Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hobbs, McManigal and Kuznia Fired

As usual, Craig Smith got the scoop before me. I wish the best to Dawn, Barry and Rob -- over the Summer and into the Fall I would say to myself that this couldn't get any worse, but then it did. It's hard to be shocked, however, when we know that this war of attrition is a war that only management can win (a topic for the SDLG Center for Union-Busting Studies). Yet again, free speech is shot down by the News-Press if it doesn't serve their needs. What those needs are at this point for a newspaper that has been under fire, we can only this the tipping point? or just an inhumane way for News-Press management to find cost-savings for a newspaper that is clearly losing advertisers and subscribers? You decide.


Anonymous harping said...

Isn't it ironic that the News-Press & Daily Sound have reversed roles: the DS initially had mostly wire service stories but has kept steadily increasing their local coverage (especially after acquiring a former N-P reporter), while the N-P now offers a steadily decreasing amount of local coverage & an increasing number of wire service stories. Perhaps eventually we will see the DS go to a subscription-based service while the N-P becomes a "freebie." Progress has many faces.

2/05/2007 9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's left of local news?

How many reporters are left at the News-Press? And is it possible that the paper, with its few remaining people, can report on all the subjects left behind by those who were fired??

Hobbs covered the court cases, McManigal the county and Kuznia education. Aren't those major topics of concern for a local daily paper?

From what I can see, it doesn't look like many new reporters have gone to the News-Press banging down the doors for a chance to work there.

Does Wendy McCaw realize that her paper will soon fail to carry much news of direct local importance or interest? Does she care?

What a shameful, shameful waste!!

2/05/2007 10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I canceled my subscription, I knew I would miss Rob's reporting, especially on School District issues. Now that he's fired, I really don't have much of a reason to reconsider subscribing.

2/05/2007 10:20 PM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

Here is how what is left of the Newspress will cover the news with their remaining scab staff.

Ted Mills will now write about County government. His nemesis the Life Editor was terminated a few weeks ago, so his opportunity opened up. County Board of Supervisors agenda reports are like book and film reviews, so it will be an easy transition.

Leana Orsua will cover the courts and crimes beat. She will check the Alpha Dog film as her sources of confirmation on the Jesse Hollywood trial.

The education and schools beat simply will be covered by a weekly column of 5000 words written by the school district Superintendent. That is the whole story anyway.

2/05/2007 10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sad truth is that Firestone and his hacks can complete their dismantling of the county planning department without many noticing. Much less news coverage is a great advantage for them, almost as good as the elimination of public input.

2/05/2007 11:17 PM  
Anonymous The real Daily newspaper now said...

Paper fires 3 for ‘disloyalty’


