Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pulling the Mafia Card

Travis Armstrong's use of Jimmy Hoffa, mafia ties and the FBI in tieing union organization efforts to organized crime on Labor Day itself is unconscionable.

I've been accused of misusing the "organized crime" label on these pages in describing Secord's "laundering" charge against Wolf and in my effort to provide levity --- misjudged the use of such words (and corrected them). The usage in the NP editorial is plain mean, directive and yet again fails to tell the whole story.

Great leaps in credibility for the News-Press could happen on the editorial pages if TKA would begin to write more editorials like he did last week on several subjects which were done in a civil, organized way (even if I didn't agree!) -- this one is even more than disappointing, it's an embarassment to our community.

For more on this subject -- see Craig Smith's post today as well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Santa Barbara News-Press Issues Labor Unrest Update
SANTA BARBARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 5, 2006--The Santa Barbara News-Press issued the following statement this morning:

As a result of the Teamsters Union's stepped up tactics to represent some News-Press employees, the paper expects to see another union demonstration today. Sources close to the union have indicated that the Teamsters are planning their next media stunt to try to leverage community support for their organizing activities. This is another in a series of predictable pressure tactics the unions utilize.

The News-Press fully expects the union to live up to its reputation by hurling accusations, attacking usual business practices, mischaracterizing the facts and spreading outright lies about its intended target. Attorneys for the company have been in discussion with union lawyers, but the two sides did not reach an agreement. The company hopes that the union will communicate in good faith, without the usual rhetoric and underhanded tactics, but this does not appear to be the case.

To the extent the News-Press is permitted by NLRB rules, the paper wishes to set forth the facts about the recent developments.

-- Last Thursday, a group of 11 workers engaged in an intimidating and disruptive demonstration by proceeding en masse through the paper's offices during business hours. This intimidated, frightened and interfered with other workers. Workers who participated were advised by management that they were welcome to meet in the company lunch room but the employees refused. The group was ordered to return to work immediately, but refused. They then proceeded through the building disrupting other employees. Such intimidating tactics are a clear violation of NLRB rules. This behavior violates company polices and professional standards and will not be tolerated. Insubordination by refusing to comply with management directives is cause for disciplinary action. The 11 workers have been advised that they are subject to two-day suspensions. The paper has filed an amended Unfair Labor Practices charge against the union for employing intimidating tactics in the workplace.

-- The union will also attempt to convince the media and public that its so-called "yellow card" subscription cancellation campaign has been successful. This is an outright lie. It is important to note that any cards printed by the Teamsters and presented to the paper are merely signatures collected in support of a petition to unionize workers, and not cancellations. The fact is that there has been no significant decline in subscription levels in the last few months. Audited statistics are available for the reporting periods. Anything to the contrary is clearly rhetoric. The paper will review any list the union provides to verify the validity of the information.

-- In light of recent threats to employees and managers, the News-Press is consulting with a private investigation firm. The paper is in the process of installing new security systems to protect its business, its assets and its employees.

-- The Santa Barbara News-Press is cooperating fully with the NLRB regulations and procedures for setting up and conducting a secret ballot election to properly establish a bargaining unit at the paper. The paper does not intend to delay this process in any way and believes the animosity being created by the union is damaging to all parties. The News-Press wishes to move forward with this regulatory process in a professional and ethical manner, but will not shy away from setting the record straight.

-- The paper requests that all its employees respect the rights of their co-workers and refrain from coercive, intimidating and threatening behavior in the workplace. Similarly, members of the community should understand that this is a labor organization campaign.

-- It is also interesting to note that the smokescreen charges of journalistic ethical violations that the union organizers hid behind seems to have dissipated in the clear light of the Teamsters' organizing process.

-- Despite the distractions, the News-Press continues to improve the paper. New columnists have been hired providing "independent and diverse viewpoints." New editorial staff members have been hired -- bringing a new enthusiasm and talent to the paper. Reporters have been given new beat assignments bringing a fresh approach to stories. There is now more focus on news and less focus on opinion in local reporting. The paper continues to receive many applications from qualified candidates seeking available positions.

-- The News-Press continues to receive an overwhelming outpouring of support from the community, encouraging Santa Barbara's only daily paper to continue to fight against the unfair tactics of the union and the attacks by a small group of disgruntled employees and former employees.

