Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Measure D and The Wall

David Pritchett sent the following, worthy of it's own post:

This below is a somewhat straight news article today, but with a terribly flawed premise that further represents how the Wall between news and opinion has been decimated at NewsPress, and they (the publisher owners and Steepleton) do not even know or understand that and now they think the public does not either.

This article is about a complaint from NewsPress ownership that an election campaign mailer-advertisement for Measure D (a ballot measure the NewsPress opposes) included an image and excerpt from a recent NewsPress news article about Measure D and the transportation problems that would be addressed and resolved if Measure D were passed by the voters.

The point here is that NewsPress ownership and upper managers themselves --apparently including Steepleton because no one else would write it-- believe that the public also would interpret and assume that an image and excerpt from a news article also means that the opinion and editorial position of the newspaper must be the same as the information IN the news article. From this example, they seem to believe that news content must be consistent and support the opinion-editorial position of the newspaper as a company, and if the news content is not the same, the public would get confused or something.

Such confusion they seem to think the public now has (because they do?) appears to be why the reference to a news article in the Measure D campaign mailer "is being blasted" by the NewsPress as a company, just like the lede of this "article" by Steepleton notes.

The NewsPress as a company legally and traditionally is free to blast away in writing about anybody and anything it wants, but such blasting should be behind the other traditional wall separating opinion content from news. This blasting or complaining by the NewsPress company should be in the form of an editorial, not under the guise of a “statement” that somehow adds an illusion that their gripe has become newsworthy. Apparently, no other news organizations are biting on these statements, so NewsPress management has to pretend they are news worth writing about.

Now before any Nelvilles accuse me again of trying to "take down" or "silence" or "attack" the NewsPress, my whole point, again, is to show another example of how the Wall of separation is going or gone among the top NewsPress deciders. They now think the public does not understand the difference either, so that is why they saw fit to send out the "statement" yesterday and morph it today into this “article” below that really is an editorial itself under the ruse of being a news article that undoubtedly no one but Steepleton would have the scruples to write.

My now-thousands of fellow Cabalists still do not want to "take down" the NewsPress. We want to restore the credibility and integrity that the newspaper had only a few months ago under the leadership of ousted Executive Editor Jerry Roberts. Besides, one just might think that an excerpt and image from the NewsPress in the county-wide Measure D mailer would be considered free advertising to boost the public perception that the NewsPress still was writing worth reading, at least by that particular news writer. Apparently, the NewsPress would rather fight than win.

text of NewsPress article:

News-Press says campaign mailer misrepresents Measure D stance
October 25, 2006
A campaign mailer by backers of Measure D is being blasted by the News-Press for seemingly attempting to mislead people into thinking the paper is in favor of the proposed sales tax increase on the Nov. 7 ballot.

In recent days, a full-color pro-D brochure featuring the paper's logo and a portion of a story that appeared on the front page, has been mailed to potential voters in Santa Barbara County. The newspaper says the piece is an attempt to give the impression it endorses Measure D.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the paper said, "We want the public to know that the News-Press is not part of this group, that we did not authorize the use of our name, or our masthead, or this article and that we -- as a matter of editorial policy -- vociferously oppose Measure D. It is important to the News-Press that this mailer does not mislead any voter or reader as to the News-Press' position."

David Basmajian, a consultant with Oakland-based campaign consultant Tramutola, said the practice is used in nearly every election. In legal terms, the practice is called fair use.

"In our past campaigns we've used a portion of an editorial or a headline or a quote," Mr. Basmajian said Tuesday. "Typically you don't need to get approval because it's a newspaper and it goes out to many people already."

They chose the Oct. 1 article by by Senior Writer Melinda Burns, which ran under the headline "Danger Zones," because "it really captures a particular point of view that we believe the voters should know about," said Mr. Basmajian.

"It's something we felt got the message across about one of the things that Measure D will do, and that's make things safer for children," he said.

The law allows campaigns wide latitude in how they use material that has appeared in newspapers, on TV and the radio, and the copyright holder has little recourse even if the content is used in a way that may be misleading.

The newspaper has urged a no vote on Measure D, but the glossy brochure could leave some thinking otherwise.

