 26, 2007] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Feb. 5, 2007] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Feb. 6, 2007] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", May 3, 2007] ]

Eight ex-"News-Press" reporters launched a web-based news source, [ Santa Barbara Newsroom] , in early April, 2007. The site is sponsored by the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. On Friday, July 13, 2007, the staff of Santa Barbara Newsroom announced that they would cease reporting, citing a lack of funds.


Remaining "News-Press" newsroom staff launched a unionization effort after the July 6incident. Those in favor of unionization garnered a landslide victory in a vote conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, but the "News-Press" has tenaciously opposed their unionization with multiple appeals. In August, 2007, the NLRB certified the union as the exclusive bargaining representative of the news department employees.

The tactics of the newsroom staff included a pledge drive encouraging subscribers to cancel the paper if demands were not met by September 5, 2006, as detailed on their [ website] . A branch of the Teamsters has filed grievances on behalf of the remaining staffers, which have been contested by the "News-Press" management. [ [ Editor and Publisher, Aug. 15, 2006] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" Press Release August 15, 2006] [ [ "Santa Maria Times", August 19, 2006] [ [ "Contra Costa Times", August 22, 2006] [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" Press Release Aug. 30, 2006] ] On August 31, 2006 eleven of the remaining "News-Press" newsroom staff received two-day suspension notices from management for allegedly participating in improper union organizing activity; some have claimed, and two NLRB Administrative Law Judges have found, that the activity was protected by labor law, innocuous and consisted only of attempting to deliver a letter to McCaw during a break. The suspended staff were: Al Bonowitz, Melissa Evans, Kim Favors, Dawn Hobbs, Karna Hughes, George Hutti, Rob Kuznia, Barney McManigal, Lara Milton, and Tom Schultz; Mike Traphagen chose to resign earlier than announced rather than accept the suspension. [ [ "Santa Maria Times", September 2, 2006] [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" Press Release September 5, 2006] [ [ Editor and Publisher, September 6, 2006] [ [,1375,VCS_128_5243104,00.html Ventura County Star, December 29, 2006] The Sep. 5 deadline set by the employees passed, and the staff through their Teamsters representative Marty Keegan called for subscribers to cancel their subscriptions to the paper. [ [ KSBY Broadcast, September 5, 2006] [ [ "Santa Maria Times" Sep. 6, 2006] ] [ [ KEYT, Sep. 5, 2006] ] [ [ "San Jose Mercury News," Sep. 5, 2006] ] [ [ San Francisco "Chronicle," Sep. 6, 2006] ] McCaw refused offers from local political leaders, religious leaders, and prominent journalists such as Sander Vanocur and Lou Cannon to help resolve the conflict. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Sep. 5, 2006] ] [ [ "Pacific Coast Business Times", Oct. 6, 2006] ] A vote by newsroom staff on unionizing under the Teamsters took place on September 27, 2006. [ [ Editor and Publisher, Sep. 12, 2006] ] The vote was 33 to 6 in favor of the union. [ [ Editor and Publisher, Sep. 27, 2006] [ Daily Nexus, Sep. 28, 2006] [ "Santa Maria Times", Sep. 28, 2006] [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Sep. 27, 2006] ]

The "News-Press" first questioned the validity of the election, [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" press release Sep. 27, 2006] ] and then formally contested the validity of the election. [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" news release, October 3, 2006] [ "Santa Maria Times", Oct. 4, 2006] ] On October 30, 2006, the Teamsters filed an unfair-labor-practice charge over the Oct. 27 firing of veteran reporter and laborleader Melinda Burns. [ [ "Santa Maria Times", Oct. 30, 2006] , [ "Pacific Coast Business Times", Nov. 3, 2006] ] On November 13, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided to file a complaint charging the "News-Press" management with violations of the National Labor Relations Act. The causes for the complaint include the cancellation of Starshine Roshell's column and the two-day suspensions for improper labor organizing activity. [ [ Editor and Publisher, Nov. 14, 2006] ] On December 7, 2006, the NLRB denied "News-Press" appeals concerning the newsroom staff behavior and vote to unionize. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Dec. 11, 2006] , [ Teamsters Press Release] ] On December 11, 2006, the NLRB dismissed one charge brought by the Teamsters against the "News-Press," and the Teamsters themselves withdrew three charges. [ [ "Santa Maria Times", Dec. 12, 2006] , [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" Press Release, Dec. 11, 2006] , [ George Blog, Dec. 12, 2006] ] On December 28, 2006, the NLRB filed a complaint concerning alleged "News-Press" retribution against employees who supported unionization [ [ "Santa Maria Times", Dec. 29, 2006] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Dec. 29, 2006] ] .