The News-Press anticipates that the union effort will escalate and is very familiar with the usual corporate campaign strategies utilized across the country by the Teamsters. The pressure tactics used so far are typical of this union. At a time when union representation of non-governmental employees has fallen to around 12% in this country, the initiatives clearly illustrate that unions are desperate and willing to resort to threats, intimidation and even illegal activities in an attempt to survive. (See

The paper will continue to communicate factually and act professionally even if the union chooses not to do so. The company is entitled to protect itself against vicious and false attacks and will continue to aggressively defend its long-standing reputation. The real casualties are the innocent victims on both sides who are being hurt by the rhetoric, misinformation and lies being spread by a small band of misguided employees.

The paper's responsibility is to the community, its readers, subscribers and advertisers. It will continue to meet its obligations in a forthright and businesslike manner in spite of the deliberate hostile attempts to harm this publication. This Santa Barbara institution is here to stay.

9/05/2006 1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From today's Editor & Publisher website:

Doesn't look like any local agency is going to report on this, including KEYT

Santa Barbara Saga Continues Nearly Two Months After First Resignations

By Joe Strupp

Published: September 05, 2006 3:05 PM ET

NEW YORK It's been nearly two months since the ongoing turmoil at the Santa Barbara (Calif.) News-Press began when the first of 16 newsroom employees, including its top editor, quit on July 6 in a dispute over alleged meddling by the owner, and things do not appear to be getting any better.

In just the past week, 11 employees were suspended, new unfair labor practice charges were filed by both employees and management, hundreds of subscriptions are set to be cancelled through an employee-led boycott campaign, and uncertainties remain over when a newsroom vote on union representation will occur.

"Things are much worse, there is a very oppressive atmosphere, retaliation and threats going on," said Dawn Hobbs, an eight-year News-Press reporter and newsroom labor leader. "It is a constant retaliation and we are bound and determined to see it through."

Hobbs was among the eleven employees suspended last week for two days after they delivered a letter to owner Wendy McCaw on Aug. 24, Hobbs said. She said management claimed the action was a violation of the paper's rules. A statement released by Ira Gottlieb, an attorney for the employees, claimed the action was not a violation and did not hamper production of the paper.

The letter demanded that McCaw engage in bargaining with the employees over working conditions and policies. A group of rank and file employees, including Hobbs, have sought representation by the Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

McCaw could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the paper, Agnes Huff, said the suspended employees engaged in "intimidating and disruptive behavior....They marched en masse through the paper's offices, they were told to go back to work and refused," Huff said.

On Friday, the union filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, the third such filing in the past several weeks, according to Gottlieb. Management also filed a new charge with the NLRB, claiming the employee's actions with the letter constituted improper behavior.

Gottlieb told E&P that the union hoped to have a representative vote by the end of September, possibly on Sept. 27. "I expect the union will win the election and we can minimize the legal wrangling and sit down and bargain," he said. "It is up to management."

In a statement released today by Huff about the union vote, the newspaper said it "does not intend to delay this process in any way and believes the animosity being created by the union is damaging to all parties. The News-Press wishes to move forward with this regulatory process in a professional and ethical manner, but will not shy away from setting the record straight."

McCaw has said that she does not believe a union is needed at the paper and refused to recognize the bargaining unit in the past.

Union leaders planned a press conference for later today in Santa Barbara, where they expect to reveal the number of subscriber cancellation cards collected during the past few weeks. The union would not reveal how many cards promising cancellations by readers if worker demands were not met by today were turned in, but reports of hundreds of such cancellations have been released in recent weeks.

The newspaper's statement called the press conference "a media stunt," adding that "The News-Press fully expects the union to live up to its reputation by hurling accusations, attacking usual business practices, mischaracterizing the facts and spreading outright lies about its intended target."

Gottlieb said the union may not submit the cancellation cards to the News-Press, choosing instead to go back to those who signed them and ask them to individually cancel to ensure they take effect. "We don't have any reason to trust [the newspaper] and neither do the subscribers," said Gottlieb. "We may have to take another route."

Huff stressed that any cancellation cards turned in by the union do not necessarily indicate a subscription cancellation. "The relationship with the subscriber is with the paper, not a third party," she told E&P. But, she added, they "will carefully review" the cards.

The suspended employees, meanwhile, have yet to find out when they will be off the job, said Hobbs. Huff said that each individual's suspension would be decided by his or her direct supervisor. "That is the way it is done," she said.

9/05/2006 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, rather than mean spirited, today's editorial sounds paranoid. Rather than telling the readers what unionization means to the paper, to the readers - Good or Bad - he talks about his bad dreams. I'll bet he has double locks on his doors to keep the goons out!


