Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, July 06, 2006

News-Press Exodus

It looks like our friend Travis Armstrong's promotion has caused the mass exodus at the NewsPress. According to commenters on a previous post, here are the confirmed resignations that don't even show up on their staff page on the web site:

Executive Editor Jerry Roberts
Managing Editor George Foulsham
Deputy Managing Editor Don Murphy
Metro Editor Jane Hulse
Business Editor Michael Todd
Columnist Barney Brantingham

Could it be that mixing editorial with news just won't fly with these seasoned journalists? A new era has begun at the News-Press where officeholder bashing and the fate of meerkats, pigs and salamanders will rule the front page and more often than not be placed above the fold. Maybe even above the banner...

Thanks to all for the updates during the day -- I was away from my computer. So, what's next for our community paper with Wendy, Travis and Nipper at the helm? It's a scary thought....


Anonymous Canon Perdiddler said...

If indeed three top editors and other staffers at the N-P have resigned, it is sign of how deep their fury at the way the paper has been mishandled by Wendy and Travis reaches.

Journalists develop an almost paternal/maternal love for their paper, even if they are aware of its failings. "The Paper" takes on a life of its own, and needs to be cossetted. When step- (or foster) parents step in and treat it like a miscreant in need of constant discipline, those who consider themselves part of its being take umbrage . . . because, to mix metaphors, their work has created something they feel proud of, something they honor. (This incidentally, is not true of TV journalists, but is, to some extent true of radio people.)

Anyway, the fact that senior people are quitting is a sign of how heartbroken they are with the way Ms. McCaw has been running . . .or wants to run . . .the paper: traditionally the news side operates separately from the owners and the editorial side. Not so in Wendy's world.

Finally, the fact of resignation is a very, very serious matter for those who have taken the step: newspapers are shrinking, not expanding. Finding another job will not be easy for those have quit.

7/06/2006 7:50 PM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

Yes, those resignations are confirmed. look for more names to be gone from the staff directory web page tomorrow, such as Foulsham and McManigal and Brantingham. Sort of like our own local version of Stalinist Purges, where founders of the Soviet Revolution literally disappeared from the history books (people actually books back then.

Hopefully, but perversely for their family income, I hope EVERYONE THERE walks out as a statement. This newspaper totally has lost its credibility, but does The Wendy care? Will she simply let the Gray Lady of the West die to suit her ego and ineptitude?

Do they (whoever makes decisions there anymore) really think a new editor can be hired after all this, but I suppose anything is possible with quadruple the usual salary of standard rates for a full roster of news editors. At least the new editors will be so rich they will not compete with me for rental housing!

Jeramy Gordon: nowz your chance!

Will Daily Sound and Indy (yes, it is IndY, not "Indie") fill the void? The dominant daily newspaper is on the ground, time to plunge the sword!

Indy has plenty of money if their majority shareholder owner would stop sucking all their profit for himself to do nothing. Indy could buy out the Top Talent from the News-Press carnage, and then Indy could rule the Santa Barbara News Universe, invest in internet as THE venue for the future of news publishing, and then Indy could totally suck up the advertising market share, and then Randy would be twice as rich.

"Mike Pinto" oh annoying one, looks like you got your work cut out for you, but I know you can do it! How about you get a truck and round up all those new sales boxes ("racks", but not really when they stand alone) and dump them in the middle of the night on the front steps at DLG plaza. Most of the box-racks are not even attached to anything. Show Them what the public thinks of their lost credibility. Besides, those news boxes are just unpermitted junk taking up space on the public road property.

I think the Newspress staff chorus was indeed right:

7/06/2006 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a tragedy! The city needs a community newspaper, needs voices of dissent (and assent,too, sometimes forgotten) to city government.

Those who have been supported by the N-P should be as saddened by this as those who've opposed Armstrong.

Surely, Travis Armstrong who has worked in journalism before should be aware of the very basic fact: It takes a very long time to rebuild credibility once it has been lost. And mixing editorial slant with what should be facts, as impartial as humanly possible, is deadly for a newspaper.