Three reporters — prominent supporters of their newsroom joining the union — were fired from the Santa Barbara News-Press yesterday evening.
Dawn Hobbs, Rob Kuznia and Barney McManigal all received their walking papers yesterday between 5:30 and 6 p.m., much to the surprise of the three journalists.
According to the three, they were told they were being fired for their to the company.
Since July 6, when five editors and a columnist left the paper in protest of the ethical direction of the newspaper, more than two-thirds of the total staff of the newsroom have either quit or been fired by the paper, including the three yesterday.
The organized newsroom staff has been attempting to join the Teamsters Union since July.
They are awaiting a decision from a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge on a set of objections the newspaper’s management — owner and co-publisher Wendy McCaw and co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger — had to a September union election hearing in which the employees voted 33-6 in favor of joining the union.
Last Friday, current and former reporters from the newspaper, including the three terminated yesterday, hung a banner from the Anapamu Street footbridge, which read “Cancel Your Newspaper Today!”
Kuznia said that, if anything, he thought there was a chance he could have been suspended or reprimanded for his actions.
“I guess if I was anticipating anything it certainly wasn’t getting fired,” Kuznia said. “This is the kind of thing unions do all the time.”
Hobbs, who has covered the cops and courts beat for eight years for the News-Press and has won several state, regional and national awards, was the first called to a conference room by associate editor Scott Steepleton yesterday.
When she arrived, Steepleton and Dugan Kelley, a lawyer from the law firm of Cappello and Noel — Barry Cappello represents Ampersand — were in the room.
“I was immediately interrogated about the activity last Friday,” Hobbs said. “I notified them that I wanted to at least call my lawyer and they told me this wasn’t a situation I needed a lawyer, it wasn’t a criminal or civil situation.”
And then she received her termination notice.
Hobbs was followed by Kuznia, the paper’s education reporter, who was followed by McManigal, the county government beat reporter.
All three were escorted one-by-one by human resources director Yolanda Apodaca to their desks to collect their belongings and then outside.
“McCaw can fire us and ban us from the building,” Hobbs said. “However, we are not going away.
“We are going to continue to fight this and we are going to get our jobs back and we’re going to get back pay.”
Union lawyer Ira Gottlieb said he was “appalled” and “shocked” by the moves, and that he would be filing an unfair labor practice charge against the paper, as well as seeking an injunction against the paper to “remedy all of the past unfair labor practice charges.”
“This is outrageous,” Gottlieb said. “It appears to me the News-Press is saying to its employees and the NLRB we don’t really care about the law.”
When contacted late last night, spokeswoman Agnes Huff said she didn’t have details of the days events, and wouldn’t until today.
If the NLRB agrees with Gottlieb’s request for an injunction, it can ask a federal district judge, probably in Los Angeles, to put back the three fired yesterday, as well as Melinda Burns and Anna Davison, two reporters fired in recent months.
“We’ve been asking to do it for awhile,” Gottlieb said. “This latest action puts it over the top and gives them ample reason to go to court.”
Surprised was a word the three reporters all used to describe their response today.
“If the only crime I’ve committed is working hard everyday and mining my beat for interesting stories and delivering it to the public, it’s just a shame it had to end this way,” said Kuznia, who has worked at the paper for three years. “I’m very glad to have met so many wonderful people on the job or on my beat.”

2/05/2007 11:26 PM  
Anonymous With apologies to Omar said...

Upon this cheqeurboard of nights and days,
With people's lives a game she plays,
Hither and thither she moves, checks and slays,
And then back to her closet, she retreats and lays.

2/05/2007 11:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Union vote or not, these three chose to support a boycott of THEIR OWN EMPLOYER. It's ridiculous for them to be surprised at the outcome.

It's like a person cheating on their spouse, and then being shocked when the spouse files for divorce.

2/06/2007 12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the firings didn't end with those three. They have been removing the computers of other reporters tonight, including Melissa Evans and sports writer John Zant. I would tell you who I am but I need to find another job before I get fired, too.

2/06/2007 12:31 AM  
Anonymous newspress reader said...

Dear Ms. McCaw,

When I read the intentions of any these employees to "get their jobs back", it is quite clear that they intend on harassing you to the point of selling the paper. They must hope that they will be given their jobs back by the next owner.

But clearly, these three were trying to wound the company. They asked to be fired. Any attempts they make to damage your business any further should be considered criminal, given their stated objectives to "get their jobs back".

I enjoyed reading the articles that these people wrote, but I fully support your decision to fire them for working to destroy the paper's reputation.

2/06/2007 12:42 AM  
Anonymous Angeline said...

A light at the end of the tunnel, real news from a real paper..

2/06/2007 1:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't condone this kind of disloyalty no matter how offensive I find the bahavior of the NP management cabal. It is completely hypocritical to continue to work for the paper while publicly promoting it's demise. They deserved to be fired.

It's a shame that both sides are seeing the low road as the path out of this mess.

2/06/2007 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Enough is Enough said...


2/06/2007 7:21 AM  
Anonymous Sup'erfly said...

The only thing the News-Press has left is local sports. Many people I talk to say the only reason they continue getting the NP is to read local sports coverage...about their children or friends kids. If Mark Patton and John Zant left, and the coverage of local sports declines more than it already has, this town will have no reason to keep reading the News-Press. If they Daily Sound continues to grow and can find a way to hire two local sports writers, they could make a serious run at the NP. Something for them to think about.

2/06/2007 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's increasingly clear that McCaw is content in making her newspaper her own personal Pravda. How deeply ironic it is that our town's once fine daily is now an instrument used to quelsh any and all dissent. McCaw has burned the bridges, and this tanker is heading for the bottom of the sea.

2/06/2007 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think the turning point will come much later, after these wrongfully terminated employees are reinstated with back pay. They will prevail in the NRLB hearings, because McCaw has clearly violated the law once again.