"We never intended to make it seem that the Santa Barbara News-Press was endorsing Measure D," said Mr. Basmajian. "It was simply an article that captured a partial aspect of Measure D very well."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would someone please post the mailer, perhaps as a PDF file, so we can see if Wendy/von Waterboy/Steepleton are correct that "the piece is an attempt to give the impression (the News-Press) endorses Measure D."

If W/V/S are correct, the poor consultant from Oakland doesn't realize that News-Press' endorsements have become so counter-productive that making people think the paper wants Measure D hurts its approval.

10/25/2006 4:44 PM  
Anonymous Reading Comprehension said...

Read it all again. W/V/S are not correct, and the is the point.

The point looks to me like a legitimate news article was referenced in the Measure D ad, but the editors there are so clueless that they think the readers would not know the difference between the editorial position of the newspaper versus a news article, which was shown as part of the political ad.

Accordingly, the consultant for Measure D in fact is not mixing up a Newspress endorsement with a reference to a legitimate news article from the same newspaper. The only ones confused seem to be W/V/S.

10/25/2006 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Copy and Paste said...

This comment under the NLRB subject really goes here.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this a conflict of interest?

Newsroom editor Scott Steepleton wrote a story about News-Press objections to a Measure D campaign mailer.

Shouldn't he now recuse himself from editing any stories involving the Measure D ballot measure so as to avoid the appearance of bias?

And will we be able to trust ANY story about Measure D from here on out, since Steepleton will likely be editing it.

Others have been threatened, and at least one person fired, for so-called "conflict of interest" issues.

Isn't Wendy violating her own policies?
10/25/2006 12:30 PM

10/25/2006 5:49 PM  
Anonymous ArchiveSearch said...


I can only imagine what they were thinking having Steepleton write that piece in today's paper.

Even Nelville must be concerned. After all, he wrote the following back on Aug. 9 ...

From Nelville Flynn (BlogaBarbara post 8/9/06):

"Scott Hadly's piece on the News-Press resignations: The story was not published because of any newspaper's inherent conflict of interest in reporting on itself. Hadly was hardly a neutral observer but someone who had a deep interest in the events he was chronicling. Rather than publish a journalistically untenable story, the News-Press wisely decided to run a signed column, so that the biases of the author were properly disclosed. The column incorporated the same facts found in the Hadly story and those from other media, so charges of censorship don't stick."

Sigh. There you have it folks.

Of course, Nelville is wrong. A good newspaper is capable of reporting on itself. Ethical journalists work for their readers first, and their employer second. And that goes to the heart of the News-Press meltdown, and the subsequent union push.

Today's Measure D story was not a result of ethical journalism, I am sure, particularly in light of recent glaring ommissions of OTHER worthy stories on the paper that never did see the light of day. It's publication by the NP can only be construed at this point in its sordid history as self-serving, as will be its treatment of the M. Todd affair, which will surely depend upon how that decision swings (and all this when they can't even cover the union election).

Pathetic it truly is.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave ...

10/25/2006 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Nelville Flynn said...

Careful readers of this blog will consider this post for what it is: another attempt to smear the News-Press and malign the professional journalists who work there.

Newspapers across the country have done stories when their product is misrepresented in political advertising. "Sara De la Guerra," who obviously has no journalism background or training, at least acknowledges that the Steepleton story is unbiased. Just because opinions are expressed in a news article -- in between quotes, properly labeled -- doesn't make the article an opinion piece or editorial. Steepleton treats the complaints from News-Press management the same as he would treat comments from any source, and even allows the other side to respond. To allege that this represents an erosion of the wall between news and opinion shows a fundamental misunderstanding of journalism that taints the credibility of the moderator's arguments.

Furthermore, by refusing to reveal "her" own identity, the blog moderator undermines the credibility of every argument "she" makes.

10/25/2006 6:02 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Nelville -- I'm not sure where I said the Steepleton story is unbiased as David Pritchett provided the post....not revealing my identity is something you get here at BlogaBarbara and I make no pretensions of being a journalist and never have. I also think you make some decent points above -- I have no problem with publishing them.