And the loss of Barney Brantingham, if confirmed, will be a major blow to the paper.

Very very sad.

7/06/2006 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike Pinto says...

The NP is an enemy of the masses. I foretold this moment when the angry mob reactionaries would stage a coup. People mocked me with my direct action plan of dumping papers. Now you might follow my lead. Travis is an enemy of the masses and direct action needs to be taken. Boycott all advertisers in the NP, dump papers, cancel subscriptions. The hidden corporate power brokers now have promoted their main puppet. We might as well live in Orange County.

7/06/2006 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the Daily Sound jumps on this. I know they're small, but I read it everyday and really hope it becomes bigger. This is what we need to do: Boycott the N-P. Dump our subscriptions and not only boycott its advertisers, but make a point to pick up the Indy or the Daily Sound. DOWN WITH THE NEWS-PRESS.

7/06/2006 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Line under the names of the co-publishers, McCaw and von Wiesenberger, "Overall responsibility for news and opinion pages and all business activity."

Travis is now Acting Publisher, says his by-line, so, therefore, he has the "overall responsibility for news...."

The spirits of Thomas Storke, whose paper won the Pulitzer Prize, Pearl Chase and others preceding must be dismayed.

7/07/2006 6:50 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

Lately I was very suspect of what the NP was printing, since many political issues (2nd district race, police, sheriff and council, housing and planning commission)was so obviously slanted in a particular direction. Now I, and problably many others like me, will not believe a word of the NP at ALL!

Travis may be laughing now, drunk with his own self-importance, but he should be wondering when the same fate will befall him. Eventually Wendy will dispose of Travis in the same manner......dd

7/07/2006 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the previous commentaries on the resignations at the News-Press. Over the past several years the current owner of the News-Press has taken a respectible community-based newspaper and turned it into a sorry excuse for journalism. There is no respect for civil and honest dialogue on important community issues coming from the leadership at the News-Press. And, public officials and other key community leaders who disagree with the News-Press owner's views have been targeted for personal attacks. The owner of the News-Press has blatantly used the newspaper as a propaganda machine and weapon to force a narrow political agenda on the community. We should stand up with those courageous editors who have resigned in protest of unprofessional journalistic standards. A moral line has been drawn in the sand. It is time to cancel our subscriptions and advertising. Speak your truth with economics!

7/07/2006 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The News Press will be fine. You guys are just wishfully thinking.

Travis is an enemy of the masses and direct action needs to be taken.

Pinto, you need help. Isn't there some coup in South America that you should be attending.

7/07/2006 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing to look at is that all of these people quit the News Press in a veritable mass exodus, yet the paper didn't miss a day. Makes you wonder if all of these really important people that left actually helped to make the newspaper.

7/07/2006 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:26 - you're drinking too much of Wrong-Way Armstrong's Kool-Aide. The implosion at De La Guerra is not only imminent, it's already begun.

7/07/2006 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was sickened by Wendy's cuddly letter honoring the late Otis Chandler, someone who took a one-sided rag and made it the likely best source of unbiased quality reporting in the nation. Hers is still a lopsided tabloid that could never get close to what the LA Times stands for. Yet this town takes it day in and day out. I say the time is now to swoop in, steal their top reporters and advertisers and produce a quality daily that trounces the propaganda machine at De La Guerra.

7/07/2006 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:26 - you're drinking too much of Wrong-Way Armstrong's Kool-Aide. The implosion at De La Guerra is not only imminent, it's already begun.

Uhhh, it already happened. And now imagine all of those people out there stuck at some newspaper in Crappy-place-to-live-ville, California reading the AP articles and thinking: I think I could work in Santa Barbara. Maybe I'll give the News-Press a call.

Now imagine the exodus-ers, walking out the front door, thinking: Wait a minute, now where do I work. I may have to move to Crappy-place-to-live-ville.