The NLRB hearing to address the complaint by the "News-Press" concerning the
September 27, 2006 election took place in Santa Barbara on Jan. 9-10, 2007. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 8, 2007] ] Four specific points were raised by the "News-Press": 1) that supervisors were involved in the election; 2) the [ Save the "News-Press" Website] confused voters into believing the "News-Press" itself supported unionization; 3) an anonymous threat on [ blogabarbara] intimidated voters into supporting unionization and 4) newsroom staff engaged in threatening behavior. Many of the principals in the "News-Press" controversy testified during the two-day hearing. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 9, 2007] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 9, 2007] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 10, 2007] , [ "Santa Maria Times", Jan. 11, 2007] ] On March 12, 2007, the NLRB judge issued his decision in favor of the unionization vote on September 27. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Mar. 15, 2007] , [ "Santa Maria Times", Mar. 13, 2007] ] In that ruling, eventually upheld by the NLRB in Washington, DC, the ALJ found the key witnesses for the News-Press, Travis Armstrong and Scott Steepleton, to be not credible witnesses, who "prevaricated", "embellished" and "exaggerated" their testimony in an unsuccessful effort to obtain their desired result.

A second NLRB hearing, focused on the propriety of the "News-Press" firing of reporter Melinda Burns and other issues, originally scheduled for Mar. 12, 2007 was delayed. [ [ "Santa Maria Times", Mar. 8, 2007] ] On March 13, 2007, the NLRB announced that the "News-Press" would be prosecuted over the firing of Burns, various other issues, and the firing of eight other reporters. [ [ "Santa Maria Times", Mar. 14, 2007] ] An NLRB attorney wrote that the General Counsel believed the "News-Press" had violated labor law in its firings of reporters. A "News-Press" attorney responded that “We’re watching the end of the industry. Journalists think they can write what they want when they want. I don’t know if that can survive in this age.” [ [ "New York Times", Mar. 19, 2007] ] Attorneys for the "News-Press" filed their "exceptions," a form of appeal, to the NLRB judge's rulings in early April, 2007. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent," Apr. 6, 2007] ] The Teamsters filed their response in mid-April, 2007. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Apr. 27, 2007] ]

A "News-Press" attorney and accountant entered a meeting between ex-"News-Press" staff, Teamster officials, and local business people on Valentine's day, 2007. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Feb. 14, 2007] ] The purpose of the meeting was to encourage advertisers to withhold advertisements from the "News-Press". The "News-Press" attorney accused the ex-"News-Press" staff of mendacity, was invited to leave by a union representative, and only left when the Teamster representative sarcastically invited him to bargain. The Teamsters have filed a complaint with the NLRB over the incident, asserting that management may not force themselves into labor meetings without an invitation; the "News-Press" asserts that because the meeting was held in a public building, they were entitled to attend. The Teamsters had paid a fee to use the room where the meeting occurred. The General Counsel of the NLRB prosecuted the News-Press for this among many other violations of the federal labor law.

The actions of the "News-Press" attorney and accountant were added as an unfair labor practice charge by the NLRB against the "News-Press" in early April, 2007. As of April 9, 2007, the NLRB has decided to bring 19 unfair labor practice charges against the "News-Press". [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent," April 9, 2007] ] A hearing on many of these charges is scheduled for August 14, 2007 in Santa Barbara. [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press", June 1, 2007 , [ Craig Smith Blog] , June 1, 2007 , [ "Lompoc Record", June 3, 2007 (archived in WebCite June 3, 2007)] ] In June, 2007, the NLRB announced that two charges against the "News-Press", concerning statements made by their attorney and a restatement of theirconflict-of-interest policy, had been dropped, ["Santa Barbara News-Press", June 9, 2007, Page A4.] and that they would not require the immediate reinstatement of firedreporters to their jobs. [ [ "Santa Barbara Newsroom", June 19, 2007]