2/06/2007 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you Wendy! Keep cleaning house. :) Hey guys, wanna know who's next? Maybe it's you...

2/06/2007 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hard work is a crime? Clueless.

They brought this upon themselves. Idiots!

2/06/2007 9:05 AM  
Anonymous First District Streetfighter said...

"Cleaning house" by burning it to the ground?

2/06/2007 9:19 AM  
Anonymous city watcher said...

Question for those anonymice supporting the management of the NP: since when has expression of opinion been against US law? Since when (Hearst, maybe) have newspapers become corporate or personal tools rather than newspapers in their non-editorial pages? Or :::thinking::: I guess the entire "news-press" should now be called "editorial-press"?

Such policies certainly were so in those pre-glasnost/openenss back-in-the-USSR days.

No matter how much McCaw-the Baron VW and Steepleton might wish it is not so here. Or at least was not until the last letter of the alphabet, the &, took over.

2/06/2007 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm starting to get SBNP fatigue. I dropped the daily sub months ago and kept the Sunday...which allows one to read the daily on the web. But it's starting to feel like I'm not even getting my $6.50/month worth of value. Last Sunday's paper was a joke as far as local news content, and the daily web browse takes under five minutes.

How does this all play out? Most of the staff gets fired but they want their jobs does that work when subscriptions are being cancelled? Is there going to be a big "welcome back" day? I just don't see that.

I guess the SBNP will just scape along like a low hanging muffler...sparks and noise...until it either falls off or goes into the shop for replacement.

2/06/2007 9:22 AM  
Blogger May said...

When you know Rob Kuznia, you cannot help but smile when you talk about him.

For the past five years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Rob outside the reporting world, and I have to say, despite how clichéd or corny it may sound, Rob Kuznia is the veritable salt of the earth.

Rob is the kind of guy that when you see him coming, you go out of your way to say hello to. He’s the kind of guy with such a warm, intelligent, and kind ear for whatever you have to say, that it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about politics or the fact that you couldn’t find a parking spot. Rob always, and I mean, always has time to listen as if he had all the time in the world, and always with an open mind, followed by an oftentimes hilarious response.

As many people in the community know, Rob is an incredibly gifted, incredibly hard-working writer, and as many may not know, also an equally gifted musician, songwriter, singer and player of many instruments, including guitar, bass, violin and trumpet. Many people may not know this about Rob because he is modest to a fault, and is usually busy listening to what other people have to say rather than trumpeting his own horn, no pun intended.

I am writing all of this because in light of the horrible situation of his termination from the News-Press last evening, I want readers to know what kind of people the News-Press fires. I want those few remaining News-Press subscribers to know that the paper they pick up now from their driveways and front steps will now feel that much lighter and look that much dirtier, because not only have they killed one of the last remaining voices of integrity at the paper, they have killed the wonderful presence of Rob Kuznia in the news room, a presence that I know was one of such comfort to those that remained, and which is much more than words printed on paper.

2/06/2007 10:11 AM  
Anonymous harping said...

The Indy scooped Craig on the latest this time:
"Melissa Evans and Tom Schultz Also Cut; John Zant Probably Next.
It's been confirmed as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning..."
And so it goes...

2/06/2007 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the Independent or Daily Sound will pick up Rob Kuznia to cover local education issues. That's the one type of content I've been missing since switching from the N-P to other local media. I've stopped by the library to read a couple articles by Rob Kuznia since we no longer get the N-P. Good luck to Rob and the other in getting their jobs back through NLRB court action. In the meantime, we'd love to see your writing elsewhere.

2/06/2007 10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny, when I saw the overpass sign I went and canceled my LA Times subscription. I saw nothing specific to the News-Press.

I thought the protest was in favor of electronic delivery of the paper, for environmental reasons, and I thought Wendy McCaw, a good environmentalist, was upset about cutting down trees to put out the print version of the paper.

It is very surprising to me that she would fire people for advocating good environmental stewardship.

Now, I'd love it if she changed to kenaf paper and soy-based ink.

2/06/2007 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, Barney, and Dawn were three of the best reporters I ever worked with. They are smart, courageous, funny and just genuinely great human beings who stood up for what they believed in.

2/06/2007 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Bean said...

read was just updated. 3 more fired this morning, including longtime sports writer, John Zant.