7/07/2006 3:04 PM  
Blogger john san roque said...

I admit that I have been almost single-minded in my posts to Blogabarbara. I have been critical of two issues regarding the News-Press for over a year:

1) use of the editorial page to vilify political opponents by skewing letters to the editor and providing intentionally unbalanced and misleading commentary.

2) using the news section of the paper to support editorial positions taken by the paper.

Needless to say, I feel vindicated by the walkouts this week of many of the long-term employees.

What I find difficult to understand is the quotes from many sources that a major problem has been the "meddling" of Wendy McCaw in the editorial content. I think she and Armstrong are on absolutely the same wavelength--no meddling required there. And in addition, as the owner, she has every right to pick an editorial page editor who shares her views. It's the meddling in the news, not the editorials, that is the journalistic sin. That's why the people with any honor quit.

So, I'll reject the urge to gloat too much, but I'd like to ask those many "anonymouses" that were critical of me over the past year: do any of you still believe the News-Press is getting a bad rap here?

7/07/2006 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Corner of State & Haley said...

Of course they didn't miss a day. Newspapers will do what ever they have to do to print the paper. You don't just miss a day, no matter what. That doesn't mean the editors who left were worthless. Did you noticed that today's paper had like two local stories in it? One wasn't even local, it was a national story re-writen by a staff writer.

7/07/2006 7:40 PM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

JSR...the News-Press has been accurate and righteous in its criticism of our local political players. This might come as a surpirse to you, but not everyone Santa Barbara thinks that Capps, Rose, Blum, etc. are infallible. Your animosity toward the News-Press stems from the fact that you just can't handle the truth.

7/07/2006 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bill Carson": Hate to break it to you dude, but "animosity towards the News Press" has now transcended the boundaries of Blogabarbara--- newspapers from Coast to Coast and across the Atlantic are running stories about the "meddlesome", unethical and inane "management" style of McCaw and Armstrong. The gig is up. No one who values their journalistic reputation will remain at or apply to work at the N-P unless they absolutely must to support themselves.

7/07/2006 11:19 PM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

The hits keep coming. AP refreshed their article when the Sports Editor resigned on Friday, so that article is now all over the world again, most recently in Japan and India.

The second major tome in Los Angeles Times that popped up tonight (Friday, July 7th), now features interviews with the Santa Barbara business establishment and their lawyers expressing concern and reservations.

This also is now national political analysis, such as in Washington Times text below, about the blondE.

And, a big dose of derision in the Ventura County Star editorial, text below.
California owner loses five editors
By Stephanie Mansfield
Published July 8, 2006