9/05/2006 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok so what was said at the noon press conference?

9/05/2006 1:45 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Is this all that Travis can offer as his explanation of newsroom bias? Let me see -

1) when well-respected, award-winning journalists who are trustworthy

2) write stories that are fact based and within company policy

3) suddenly have their stories grossly manipulated by management

4) try to handle the conflict of interest professionally

5) are disciplined, fired and/or suspended for insubordination (via European email/airmail)

6) and are stonewalled with meeting directly with publisher(s)/owner

7) are harrassed, sued and looking over their shoulder at the private investigators the publisher/owner has hired to cull the malcontents

8) feel that maybe they should have representation via the unionization method

9) are further harrassed, sued, fired, suspended and have their computer material read and informants exposed

10) Plus management has blackmailed the journalists through confidentiality agreements that in essense must be signed to keep ones employment somewhat secure

11) And Travis says the EMPLOYEES desire to unionize is equivalent to organized crime and heavyhanded tactics, therefore those journalists are immediately biased and all their stories are filled with lies. Trust Me he says.


Am I missing something here? dd

9/05/2006 3:30 PM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

The Huff & Puff missive today (text above in another comment) says, in writing, that News-Press will not honor an written request from subscribers who want to cancel. Howse that for customer service?!?

"It is important to note that any cards printed by the Teamsters and presented to the paper are merely signatures collected in support of a petition to unionize workers, and not cancellations. The fact is that there has been no significant decline in subscription levels in the last few months. The fact is that there has been no significant decline in subscription levels in the last few months. Audited statistics are available for the reporting periods."

Also see that News-Press is admitting that audited subscrption figures "are available". Test that, please.

Also see the Barney Brantingham new blog comment today at the Indy web site, where Barney describes the scam for subscriptions described by their sales representative.

9/05/2006 4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why the News-Press going out of business is such a big deal.

9/05/2006 4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the News-Press is going to shun the community and the support for the employees. All the more reason for them to get the hell out of there.

9/05/2006 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, 'Travis' bumper stickers and shirts are starting to emerge. Check out, and

Thought it was interesting.

9/05/2006 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a shock: KEYT just covered the story.

Why do these people continue to work for the NP if it's so bad?

9/05/2006 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I find offensive is the way the News-Press and McCaw portray themselves as victims.

The main newspaper with barrels of ink, a victim? A billionaire, a victim?

What power do the Teamsters have that they lack? Nothing remotely comparable.

It would a bit different for me if the News-Press just said... `Hey, we didn't like Roberts and his crew. We wanted to start over, and good luck to everyone who left or is leaving. We are confident our paper will be way better than it would have otherwise been.'

But no, there is this endless whining by a prominent institution and its billionaire owner about how victimized they are. Such a pathetic message... they should be pitching a glowing positive message and moving on.

Ayn Rand would say `Fie! Shame! Pox!'

9/05/2006 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

News-Press union election set for Sept. 26

By Sally Cappon/Times Contributor

After the failure of a weekend meeting between labor and management negotiators in the continuing Santa Barbara News-Press dispute, a Teamsters Union official announced Tuesday that a union-representation election for newsroom employees has been scheduled for Sept. 26.

At a rally in front of the News-Press building, Marty Keegan, an organizer for the Graphic Communications Conference of the Teamsters, said 75 percent of the 37 newsroom employees favored the union.

That number, he said, was down from 85 percent before a recent stream of newsroom resignations. A 17th came Tuesday, he added, with the resignation of Kim Burnell, a copy editor in the sports department.

Newsroom employees and management have been filing charges and countercharges with the National Labor Relations Board since nine top editors and writers quit the paper in early July, charging unethical interference in news stories by News-Press owner Wendy McCaw and co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger, who is also McCaw’s fiancƒ.

Meanwhile, Keegan said he and union attorney Ira Gottlieb had met with management representatives over the weekend in San Francisco but “could not reach an agreement” on their differences.

Gottlieb identified the News-Press representatives as David Millstein, an attorney for the News-Press’ parent company, Ampersand Publishing, and labor lawyer Sandra McCandless.

Tuesday was the deadline for the union’s subscription-cancellation “pledge” campaign, in which newsroom employees asked readers to cancel their subscriptions by Sept. 5 if management hadn’t resolved their concerns.