The unfair labor practice hearing lasted 17 days in August and September, 2007, and in December, 2007, the ALJ ruled in favor of the General Counsel and against the News-Press on each of the charges brought against the newspaper, including nine discharges, the cancellation of Starshine Roshell's column, discriminatory evaluations of four reporters, interrogation, surveillance and a demand that employees remove "McCaw, Obey the Law" signs from their cars and buttons from their clothing. The ALJ again found both Steepleton -- who claimed responsibility for all 9 firings held to be unlawful -- and Armstrong to be not credible witnesses. The ALJ also found McCaw's testimony not credible. The News-Press maintained throughout the administrative hearing that the so-called "union campaign" had nothing to do with working conditions but was rather an attempt by a few disgruntled reporters to wrest editorial control of the paper from its management; that the actions of the paper and its owner were wholly within the law; and that the reporters' actions violated the First Amendment freedom of the press. The ALJ rejected all of those contentions. The News-Press did not invoke its First Amendment rights in firing any of the nine people who the ALJ found to have been unlawfully terminated. The News-Press has filed exceptions to the ALJ's ruling, which is pending before the NLRB in Washington.

On May 22, 2008, Federal Judge Stephen Wilson issued an Order which the newspaper has claimed vindicates the News-Press. The court refused to issue an injunction that would have provided for immediate enforcement of the ALJ's ruling against the News-Press, criticizing some of its reasoning as "clearly erroneous." (The ruling does not effect the NLRB's consideration of the ALJ's decision) The Judge found that a theme of the union campaign was to influence editorial control of the paper, and that the ALJ's recommended ruling posed a significant risk of violating the First Amendment rights of the paper. [ Order Denying Petition, May 22, 2008, USDC Case No. CV 08-1551 [] ] ] It was the court's view that the First Amendment may license the newspaper's management to violate the NLRA in these circumstances. The NLRB has appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

After the newspaper failed to bargain in good faith for six months, the Teamsters began a campaign to handbill local business owners who advertise in the News-Press. The News-Press filed charges alleging an illegal secondary boycott and acts of intimidation and coercion against local business owners, which the General Counsel has referred to the NLRB's Office of Advice for consideration. [ Santa Barbara News-Press, August 26, 2008, p. A10, "Teamsters' actions hurt local workers"; Santa Barbara News-Press, August 27, 2008, p. A1, "Targets of union boycott fight back"; September 11, 2008, p. A6, "Police called to scene of Teamsters action against News-Press advertiser" ] The only allegation of violence occurred when a Teamster representative was struck by an enraged customer who did not agree with the Teamsters' activities. The United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court have upheld handbilling of customers of businesses that do business with the employer involved in a labor dispute, citing constitutional concerns if such activity were to be regulated or restricted.

The News-Press has filed over 10 unfair labor practice charges against the union, all of which have been dismissed. Bargaining between the union and the News-Press began in November, 2007. The General Counsel of the NLRB has concluded after investigation that the News-Press has bargained in bad faith in violation of federal labor law, and has announced that he will prosecute the News-Press for that refusal to bargain in good faith, and for ceasing certain employment practices after the union won the election. Several other charges filed against the News-Press, including interference with the NLRB's investigative processes, are being investigated by the General Counsel's staff.


McCaw's holding company, Ampersand, has filed a variety of lawsuits against former employees, competing media outlets, and journalists.

In August, 2006, Ampersand sued former editor Jerry Roberts for breach of contract and causing damage to the "News-Press",and demanded $500,000 in damages. [ [,1,5954606.story?coll=la-headlines-california Los Angeles "Times," Aug. 25, 2006] , [ Editor and Publisher, Aug. 25, 2006] ] [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" Press Release, Aug. 25, 2006] ] [ [,1375,VCS_125_4945856,00.html Ventura County "Star," Aug. 26, 2006] ] Her company claimed that Roberts breached confidentiality concerning the suit, which is subject to arbitration, but Roberts claimed that it was an Ampersand attorney who gave the information to a "News-Press" reporter, and it leaked from there. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Aug. 31, 2006] ] Only Roberts and not McCaw's companies are bound by confidentiality, according to McCaw's public relations representative. [ [ Santa Maria "Times," Sep. 1, 2006] ]

