Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Is the News-Press Irrelevant?

Here's a topic suggested by a reader:

I propose we revisit a subject last explored months ago: The Declining Quality of the News Press. A number of folks have noticed a perceptible drop off in the amount of local news in the SBN-P, and much less depth in the local news that is reported. With just a couple of reporters, the upstart Daily Sound has scooped the NP on a number of occasions (the Levy bankruptcy, Veronica Meadows). And the N-P editorials too often deal with issues with no relation to life in SB. Today's editorial is an example: It chastises certain religious extremists who argue that bottled water is immoral. Is this a big issue for Santa Barbara? Or is it just a big issue for the co-publisher who has a well known interest in bottled water issues? (Shouln't that interest been disclosed in the editorial?)

The people I know who are interested in local news, particularly politics, government, land use and environmental issues, now look to the Daily Sound, the Independent, and Blogabarbara to get their basic information.

Has the News Press declined to the point of irrelevency?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The News-Press has become lifeless and dull with the departure of so many columnists. The paper has lost its community color and local connections, a sure fire reason why many will drop the paper over time.

At least 10 columnists have walked the plank: Barney, Starshine, Murdock from Montecito, Etling from Santa Ynez, the Santa Maria columnist, the Carpinteria columnist, Jerry Roberts, Michael Seabaugh, Martha Smiglas and Randy Alcorn. Anyone else missing from that rollcall? Next to go will probably be Zant and Patton. The only replacements in the past five months have been Dr. Laura and what’s-his-name Winston. Enough said.

The departed will be difficult to replace, since some have been fired, sued, threatened with cease and desist letters, or otherwise silenced.

Editorials have descended to the level of writing about bottled water and dissin’ ministers on Christmas Eve. Little persuasive power is left. Everyone knows that all sides of view aren’t represented in the letters or op-ed sections, so readers have to turns to blogs like this.

In a word, the paper is boring.

12/24/2006 5:49 PM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

Yes, it is.

The article today about the tree vandalism is a string of topics with nothing in common except they involve holiday trees.

The intern writer, HANNAH GUZIK of the Westmont College newspaper, apparently asked the police speaker, Lt. McCaffrey, to confirm who was not the suspect. That's deep. If asked, he also would have confirmed that former Mayor Miller was not a suspect, too.

Depending upon how the court ruling goes early in January on the Teamsters complaints to force News-Press to negotiate, I predict in a few months The Wendy will sell the newspaper rather than deal with a real labor union.

Or, the News-Press will continue to lose the competent writers and nothing will be left to read anymore that matters. That trend is well advanced already, such as the Great Basil Non-Crisis, no reports on City government meetings until three days later, Vladster misfacts now replaced by Orsuanisms just as bad, routinely scooped stories by the kids at Daily Sound, etc. etc. etc.

Alternative news media already are taking over the niche. Can this replacement be complete if a serious investor, such as McCune, even spends half the price the remnant News-Press would cost and instead invests in a web-based news outlet with many of the former Newspresser writers?

12/24/2006 6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes it is. Has been for years. KEYT could include itself in the Irrelevant Category.

12/24/2006 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Has the News Press declined to the point of irrelevency?"


12/24/2006 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gett'n there!

12/25/2006 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has the News Press declined to the point of irrelevency?


Can it be saved?

Yes, but only if Wendy sells and a competent news organization comes in to replace Ampersand. The paper was not doing well in the late 80's, early 90's, but Steve Ainsley took over as publisher and worked very hard to restore credibility in the community. He did an outstanding job. It will take that kind of effort as well as possibly wooing some of the NP editors and writers back. Unfortunately, unless Wendy suffers some major losses in all her litigation that hurts her enough financially to sell, I just don't see that happening. Wendy just doesn't care that the majority of the community wants her gone. She prefers to be at war with those she is supposed to serve. For those of us who worked so hard to make the NP the award winning paper it was, it is not only sad, it just makes us very, very angry.

12/25/2006 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMHO the Christmas Eve bottled water editorial belongs right up there with the Great Basil Shortage front page article and the blurb on the burning building located on North De la Guerra Street (or was that South?).