Keegan said he expects 3,000 subscription cancellations by the end of the week.

Employees picked up a couple more Tuesday with Goleta Mayor Jonny Wallis saying she was canceling her subscription after 40 years. In a written statement, Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum said she was canceling after 36 years.

“We feel over 10 percent of the newspaper will be canceled,” Keegan said, asking the community to join the editorial staff in its unusual request. Normally, he said, all employees “want the paper to grow.”

Agnes Huff, the newspaper’s spokesperson, denied the paper is seeing any subscription decline, adding that “audited statistics are available for the reporting period.”

At the low-key rally, News-Press reporters, who have been told they can be fired if they speak publicly about internal matters, brought out a pair of journalistic heavyweights and some local clergy.

Lou Cannon, longtime Washington Post reporter and Ronald Reagan biographer, said he was among six people, including former NBC White House correspondent Sander Vanocur, who wrote a letter requesting a meeting with McCaw before the Labor Day weekend.

“We were very saddened not to receive the courtesy of a reply,” he said.

At all the previous papers he worked for, including the Washington Post, if a local group had “a protest, a problem,” he said, “the publisher has met with them.”

“Owning a newspaper is a public trust,” Vanocur added. While wanting to meet with McCaw, he added, “we don’t do it on bended knee.”

The Rev. Teena Grant said a letter signed by 20 clergy members in Santa Barbara, calling for “a clear commitment to professional ethics,” was offered as a paid advertisement to the News Press. The newspaper, 11 days later, is still “thinking about” running the ad, she said.

“The community has lost trust in the paper itself,” added the Rev. Kenneth Collier of the Unitarian Society. “Freedom of the press has been lost.”

Sally Cappon can be reached at

Find this article at:

9/05/2006 9:42 PM  
Blogger David Pritchett said...

Copy and paste the links here, or the host can edit them to be live links.

Via Google Video and an ultra complicated video recording process, here is the KSBY TV news story tonight, where Cota has an exclusive interview with Co-Publisher Nipper. See also the text explanation I wrote here.

And here is how to find the long version of the KEYT story tonight, where Palminteri also points out the significance of the page A-1 article today. Link on the Video icon to play it.

9/05/2006 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Worker Bee said...

Anon 6:14,

Because it's not easy for someone who lives paycheck to paycheck to leave their job - especially when it's not on their own terms. If you don't understand this on your own, you must be well off. Good for you! But try and understand what it's like to not have money.

9/05/2006 10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the Mayor of a city cancels his/her subscription to the paper of his/her city that says something... and it ain't good.
I think these latest actions show to everyone the true character of it's owner/handlers.
I think that it's owners/handlers have shown very poor judgment in how they have handled this matter. There is a lack of Judgment that has been on going at the SBNP for sometime.
I sure wish they would have spared the community all this humiliation of the people of Santa Barbara around the globe. Maybe it is time for the community to judge the owner and hold those accountable for their actions which have caused great harm and embarrassment to our community.
I for one already canceled my subscription long ago (tofu and beans for Thanksgiving did me in).I saw a copy over the weekend and can't say i would ever subscribe.
Does it's owner believe that the Santa Barbara public is that dumb? and if so how can the public have any respect for the owner in return.
I urge all in Santa Barbara to take appropriate actions by canceling their subscription and give it's owner the same respect that they have shown our community.
If one thinks that the paper will come back that's foolish it is gone as there are no reporters left who know the history of the community or how to get an interview , and on that point who would give them one. I don't think anyone wants to be included in the pages of a paper that would publish outright lies, but I will let the community decide that (and I hope they do).

Totaly Embarassed but not Dumb.

9/06/2006 12:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Santa Maria Times has a good artical on this and more local news.

9/06/2006 10:22 AM  
Blogger David Pritchett said...

I just saw this as a comment at
From their cover story at web site (the touted Baby Cruise cover).

"The October issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on September 6, and nationally by September 12."

September 6 is TODAY. I have heard people in Santa Barbara sometomes visit Los Angeles.

9/06/2006 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have to give credit to mccaw for letting the newsroom do a story about the press conference yesterday--but way too obvious to kill something within spitting distance of her ivory tower office.

how come more hasn't been written about her killing the story about the paper suing the former editor, which i read had already been written?

9/06/2006 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...






9/06/2006 1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the Mayor of a city cancels his/her subscription to the paper of his/her city that says something... and it ain't good.

Marty is showboating because she doesn't like how she has been justifiably criticized in the paper.