This is a place where what is in the news can be discussed -- that is free speech. I'm not even so sure that what the Measure D campaign did was something I would do if I was running that campaign -- but it is certainly worthy of a discussion and you certainly get to post your beliefs here. Isn't that a great thing about our country? I'm into the discussion most of all -- obviously you are too since you do comment herein. I, for one, appreciate your comments because it does provide for good debate.

How can this little blog be a threat to a newspaper with 10s of thousands more readers? You are in good shape Nelville -- this is a great place though for everyone (liberal and conservative alike!) to comment on the news of the day. Thanks for participating.

10/25/2006 8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nelville talks of the "professional journalists" of the News-Press.

Whatever happened to Brian Banmiller, who was heralded as the new "contributing business editor" back in July?

The last time anything by him appeared in the paper was around Labor Day.

I remember now. He made a BIG mistake.

He mentioned the "U" word.

So long, Brian.

10/25/2006 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Scott Hadly did the same thing you describe Steepleton doing.

I read his story on the indy web site, before a cease and desist letter from the NP to the weekly forced that story's removal.

But thanks for the Measure D update.

Six California editors quit, unprecedented in journalism / Santa Barbara history

- not a story

Mailer on bureacractic mumbo jumbo ballot measure quotes News-Press article accurately, News-Press worried people might get confused that News-Press endorses gratuitously mundane local election initiative

- send it to the top Editor!!!

(who by the way writes articles???)

Blog challenge: Big props to the first blogger here to catalog the post-July 6 Steepleton "discography" of bylines.

It would be interesting to see what he's reported on since the meltdown.

10/25/2006 10:19 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

I forgot something in my comment above for Nelville -- as you have pointed out in these pages before about yourself, my identity is not important. People know what they are getting into with blogs -- it's all opinion. Your comments to my post are welcome. It's kind of like letters to the editor that get right through to the reader. Blogging is the democratization of opinion. Where we might not make the pages of the News-Press, alternate opinions are welcome and allowed here. Even your own.

What did happen to Brian Banmiller? Pray tell....

10/25/2006 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listening (for about a minute) to W yesterday drone on about Irag and how we're really winning there, it occured to me that the man is doing himself no favors. I mean, he's obviously full of crap and nobody believes a word he says. Every time he yaps about Iraq ... blah, blah, blah ... he makes more people roll their eyes and tune him out. Only he's too deluded to get it, so he keeps yapping, yapping, yapping.

Bottom line: that's Nelville/Travis/Nipper. They don't seem to understand that they're just hurting themselves with their deluded rants about cabals and other bogey men. They don't seem to realize that their behavior is so outrageous and outside the norms of journalism that they prove their ridiculousness every time they open their mouths.

10/25/2006 10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure what is a bigger waste of time:

1. talking about the News Press as it has become totaly useless to any discussion and simply and ad rag.

2. talking about Measure D as it is going to have a hard time acheiving 56.7 % not coming close to 66.7%

3. talking about the people running the D campaign as the out of town and locals are totally useless to the debate

But why not - fills the blog with black lines.

So why has the News Press ignored endorsements in Goleta and the Second district to date?

10/25/2006 11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the mailer... it must be in my recycling bin but I don't care to dumpster dive to get it.

I did thing it was unwise for the News-Press logo to be used... mainly because they are toxic now. The Oakland consultant was indeed clueless.

But there is a deeper story... Measure D proponents are following a kind of desperate, win at all costs strategy. Makes me lukewarm in my support.

10/25/2006 11:38 PM  
Anonymous kelly said...

I remember reading the original article in the News-Press. And when I received the black flyer with the News-Press logo on the front, I began to read the reprinted version. Immediately I recalled the context and HOPED that the piece of propaganda in my hands was not going to go too far. But it did go too far. Upon turning the page, I discovered that a tragedy was being exploited.

That is where the line was crossed. The people who managed the content on this flyer might want to consider taking some time away from their jobs to get life in perspective.

And, to stay on topic, I would also like to say that I felt the use of the News-Press logo was a veiled attempt at making it appear as if the NP supported the measure.

Greed can certainly fog people's judgement.

(BTW, Pritchett, you are working awfully hard to make the NP look bad. Maybe you ought to take a break, too.)