She's blonde, she's rich, and she owns a newspaper in California. What she doesn't have are editors.
Five top editors and a veteran columnist resigned from the Santa Barbara News-Press this week, complaining that billionaire-libertarian-environmentalist owner Wendy McCaw was undermining the paper's credibility and sticking her nose into the newsroom.
"I feel very good about it," says editor Jerry Roberts, 57, who had worked at the paper for four years before resigning Thursday. "It was the right decision. She's had seven publishers in under six years. One might think the lack of stability is a problem."
In addition to Mr. Roberts, business editor Michael Todd, managing editor George Foulsham, deputy managing editor Don Murphy, metropolitan editor Jane Hulse and columnist Barney Brantingham also resigned.
"When they forced me out of the building, some of the staffers were trying to hug me," Mr. Roberts says.
The last straw, the editors said, was when Mrs. McCaw -- who in 1995 received $500 million in a bitter divorce from Seattle-based telecommunications mogul Craig McCaw -- appointed editorial page editor Travis K. Armstrong as publisher. Mrs. McCaw earlier had killed an article about the sentencing of Mr. Armstrong on a drunken-driving charge.
Mr. Armstrong was said to be widely disliked inside and outside the newsroom.
"He alienated much of the community," Mr. Roberts said.
Mrs. McCaw was said to have become upset when the paper published Rob Lowe's address in a story about the actor's efforts to build his "dream house." Mrs. McCaw was said to have told employees to refrain from publishing addresses of people in the news and insisted that employes not talk to outsiders about the newspaper's internal affairs.
"The newsroom sanctity has been breached," Mr. Todd told the Associated Press. "We don't think it is or can be an ethical newsroom in the future."
Mrs. McCaw could not be reached for comment. In a note to readers on its Web site, Mr. Armstrong confirmed the paper's dedication to "personal privacy, fairness and good sense." He could not be reached for comment.
An animal rights activist and philanthropist, Mrs. McCaw, 55, often put her own personal touches on stories, including one opposing the consumption of turkeys on Thanksgiving because of the suffering of the "unwilling participant."
Mrs. McCaw -- who purchased the paper in 2000 from the New York Times Co. -- is no stranger to controversy.
Her lengthy divorce proceedings revealed that she needed $190,000 a month to support her lifestyle. The settlement -- mostly in Nextel stock -- awarded her several boats and planes and four homes in California. She recently lost a court battle against Santa Barbara County to keep the public from walking on the beachfront of her 25-acre estate.
Mrs. McCaw is now engaged to former nightclub owner and bottled water connoisseur Arthur "Nipper" Von Weisenberger. He was recently named co-publisher of the newspaper by Mrs. McCaw.
The Santa Barbara News-Press is the oldest newspaper in Southern California and has a circulation of about 44,000. "It's a wonderful paper," Mr. Roberts said. "We really had a great staff."


Editorial: Journalism 101 in S. Barbara

Newspaper owner doesn't get it

July 7, 2006

Somebody might think that if Wendy McCaw spent $100 million on The Santa Barbara News-Press, she should be able to do with it what she wants.

But newspapers are not mere commodities. When Ms. McCaw bought the 150-year-old newspaper from the New York Times Co. six years ago, she invested in a public trust.

It is a trust she has violated.

Six well-respected editors and a 46-year veteran Santa Barbara News-Press columnist don't throw away their livelihoods over "differences of opinion as to direction, goals and vision," as Travis Armstrong, acting publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press, spun Thursday's newsroom meltdown, in a front-page "note to readers" Friday.

The editor, managing editor, deputy managing editor, metro editor, business editor, sports editor and longtime columnist left because they felt basic journalistic tenets were violated. They cite as examples the squelching of a second article on Mr. Armstrong's drunken-driving conviction after he was arrested in May; Mr. Armstrong's announced intention to directly oversee some news coverage at the same time he is running the business operation and serving as editorial page editor; and the official reprimand to editors for publishing the address of Rob Lowe's controversial house plan in Montecito, despite the absence of a newspaper policy on publishing addresses or the public nature of the house dispute.

The editor was also criticized for publishing legitimate news articles on a vehicle dealership and housing-price dip that negatively affected advertising profits.

Journalists felt in several instances their objective news judgment was being compromised to reflect the private owner's personal views.

Thus, resignations of top editors, then the surreal scene Thursday in the Santa Barbara newsroom of reporters crying and hurling obscenities at the publisher as Editor Jerry Roberts, former San Francisco Chronicle editor, was escorted out of the building.

Sometimes, news organizations make errors, but then acknowledge them and work to avoid repeating them in the future. The problem with the Santa Barbara News-Press is that neither the owner nor acting publisher realizes the newspaper has violated any journalistic principle.

An exodus of six newsroom leaders and a beloved institutional voice may not be enough to shake them from their stupor.

But most people get it: The moment a newspaper loses its credibility is the moment a $100 million investment is absolutely worthless.

7/08/2006 12:12 AM  
Blogger Craig Smith's Blog said...

Its the biggest story in town. Yet the Santa Barbara News-Press refuses to cover or even acknowledge it. All because they are at the center of it. Four days after five editors and a columnist quit, you would not have the foggiest idea of why if your sole source of information was the News-Press. More on Craig Smith's Blog.

7/10/2006 4:18 PM  

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