I sure wish they would have spared the community all this humiliation of the people of Santa Barbara around the globe. Maybe it is time for the community to judge the owner and hold those accountable for their actions which have caused great harm and embarrassment to our community.

Good lord, you showboat just like Marty.

I urge all in Santa Barbara to take appropriate actions by canceling their subscription

I urge all in Santa Barbara to do whatever they want.

Obviously Smarter than "Totaly Embarassed but not Dumb".

9/06/2006 2:36 PM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

Sorry David seem to be chompin' at the bit for the release of the Vanity Fair hit piece, but nothing about the News-Press is listed on their web site.

9/06/2006 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Obviously Smarter" is.

This labor strife has given opportunists from Marty Blum to the Teamsters the chance to pile on.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem this conflict will end until the remnants of the Jerry Roberts and NYT Co. regimes have been fully purged.

Then we can begin anew with a News-Press staffed by junior reporters who are supervised by bias-enforcing editors in a climate of fear.

Sounds like a good deal to me!

9/06/2006 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I support the News-Press employees trying to unionize. But a danger in the cancellation campaign is, do you think you're going to get all those readers back if you do eventually get the desired contract and changes? And you're naive if you think negotiations won't take quite a while.
Look around -- newspapering is a declining industry (The Economist just did a cover story on that subject without once mentioning the News-Press).
The cancelled readers will get used to finding news elsewhere (as subscribers are having to do anyway, left with blow-out coverage of basil, cigars, golf carts (all unbiased one has to admit, eh? Or did I note a pro-cigar slant?)

Anyway -- Readers aren't marionettes. They won't all just jump right back into the subscription fold once you give the high sign.

9/06/2006 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:07 -- right. We'll just have to accept that whatever the outcome of the current situation, the News-Press will emerge diminished. Side with Wendy, and you'll have a biased newspaper staffed by cubs trained to follow orders. Side with the union, and the franchise will be economically damaged by subscription and advertising cancellations, which in turn will hurt the editorial product permanently.

Either way, Santa Barbara loses.

9/06/2006 6:01 PM  
Anonymous slanted and enchanted said...

Bill Carson, that's the September issue. The October issue is the one with the SBNP piece.

9/06/2006 6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Bill Carson... but the web site you cite is for the September issue.

Baby Suri and The Wendinator are in the October issue, which I read above is distributed in Los Angeles and New York starting today and everywhere else by Sept. 12.

Now get back to telling us all how Travis Armstrong is God and journalistic ethics do not matter, as long as it promotes more NIMBYisms in Noleta. If the newspaper had credibility, don't ya think that would help your cause even more and readers actually would take the editorials you like more seriously?

9/06/2006 6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Endy wants to pull the NP into the future, into the "new frontier" of news delivery. Ironically, I'm opening up to the world of blogging and to web news for the first time just because of the NP mess. Problem for the NP is that now I don’t trust their reporting.

I am an average member of the community who cares about freedom of the press, so I am happy to find this portal hosted by Sarah de la Guerra, one where discourse occurs, emotions can be safely vented and the central arguments are honed by a mostly literate give and take. Endy may be right about the news changing "ports", but that doesn't mean that the ship won't sail without her.

I also appreciated John Palmenteri's coverage of the press conference on KEYT yesterday. It was fair and didn't flinch.

Wendy, I VALUE AND RESPECT my print paper so I'm going to continue subscribing to the LA Times, read the Independent and Daily Sound. The old NP is dead. (R.I.P.)

For Halloween, someone should go as the Ghost of Thomas Storke.

9/06/2006 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bc: the "current issue" section of vanity fair has yet to be updated. it still has September's articles on it. it remains to be seen whether the news-press is in this month.

9/06/2006 6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

VF Update: Vanity Fair is on the stands in LA and New York as of this morning. There will be a few copies arriving in SB tomorrow (Thurs.) by Fed Ex, so maybe we will see some scans popping up on local blogs. Also, it could be on SB news stands as early as Friday, and perhaps by then it will also be on the VF web site. Expect 4,000 words, written in a way that will let you the reader make up your own mind, but showcased with interesting photos, taken from the VF rental helicopter!

9/06/2006 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

looks like Totaly Embarassed must have gotten someone's attention.
hey what happened to Spendy? i miss her.

9/06/2006 8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

duh.. Bill..the NewsPress is looking for astute writers like you!!

9/07/2006 6:58 AM  

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