Yes, the News-Press has become mediocre, irrelevant, and nothing more than a mouthpiece for the obvious agenda of the co-publishers and the editorial writer. The Society columns, animal rights issues, Food/Drink columns, and Native American topics get prominent placement. If that ain't bias, then show me what is. The rest of the paper has lots of photos (to take up lots of space), lots of ads for Blue Edge and radio station 1290, and other filler and fluff pieces. And let's not forget Dr. Laura, the pulse of Santa Barbara.

I used to depend on the N-P for local and national news. Today I get my news from the Indy, Edhat, Blogabarbara, Craig Smith, the Daily Sound, and Perez Hilton. I still subscribe, however, because I enjoy a good train wreck as much as the next person-- and the plastic bags are very useful when walking my dog.

It is getting harder to justify my subscription. My New Year's wish for Santa Barbara is a return to good local news and fair and unbiased reporting.

12/25/2006 10:36 AM  
Anonymous ...and then there's.... said...

perhaps "basic information" can be found at the Independent, Daily Sound and Blogs....but hopefully, those who've cancelled the News_Press at least look to papers eg L.A. Times, NY Times etc for more in-depth analysis of regional and national news. And the Santa Maria Times has become amore-than-adequate source for County land use and policy issues-news. EDHAT posts the obits and local tv news online stories. Beyond that, who needs a "newspress" in any variation?

12/25/2006 11:25 AM  
Blogger cookie jill said...

I didn't read the "bottled water" story, but it could have local relevance if it had gone into detail about the million dollar fiasco of a desal plant built here in Santa Barbara that only produced one or two runs of "sample bottled water" then was shuttered and taken down once the vote for "State Water" was voted in.

THEN the bottled water story would have relevance.

12/25/2006 2:37 PM  
Blogger passing-by said...

I've been News-Press-less for five months now. I occasionally buy the Sunday paper for the ads (big store and classifieds) but I always make a point to leave the vending machine door open so the next guy can get a copy for free. I also peruse the headlines on the website so that if a story has some special interest to me (usually local sports) I can obtain a copy. I found that before the exodus of so many seasoned, professional writers I was actually missing the daily NP, but once the deluge occured and Vlad (who almost looks good in retrospect)and other cub reporters replaced experienced writers I usually find absolutely nothing of interest in the website headlines.

For years we have all been able to read the national and international news online the night before it was published in the NP (usually verbatim). Now the local blogs, the Sound, SM Times and the Ventura Star provide much sharper, more complete coverage than the NP. NP has now become about as relevent as, say, the Montecito weekly and a little less comprehensive and credible than the Carpinteria Coastal View. For Wendy and her henchmen to say the issue is local coverage is about as Orwellian as speech can get ("truth is lies, war is peace, etc.)

A new owner could rebuild but the loss of so much local experience and insight (the qualities that nut-cases like Wendy equate with bias) will take years, maybe decades to recoup. I, too, fear that Patton and Zant will soon be lost... even covering the sports beat, those two represent the most solid personal links between the paper and the guy on the street locally. When they go, along with the inevitable loss of the few remaining veterans who have championed the union movement then there will be no reason for anyone in town to even think about the editorial content of the NP. What a shame for our city.

12/25/2006 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has the News Press declined to the point of irrelevency?

It's getting closer.

The co-publishers do not have the skills, experience or respect necessary to stop the News-Press’ continuing freefall in quality. To the contrary, during the past six months a fortune in money and time were poured into suing or threatening Michael Todd, Jerry Roberts, the Independent, Susan Paterno, Edhat, the Daily Sound, the hair salon, the Greek deli, the Teamsters, and so on. In 2007, the litigation will heat up as the co-publishers are forced to testify under oath, more suits will be filed, more key employees will quit or be fired, and the News-Press will continue its descent, dragging parts of Santa Barbara with it..