2/06/2007 12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I had a child who stood outside my house with a banner that read I should be fired or robbed...I would take them to the woodshed. If I am an employer and my employees are standing on the corner shouting I should be boycotted and my product shunned, I would fire them.

Therefore, news that three rebel reporters who were caught telling people to not buy the newspaper, that employed them, was fired, is a dog bites man story.

I'm no fan of Wendy, I think she's a kook. And if if it weren't for the fact that our nation's divorce laws allow women to rape and pillage their ex husbands, she wouldn't have had the money to buy this rag in the first place.

2/06/2007 1:13 PM  
Anonymous wineguy said...

I guess a lot of the posters here have never paid much attention to Union organizing issues before. It is legally protected activity to picket and to urge a temporary boycott of an employer. As long as you don't disparage the product (an important distinction) you may not be fired for such activity. One would hope that after the NLRB forces the NP to bring back these illegaly fired workers (with back pay), and once a contract is hammered out, then the Union workers will happily encourage people to renew their subscriptions.

Of course management may choose to destroy their own business rather than deal with the Union. You can't force people to be smart...

2/06/2007 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The education and schools beat simply will be covered by a weekly column of 5000 words written by the school district Superintendent. That is the whole story anyway.

Great, nothing like having the Superintendent write a column. Is that supposed to give us unbiased reporting? I thought Rob gave us pretty balanced reporting.

2/06/2007 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wendy has yet to be picked up with dirty diapers, that's what it will take to wake up her one "loyal" poster.... Just a thought, offer Scott and the so-called loyal more money, they'd be gone in a heartbeat. Meanwhile, letters to those who advertise and boycott. Including picketing. Where is the News-Press boundary line?

2/06/2007 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Nelville Flynn said...

The News-Press is committed to protecting its business against acts of sabotage.

As I stated earlier on this forum, it is unreasonable to expect any employer to tolerate subversives on its payroll.

The existence of a unionization campaign does not provide a cover for otherwise proscribed behavior, including but not limited to biased reporting and public acts intended to undermine and/or destroy the News-Press.

In this case, the behavior was so egregious and unacceptable that one wonders whether the staff members in question intended to be fired, in order to use the unionization campaign as a pretext for getting paid while not working.

Aside from a few reflexive critics of the News-Press, no one sympathizes with these acts of professional suicide.

The News-Press remains committed to building a professional, unbiased and capable reporting staff. No acts by disgruntled employees or ex-employees will stand in the way of a superior newspaper.

2/06/2007 2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May, that was a beautiful tribute to Rob.

As for those who say these reporters "asked for it," have we already forgotten the supermarket strike, in which employees picketed and asked consumers to boycott the establishments until a contract was negotiated? This is the same thing, people. No one is being disloyal; they simply want to be allowed to do their jobs in an ethical way that will benefit the readers -- not the whims of upper management.

And yes, I am a former colleague of them all, and I have only the utmost respect for them as journalists and for sticking it out this long.

2/06/2007 2:42 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Can someone clarify this for me - since the unionization of the employees is still under dispute, does that still mean that WM and the SBNP is an at-will employer? dd

2/06/2007 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess they'll go the route of other corporations and outsource to India....

2/06/2007 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sad part of these firings, is it did not have to happen. Employee's owe the employer loyalty. The union has, as always, lied to the employee's about their rights.Dawn Hobbs daughter will suffer. Ira Gottlieb and his wife, will still live in luxury in Pacific Palisades. Marty Keegan will still drive around in a new vehicle paid for by the union.

2/06/2007 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You say that no one sympathizes with the "acts of professional suicide". You must be in a different Santa Barbara. Everyone I speak with completely supports the ex-employees of the Newspress and despises the employer's rude and dictatorial attitude. Not only is it horribly poor management and very unprofessional, but Wendy and her gang just don't "get" Santa Barbara. They need to move on down the road to any of the many places that will bend to their will just because they have money.

2/06/2007 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 4:09 These firings were going to happen anyway. It was just a matter of time. What you fail to understand is that these folks, as all the folks who have left in the last 7 months can attest to is that they are extrmely loyal to their profession and community. They were also VERY loyal to the NP before Ms McCaw started to destroy it. They are fighting, not for money or benefits but for the right to do their jobs and give the citizens of SB back a legitimate newspaper. Loyalty and respect go hand in hand and Ms McCaw has shown none to SB or her employees.