Roberts filed a counterclaim for $10,000,000, and Ampersand responded by upping their claim to $25,000,000. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 15, 2007] ] Roberts accepted a position at UCSB as director of student publications, commencing February 20, 2007. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 25, 2007] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 26, 2007] ] The "News-Press" published a front-page article in late April, 2007, suggesting that Roberts might be responsible forillegal child pornography found on the computer he used while he was the Editor of the "News-Press". The pornographywas found by a forensic disk-recovery firm, and local law enforcement found no grounds for prosecution of Roberts.Roberts vehemently denies any connection with the pornography (see below). ["Santa Barbara News-Press", Apr. 22, 2007, page A1, [ "Santa Maria Times", Apr. 23, 2007] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Apr. 22, 2007] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Apr. 22, 2007] , [ "Daily Nexus", Apr. 23, 2007] , [ "New York Times", Apr. 23, 2007] , [ "San Francisco Chronicle", Apr. 23, 2007] , [,1,1793729.story?coll=la-headlines-california "Los Angeles Times", Apr. 23, 2007] , [ "Editor and Publisher", Apr. 23, 2007] ] The proximatecause for the article was a lawsuit in which Ampersand sued the Santa Barbara Police Department for access to thedisks containing the pornography. The Judge's ruling was against Ampersand, and the Judge cited, among other things, that Robertshad not been made aware of Ampersand's request under laws governing civil discovery. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", May 1, 2007] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", May 1, 2007] , [ Tentative Ruling, California Superior Court Case #1243155] ] The Judge did enjoin the Police Department from destroying the disk for 120 days. During oral argument,the Ampersand attorney stated that the disk was "our defense to emotional distress damages", referring to Roberts' counterclaim. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", May 2, 2007] ]

Ampersand sued the "Santa Barbara Independent" in Federal Court for copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, participation in unfair business competition, and interfering with prospective economic advantage on October 26, 2006. [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" Press Release Oct. 26, 2006] , [ UCSB Daily Nexus, Oct. 27, 2006] , [ Editor and Publisher, Oct 27, 2006] , [ Santa Maria "Times," Oct. 27, 2006] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Oct. 27, 2006] , [, "Santa Barbara Independent", Oct. 27, 2006] , [ Craig Smith Blog, Oct. 27, 2006] ] The"Independent" had for a few days posted a copy of a story written by then "News-Press" report Scott Hadly about the tumultuous July 6, 2006 events. The "News-Press" chose not to publish the story, and a copy was leaked to the "Independent", which did not publish the story in their print edition, but did post the story on their web site. After the story was posted for a few days, Ampersand requested that the "Independent" remove the story, and the "Independent" complied. The October 26 suit concerns the few days when the leaked story was posted, and also identifies a second unpublished "News-Press" story about Ampersand's suit against former Executive Editor Jerry Roberts, which Ampersand claims was leaked to the "Independent". The "Independent" claimed they never possessed the second story. [ [ "American Journal Review", October/November, 2006] ] The "Independent" filed its counterarguments with the court on December 11, 2006. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Dec. 12, 2006] ]