12/25/2006 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

The journalistic quality of the News-Press has declined rapidly. I have read most of the paper every morning for nearly 20 years and it has never been so poorly produced and edited as it is now. Is it irrelavent? If not, it may very soon become so. To turn the tide, Ms. McCaw needs to turn the news aspect of the paper over to an experienced and competent editor and leave day to day management of the paper to that person. She needs to hire a business manager who knows how to make a daily newspaper break even. Finally, while she is free (and should be) to micro-manage the editorial pages of the paper, it might be wise of her to take a step back and experiment with different voices until she finds one that resonates with Santa Barbara. She needs to find a voice that people respect whether or not we agree with it. Can she do all this without selling the paper? Perhaps she can, but to do so will take a great deal more humility and wisdom than she has shown to date.

12/25/2006 8:22 PM  
Anonymous frosenberg said...

I grew up here, and have been reading the local paper from the time I learned to read. [That means Tom Kleveland, cartoons by Block, Dick Tracy, Pogo, Hubert H. Humphrey, the oil spill, Watergate, etc.] YES, the paper's quality has dropped precipitously! We have moved to LA Times delivery, Edhat, this blog, the Indy on-line, etc. News is no problem, nor are movie times or even cartoons, which are online for following storylines! The only content I have missed is the occasional truly local item - like the public record, or photos of friends in a new Cub Scout troop, or a kid we know who has become a skilled sportsman. There is a work-around for everything else...

My parents still subscribe, but they are not "silently supporting the paper by subscribing" (to paraphrase Nelville from a recent post). They are elderly, retired, TV and computer-less by choice, and don't go out everyday, so taking the time to seek out the free papers is a hardship. They depend on home delivery. The LA Times and the NY Times have too much material for them to keep up with. You should hear their disgust at what has happened to the paper! They can't stand Travis' pieces, don't even bother with "Dr." Laura, and laugh at the huge irrelevant photos and long articles about non-news. They are getting all their current national and international news from public radio, and are as current and informed as my family is relying on the internet.

Yes, the News-Press is just about worthless. I've read other small-town papers that are much more in-tune with the local daily goings-on than the poor SBNP. I don't understand why more photography isn't used to attempt a local spin on articles coming from the wire services. So there's a piece on the benefits of ballroom dancing - why is the photo from Michigan or Wisconsin, instead of being a shot of the Carrillo Rec Center? Last minute shopping - why the Macy's in New York City, instead of our own Macy's, just a two minute walk from the News-Press building downtown...? I also believe that the SBNP is making a truly serious, possibly fatal, mistake in hiding their online material behind a subscription-only wall. The newspapers which have put their energy into their public online content as well as their printed version are the papers that will survive the current industry upheavals.

12/26/2006 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Santa Barbara should count itself lucky to have the News-Press. In Santa Maria, we have a terrible paper, the Santa Maria Times. Mediocrity is its middle name. Its news coverage is completely irrelevant to the community. The owners have imported some former News-Pressers, but it doesn't seem to help. One exception is photographer Len Wood who has brought some great picture-taking skills to the otherwise lame local rag.

12/26/2006 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is not a newspaper in this country that is not having problems os one sort or another- financially, with management, with agendas, with news, with employees. And that sentiment applies to just about everything in our lives. Stop complaining from the sidelines, and realize that putting out a paper is a tough job that depends on hundreds of people every day who care, who believe in themselves and their jobs and these affronts are painful. Yes, complaints, criticism, hostility and insults will be leveled against business owners, publishers, management and anyone else who happens to be in the line of fire by anonymous individuals in any industry. But if you really believe this is how a local paper, or any business for that matter, is going to be improved, you are sooo wrong. These people are the ones getting closer to irrelevency, not the News-Press. The paper just keeps publishing and that is good news indeed, even if many can't see that or more likely, choose not to want to see it.

12/26/2006 12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The paper doesn't matter anymore. Boo Hoo - take your hard luck story somewhere else.

12/26/2006 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 12:09

Having been one of those people who worked every day to produce the NP, I can tell you there is a HUGE difference. We really enjoyed going to work and being a part of the NP and the community. There was a huge sense of commraderie and for the most part respect between employees and management. Of course there was criticism from the community and the Independent but that just goes with the territory of being a community newspaper. But whether you liked us or not, we were a REAL newspaper and cared about the news and local community. That has all changed, and for the worse. We communicate with those on the inside in different departments and the atmosphere is depressing, with gestapo like management tactics. You can't even call what is published a newspaper anymore. Do I feel for and respect those who toil day in and day out for Wendy, you bet. I will though continue to be a part of these blogs and support those who could leave or were fired. I will also continue to be a part of the effort putting pressure on Wendy to act responsibly through these blogs.