2/06/2007 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous 4:09, have you forgotten who did the firings? Wendy, from her yacht, drinking $1000 champagne! Employees have the right to engage in protected concerted activity, and have the right to bring economic pressure to bear in support of their lawful demands for bargaining, a right the employees won on September 27, and which is only being held up by bogus objections filed by Wendy's lawyers. Wendy is the only one who has facing prosecution for wrongdoing, and there are more prosecutions in the offing now. Her charges against the union have all been trashed, because they were worthless.

The profound trouble with the posters here who say, "To heck with anyone who advocates a boycott" is that they don't know or care about the "balance" of economic weapons doled out to the labor partisans by the NLRB, which already weighs heavily in favor of employers, and even more so for the last 25 years or so, as employers have felt free to be more hostile to unions than ever before. Why is it OK to fire employees who make demands that McCaw obey the law? Why should she be able to tell her employees what buttons they may wear, what signs they can put in their vehicles? Why should she be able to endlessly resist the employees' demonstrated will and desire for a union, for a voice in the workplace?

There are other people who deserve loyalty from employees in the workplace, and the "boss" actually should have some duty back to her employees. She has screamed in the NP about how Measure P shouldn't be blocked by the City since its 2/3 favorable vote in the City demonstrates the "will of the people". Why won't she respect the will of 85% of her own newsroom? No, instead, she threatens them, fires them, represses them, and then whines when they don't just take it lying down. A strike, a boycott, other free speech critical of Wendy and the NP are the weapons -- weak as they often turn out to be -- that the NLRA has allocated to unions, and this union has every right and duty to utilize them. Because the use of those weapons -- which are meant to avert the use of violence that occurred far more frequently on both sides of labor disputes in pre-NLRA days -- is protected, Wendy should just shut up (you read it right) and obey the law.

What benefit are Gottlieb and Keegan getting for their work in Santa Barbara? Dues income from these employees will never match the amount of resources the union is spending to fight this battle, but this is about dignity, about the underdog, about doing the right thing. I know it's hard to believe that people actually are motivated by those things, but that's the truth.

2/06/2007 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice try, 4:09. And Nelville, I guess it's about time you finally crawled out from under your rock.

The employees owe Wendy nothing but an honest day's labor. Their duty is to journalism and the truth.

These firings are so obviously in retaliation to protected labor activities that trying to paint them as "egregious" acts of disloyalty is insulting. It'll be great to see Dawn (who doesn't have a daughter, dimwit) and the others prevail in court.

Better get used to it, lackeys.

2/06/2007 9:45 PM  
Blogger orangstar said...

It isn't a union campaign anymore, Neville, it's a real live UNION. they voted, it passed.
Just because Wendy can't get her head out of the sand long enough to acknowledge this fact, doesn't mean she can go around firing people for peaceful demonstrations that are protected by the UNION.
and the rest of you out there who actually think these firings are justified, let me ask you:
the next time the SB teachers decide to protest on the street corner to fight for higher (deserved) wages... are they being disloyal? should they get the axe too?
you think that protesting in an effort to improve untenable working conditions is being disloyal?
shame on you.
i wonder when the last time was YOU put your livelihood and reputation on the line for something you beleived in...
was it on this blog?
you are not living this mess, you just get to stand by and judge it.

2/06/2007 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's about time they got rid of Hobbs!

2/07/2007 12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Union vote or not, these three chose to support a boycott of THEIR OWN EMPLOYER.

That's what picketers do, genius. It's legally protected behavior.

It's ridiculous for them to be surprised at the outcome.

By now, I suppose it is ridiculous to be surprised at McCaw's blatantly illegal actions.

It's like a person cheating on their spouse, and then being shocked when the spouse files for divorce.

Uh, no, it's nothing like that.

2/07/2007 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great, nothing like having the Superintendent write a column. Is that supposed to give us unbiased reporting? I thought Rob gave us pretty balanced reporting.

You need to get your sarcasm detector repaired.

2/07/2007 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone clarify this for me - since the unionization of the employees is still under dispute,

Unionization was established by the election; just because McCaw refuses to obey the law and has filed a frivolous lawsuit does not mean that unionization is under dispute.

2/07/2007 1:51 PM  

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