Ampersand filed [ suit] on December 12, 2006 against Chapman University Professor Susan Paterno, author of the article "Santa Barbara Smackdown" thatappeared in the "American Journalism Review". [ [ Santa Barbara "Daily Sound," Dec. 18, 2006] , [ San Luis Obispo "Tribune," Dec. 19, 2006] , [ Editor and Publisher, Dec. 18, 2006] , [ Editor and Publisher, Dec. 19, 2006] , [,1,1483125.story "Los Angeles Times," Dec. 19, 2006] ] [ [ "American Journal Review", October/November, 2006] ] The [ suit] details33 instances of alleged "false and misleading statements," in Paterno's article, claims that Paterno's"... article falsely states and implies that Ampersand is an unethical corporate entity engaged in unlawful conduct and that its product, the "Santa Barbara News-Press", is a deficient product," andasserts that McCaw's involvement in the "News-Press" resulted fromformer editor Jerry Robert's incompetence. Alex Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard, commented about the suit: "It is outrageous. It is especially a betrayal of the principles that most journalists understand for a libel suit of this kind to be filed. It is apparently a grudge." [ [ Editor and Publisher, Dec. 19, 2006] ] Attorneys for the "American Journalism Review" responded to the suit on December 27, 2006. [ [ "American Journalism Review", December/January, 2007] ] Paterno filed an anti-SLAPP [ suit] against Ampersand on January 29, 2007. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 30, 2007] , [ "San Jose Mercury News", Jan. 30, 2007] ] [ [ The Panther, Chapman University, Feb. 12, 2007] ] [ [ OC Weekly, Feb. 15, 2007] ] On February 15, 2007, nearly all copies of the Chapman University student newspaper, the " [ Panther] ", were stolen from campus racks. [ [,1,5277632.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california "Los Angeles Times", Feb. 16, 2007] ] [ That edition of the "Panther"] contained an in-depth article on Susan Paterno's article on the "News-Press" and her legal travails. The first hearing on Paterno's anti-SLAPP suit occurred in mid-April, 2007, where the judge allowed limited discovery of evidence to go forward on 4 of the "News-Press" charges. T Paterno filed for a writ of mandamus to prevent discovery being pursued against her on the four remaining libel charges, and in June, 2008, the Court of Appeal in Santa Ana granted her the writ and ordered the News-Press' case against her dismissed. The News-Press now faces the prospect of paying Paterno's attorneys fees.

Legal Letters

A "News-Press" attorney sent a [ cease-and-desist order] to Santa Barbara web newspaper [ Edhat] on September 11, 2006, ordering Edhat to stop providing a hyperlink to the [ obituaries] on the public, non-subscription portion of the "News-Press" website. Eventually the "News-Press" relented, as the obituaries are not on a subscription-only portion of their website.

McCaw's attorney sent a letter to 44 prominent attorneys in the Santa Barbara area on September 11, 2006, urging them not to provide legal support for former "News-Press" employeesFact|date=July 2007. On September 22, 2006, the 44 attorneys announced formation of the [ Lawyers Alliance for Free Speech Rights] to help ensure equal access to justice for journalists who assert that their First Amendment rights are being infringed. The group includes former Superior Court judges, bar association leaders, a law school dean, law school professors, partners in major local law firms, a former District Attorney, and a former City Attorney. The group was criticized by the "News-Press" in a press release. [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press" press release Sep. 22, 2006] ] On December 5, 2006, McCaw's attorney followed up with a second letter urging attorneys not to support former "News-Press" employees. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Dec. 11, 2006] ] On January 23, 2007, McCaw's attorney sent a third letter to attorneys in the Alliance. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 25, 2007] ]

McCaw's attorney sent a letter to seven small businesses in Santa Barbara during the week of December 11, 2006, all of whom had displayed a sign saying "McCaw Obey the Law." The letter threatened legal action for defamation, saying that the sign exposes McCaw to "hatred, contempt, and ridicule." [ [ KSBY, December 15, 2006] , [ Santa Barbara "Daily Sound," Dec. 18, 2006] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Dec. 18, 2006] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Dec. 19, 2006] ] The ACLU of Southern California responded with a [ letter] expressing the legal opinion thatlegal action against the small business owners would fail. [ [ Editor and Publisher, Dec. 21, 2006] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Dec. 21, 2006] ]

A letter from McCaw's attorney was published in the "Santa Barbara Independent" on January 11, 2007, in which the controversy was framed as a battle between the Teamsters and the business owner, McCaw. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 11.2007] ] Aclaim was also made that McCaw had saved the "News-Press" from financial insolvency; this claim was contestedin a subsequent letter by a former "News-Press" financial officer. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Jan. 18, 2007] ]

April 22 article

On April 22, 2007, the News-Press published a front-page article stating that the Santa Barbara Police Department had viewed nearly 15,000 pornographic images on a company computer hard drive once used by former editor Jerry Roberts, some of which amounted to child pornography. Roberts, who staged a mid-day news conference to deny any connection to the images, described the article as "a smear" and noted that the News-Press published the piece without a byline and without seeking a comment from him. He also demanded an immediate retraction and said he may pursue "massive damages." [ [ "Santa Barbara Newsroom", Apr. 23, 2007] ] An editorial in the Santa Barbara Independent described the article as character assassination and bad journalism. According to the Independent, three other co-workers had used the hard drive before, none of whom were named in the article. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", Apr. 26, 2007] ]