12/27/2006 3:50 AM  
Anonymous Nelville Flynn said...

The premise behind this topic -- "Is the News-Press irrelevant?" -- is absurd.

The News-Press is by far the largest and most respected news source in Santa Barbara County. More than 40,000 copies roll off the presses every day, and pass-through readership ensures that many thousands more read its articles and look at its advertisements. News-Press journalism sets the tone for television and radio coverage in Santa Barbara.

The News-Press editorial page is the most important public forum in the region, influencing policy discussions on growth and farmland protection, environmental issues and political favoritism/corruption.

Although the News-Press newsroom has been the target of a union sabotage campaign, it produces strong journalism every day. Most importantly, stories no longer reflect the biases of reporters and their editors. The community has reacted favorably to the News-Press renewed commitment to local news, which was waning under previous management.

12/27/2006 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

irrelevant? yes. at least if you're looking for current local news.

it becomes irrelevant when a paper that comes out only once a week and a paper that has been in town less than a year are consistently scooping stories.

today's edition was the first mention that marshall rose was stepping down from the Downtown Org and starting a microbrewery in goleta, something the daily sound had about a month ago, the independent had and something mentioned on this blog then as well.

police contracts, veronica meadows, bill levy, etc...all important local stories that it is inexcusable to not be on top of. is it because they're short-staffed? that's not a good excuse. the independent has what, four writers? the daily sound has like one? two?

and the editorial page? all TA ever writes about is animals, Measure D (still?) and how bad unions are.

12/27/2006 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think were all kinda moving on.
The NP "Jumped the Shark" with the bottled water editorial. It will take a lot to get me watching the Von Cheesburger Comedy Hour.
(Cue Leonard Cohen, singing "Everybody Knows")

12/27/2006 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fonz on. Lot's of paper rolls out each day, NP or TP both are full of the same stuff!

12/27/2006 1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nelville has now been reduced from merely poor, caricatured argumentation to downright lying. Here is his statement above:

"Although the News-Press newsroom has been the target of a union sabotage campaign, it produces strong journalism every day. Most importantly, stories no longer reflect the biases of reporters and their editors. The community has reacted favorably to the News-Press renewed commitment to local news, which was waning under previous management."

There is no "union sabotage" campaign, and Nelville (Millstein?) knows it, but also knows he won't get sued if he publishes his libel anonymously in this forum.

It is good to hear, however, that he's concluded there is no more bias in the NP, because that means no reporter should be disciplined based on trumped-up pretextual accusations of bias, as was Melinda Burns.

The NLRB is about to light up the News-Press, legally speaking, so stick around for that.

12/27/2006 4:44 PM  
Anonymous news guy said...

Ah, Nelville. The only thing "absurd" about this thread is your laugable post. Let's take a look, shall we?

The News-Press is by far the largest and most respected news source in Santa Barbara County. More than 40,000 copies roll off the presses every day...

Sure, it used to be the biggest and best paper in the county, but that was before McCaw turned it into a national laughingstock. And while it's possible over 40K are printed,
we both know that that has nothing to do with the number of subscribers, which at the N-P has plunged well below 40K. My best guess is that the number of real, paying subscribers is around 30K, give or take a couple of thousand. How's it feel to be first mate on the Titanic?

The News-Press editorial page is the most important public forum in the region ...

Hahahahahahahaha. Ahem. Excuse me.

The community has reacted favorably to the News-Press renewed commitment to local news, which was waning under previous management.

This is my favorite. I hate to break it to you, Nelville, but "the community" hates your guts. Wendy's too, of course. You're hemmorhaging subscibers and advertisers, and Wendy's bizarre crusade against her "enemies" has made her the most despised woman in the county.

Maybe, because you move in a rather limited circle of sycophants, you actually believe what you write. If so, I suggest you get out in the real world.

And what local news? You fired all your local columnists (except the society writer) and every day the N-P is a mockery of what it was before Roberts and the rest left. There is no leadership in the newsroom (the reporters despise Steepleton) and zero sense of mission or camaraderie.