10/26/2006 12:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the point of exposing the lies of Measure D get lost. hmmm

10/26/2006 6:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:59 anon--you're right----just as GOP candidates beg Bush to stay away during their reelection efforts, Travis et al is viewed as a local pariah and kiss of death for issues and candidates locally, especially after the "summer of love" the NewsSupPress just endured.

He's going after Measure D with a vengeance---maybe because it's easier to defeat something that needs 2/3 vote no matter how ludicrous and unhinged his arguments are getting........poor man

10/26/2006 8:12 AM  
Anonymous city watcher said...

That story on the Measure D read to me like a commentary. That's okay - that's what it was, a commentary by Steepleton, on behalf of the N-P. If it was anonymous, just another news story (but they, too, are signed) it would be a different story. ;)

Although poorly-written (one wonders whether - and hopes - he's a better editor than he is a writer), Associate Editor Steepleton made the repetitive but acceptable point: the N-P does not support Measure D and assumes its readers are stupid so that if the words X and Y appear on the same page those readers will think X = Y.

As for the anonymity of a blog, I'm all for it - it makes one concentrate on what is being said, rather than who is saying it.

Only those wishing to draw attention to themselves (we know who they are!), foolishly and sometimes counterproductively conflating self with idea, object!

After all, editorials aren't signed and one could consider Sara's posts and these comments, too, a form of editorializing.

10/26/2006 8:57 AM  
Anonymous kelly said...

I remember reading the original article in the newspaper. When I began to read the black flyer, I easily recalled more details of that original article. As I continued to read the flyer, I HOPED that the piece of propaganda in my hands would not go too far. But it did. Upon turning the page I discovered that a tragedy was being exploited.

This is when the line was crossed. The people who designed and approved that flyer should consider taking some time away from their jobs to get life back into perspective.

And, to stay on topic, let me say that I also felt that the use of the NP logo on the front page was a veiled attempt to give the impression that the NP supports Measure D.

(BTW, Pritchett, you're working awfully hard here to make the NewsPress look bad. Maybe you should give it a rest and take some time off, too.)

10/26/2006 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got that mailer, it seemed to me to be a bad idea to have the News-Press logo. The Measure D advocates are going over the top, but maybe they really need to.

BTW, I'll try again to enter the URL of the discussion page for the Wikipedia article on the News-Press... someone has disputed the neutrality of that article.

Wikipedia discussion about the News-Press Article's Neutrality

If anyone wants to add their opinion, that would help maintain the article as useful.

10/26/2006 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Nelville Flynn said...

Brian Banmiller ably stepped in during the early transitional period at the News-Press. With the exception of his Labor Day column, his pieces in the News-Press were well-received.

It's important to note, however, that Banmiller was the contributing business editor, not the on-site business editor. His role was transitional. The hiring of Edmond Jacoby, an experienced and talented California journalist, as business editor made Banmiller's position redundant.

10/26/2006 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who cares about the NP any longer? It's a dead horse. New topic?

10/26/2006 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Free at Last said...

Bannmiller "ably stepped in"? With what, a syndicated column? And if rewriting press releases word for word makes Jacoby an "experienced and talented California jounalist," then I'm glad I got my J-education outside the state. You ever stop to wonder why his staff quit?

10/28/2006 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nelville Flynn said...
"...With the exception of (Banville's) Labor Day column, his pieces in the News-Press were well-received." Is this of September 3
the offending column?

Seems pretty innocuous to me - and slightly surprising that the N-Sp hasn't sued him for having their copyrighted article on his Web site.

Not surprising he didn't last long; he sounds much too experienced. Go back to BLOGABARBARA's July 11 to see about his appointment to the N-P. Wonder what he was paid for his four, according to his site, pieces before they pushed him out the door!

10/29/2006 5:55 PM  
Blogger ts said...

Furthermore, by refusing to reveal "her" own identity, the blog moderator undermines the credibility of every argument "she" makes.

That's funny coming from someone who refuses to reveal his real name and his vested interest in the News-Press. In any case, it's ridiculous, false, and ad hominem -- the credibility of arguments is a matter of the content of the argument, especially on the web where a very large fraction of commentary is anonymous or pseudonymous. And there's a rather illustrious history of pseudonymous commentary; the credibility of the arguments of such people as Alexander Hamilton was not undermined by his use of pseudonyms.

11/03/2006 1:23 PM  

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