The "News-Press" published a front-page clarification about the April 22 article on May 13, 2007. ["Santa Barbara News-Press", May 13, 2007, p. A1] Two rewordings urged by Jerry Roberts' attorneys were printed, along with the original statements from the April 22 article. The first concerned use of the computer by other "News-Press" editors: the April 22 article stated that computer systems director Raul Gil signed a declaration that the computer "may" have been used by other editors; the May 13 clarification prints the specific statement Gil made, which states that "by recollection, notes, and memory (Mr. Gil) concluded that the desktop computer "had been previously used" by at least two other editors at the "News-Press" and possibly an ex-business editor." The second clarification concerns Jerry Roberts' interaction with Santa Barbara Police: in the April 22 article, the "News-Press" reported that Roberts "refused" to be interviewed by police, while the May 13 clarification states that Roberts cooperated with the Santa Barbara Police through his wife and attorneys. Roberts' attorney deemed the clarification inadequate. [ [ "Santa Maria Times", May 15, 2007]

Veteran journalist Lou Cannon wrote an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times on May 13, 2007 which lamented the treatment of Jerry Roberts and the controversy at the "News-Press". [ [ "Los Angeles Times", May 13, 2007 (archived in WebCite on June 2, 2007)] ] "News-Press" owner and publisher Wendy McCaw responded in her own paper on May 27, 2007 and in the Los Angeles Times on May 31, 2007, and accused Cannon of sloppy journalism as well as a lack of sensitivity toward victims of child pornography. ["Santa Barbara News-Press", May 27, 2007, page G1, [ "Santa Barbara Independent", May 28, 2007 , [ "Los Angeles Times", May 31, 2007 (Archived in WebCite on June 2, 2007)] ] Cannon then responded to McCaw's response, and questioned the accuracy of a number of her claims. [ [ "Santa Barbara Independent", May 31, 2007] Former "News-Press" editorJerry Roberts responded in the Los Angeles Times as well, on June 5, 2007. [ [ "Los Angeles Times", June 5, 2007 (archived in WebCite on June 5, 2007)] ] A subsequent public written exchange between McCaw and Cannon occurred in early July, 2007. [ [ "Santa Barbara News-Press", July 3, 2007 (archived in Webcite on July 7, 2007)] ]


In 2008, filmmaker Sam Tyler released a documentary called " [ Citizen McCaw] ". The 85-minute documentary focuses on the News-Press Controversy and its premiere in Santa Barbara drew 2,200 viewers. [ A Fight for Journalism Values in California] ] More showings are scheduled for October, 2008.


The publishers report that circulation has increased during the commotion involving multiple resignations. Figures provided to prospective advertisors have indicated a decline in South Santa Barbara County subscriptions during 2006 from 31,000 in January to 27,000 in June.Fact|date=July 2007 Total circulation figures dropped by approximately 2,000 readers, or about 5%, between Fall, 2005 and Fall, 2006. [ [ Pacific Coast Business Times, Nov. 3, 2006] ] [ [ Sep. 30, 2006 ABC Circulation Study] ] Between Spring 2006 and Spring 2007, "News-Press" weekday circulation fell 9.5%, one of the biggest declines in the Southern California region. [ [,1,3881545.story?coll=la-headlines-business "Los Angeles Times", May 1, 2007] , [ "Santa Barbara Independent", May 1, 2007] , [ "Editor and Publisher", May 1, 2007] ] Readership for the "Santa Maria Times", the major daily newspaper of northern Santa Barbara County, increased by 6% during the same time period. [ [ "Lompoc Record", Apr. 30, 2007] ]


External links

* [ "Santa Barbara News-Press"] , official site
* [ Save the News-Press] , union effort and boycott
* [ Society of Professional Journalists]
* [ Photos of 07/14/06 rally where reporters put duct tape over their mouths]
* [ 'Citizen McCaw'] , official site of the documentary film

* [] , videoclips of community protests, including ex-news reporters' speeches at rallies, videotaped by former News-Press assistant city editor Bob Guiliano, aka BobbyLuigi.

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