Finally, let me make it plain for you: The N-P is effectively dead. Wholly and painfully irrelevant. As long as Wendy has her death grip on it and is waging war on the community, it has no chance of being anything other than a sad joke.

12/28/2006 7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This morning's "opinion" piece fawning over the three new Goleta City Council members is a case in point as to the N-P and esp TKA's complete lunacy and hypocrisy. He praises the civil tone of the new council--yet unleashes irrational incivility upon not only the three ousted incumbents, but manages to attack Rose, Marshall and Schwartz---despite the fact that the latter two have been out of office for two years, and Rose is exiting.

Zero class. Zero sophistication. Zero common sense.

He will praise the new council who are salivating over the possibility of new building while aligning himself with the no-growthers of the CSP variety. TKA has no soul, no center, no consistent thread of thought. He is a mean opportunist, vindictive to the core. gosh, we'll miss him.

12/28/2006 8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such anger and hostility, an so lacking in civility. What you blast is just your personal opinion and so what makes you so right and everyone else so wrong? In no way can you speak for "everyone." I used to do that when I was a kid, telling my Mom, "everyone does it." Well she didn't believe me for one second, and no one will believe you either. At least pause for a moment to realize that there is always more to a situation than one person or a group of people know (even if they are inside). And accept that others have their own strong opinions and this is not about who is right, it's about civil discourse. I really don't see Nelville attacking or being rude. I only see that many of you do not agree - it's ok to not agree. Just try to be civil about it. Sara, you really should try to ensure that this is not a hate site, but a place to share opinions in a respectful way.

12/28/2006 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

I'm all for civility, but Nelville's posts are beginning to sound like testimonials of the the beauty and sophistication of the Emperor's new clothes. Perhaps Nelville is a higher order and more refined being, whose keen perception is able to see something that many of us do not. However, many of us plebeians are treated only to a view of ugly nakedness. We are not hateful, we would just like to read a decent local daily paper, which treats its employees decently.

12/28/2006 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

civil? In Santa Barbara?

I don't think that is possible.

12/28/2006 2:58 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

I hear you -- you should see what I reject! 8:31 AM could have taken it down a notch.

12/28/2006 3:14 PM  
Anonymous news guy said...

Shucks, Sara, you should see what I edit out of my own posts -- especially when it comes to Nelville. My last was several orders of magnitude nicer than it started.

Anon. 11:05 says, "I really don't see Nelville attacking or being rude." I beg to differ. His prose my ooze with a faux gentility, but it's really quite vicious. He regularly defames News-Press staff (current and former) with lies and innuendo, and has recently stooped to using confidential personnel data to smear them. Take a look at his most recent post on Melinda Burns.

This leads me to the question of "civility" and what's appropriate for this blog. On the one hand you post Nelville's ugly attacks on people -- presumably because they're delivered with a bogus reasonableness. On the other hand, you decline to post heated responses that call him on his crap. Where's the line? What's your standard of civility? Are Nelville's character assassinations okay because they sound reasonable? Are Worker Bee's rants (or mine) unacceptable because they offend your sense of decorum?

I understand that you have a difficult job here, and am deeply grateful for this blog. But I'm baffled by your standards, and I'd like to know where (and how) you draw the line.

12/29/2006 9:09 AM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

NG -- I agree that there seems to be a "bogus" reasonableness to his comments at times but I would disagree that I decline to post most comments that call him on his comments. As a reader, whether I agree with him or not AND whether I think I know who he is, he is entitled to responses that are civil. He has had to have a thick skin when reading comments on his posts and I have to respect that.

Most comments related to him are not accepted as they are too close to identifying him (which I admit early on I could have done a better job at preventing) and/or are more like character assasination -- remember that from his point of view, just about everything commented herein is an attack on the News-Press. From my point of view, achieving a level of civility here is very hard considering what comes through.

All I can say is that his comments tend to be more within the realm of debate than what I often see from others and that is a distinction that is important to keeping BlogaBarbara from getting out of hand. If you see comments from him that you think I should not have published -- say so! I'd be happy to review them again.

12/29/2006 9:46 AM  

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