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Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Reporters don't put biased stories in the paper....

"editors do....". Linda Strean, former managing editor said the above...and Craig Smith explains it here:

By that she was referring to the process by which an editor assigns a story to a reporter, suggests angles or approaches to the story, suggests sources or individuals to interview and then, when the story is written, reads the story, asks the reporter questions about it, suggests additional stakeholders in the story who might be contacted if their viewpoint is not represented and then finally when, and only when, the story is deemed fair and balanced, puts it in the paper. As Strean put it; "The editor is the backstop."

So who was Melinda Burn's backstop on the Measure D story written by her and cited in her termination letter as an example of biased reporting on her part? Steepleton testified that the person who edited the story and failed to recognize it as being biased was, himself. I guess the buck didn't stop at the backstop.

We also got an explanation today as to why Anna Davison was fired...it turns out that treacherous sidewalks mean less than trees and our Mayor, who was quoted "too much" in the article. I'm not sure what the Mayor wouldn't comment on if she wasn't commenting on trees and sidewalks in her town -- but I guess she can't do her job and not be biased at the same time.

I have to ask -- why does our community newspaper owner get to decide what is biased and what is not? Why can't we decide that for ourselves? What makes her such an expert on the subject and why does her management feel so compelled to forget what they learned in journalism school?

Read Craig's Blog for some other good stories but read this:

Second best exchange of the morning came when Steepleton reiterated his testimony from yesterday that reporters and editors should be regularly reading the editorials of the papers that they work for. Counsel for the NLRB then asked him, "Isn't it true that at the January 9th objections hearing (where the News-Press was contesting the outcome of the union election) you testified that you didn't read the editorial pages of the the News-Press?" Steepleton answered; "That's correct."

Ouch. That must have hit the judge in his gut.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Mr. Moreno said...

In more than 20 years in journalism I've had good bosses, bad bosses and one sociopathic boss. Some of the worst -- typically possessed of a fatal blend of arrogance, incompetence and sloth -- were at the News-Press. Happily for the rest of us, they were weeded out.

But I've never seen anything like Steepleton, a man so painfully ill-suited for the role of top editor. That such an incompetent, dishonest and thuggish figure could be sitting in Jerry Roberts' office, pretending to be a real journalist, just kills me.

I hope the community at large will see him -- and what it means for the News-Press -- for what he is.

8/17/2007 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a casual observer (don't know any of the people involved in this trial) and former casual NP reader and decades long resident of SB county I am greatly disturbed by the overt presence of WM in this community.

From reading the details from this week's trial I am left with the impression that this woman is extremely petty and possibly mentally imbalanced. This would be of little consequence if she did not have the seemingly endless well of financial resources to do as she pleases.

Too often, justice is served by whoever has the most money to keep going. I hope this is not the case here, including her right to appeal. At some point someone (a judge?) has got to say enough of this BS!

It is ironic to watch the NP TV and hear the tag line after each story about 'unbiased'. Their overuse of this phrase simply emphasizes the gap between the talk and the walk.

This NP mess really has nothing to do with bias and has everything to do with someone's deep dark control issues.

8/17/2007 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a mess.

the fact is though as a long time person involved in the media - Burns was a horribly biased reporter. Every thing she wrote and how she treated people illustrated her bias every day.

no excuse for how wendy carried out her firings - but know the facts are with her on bias in the case of Burns.

8/17/2007 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone handicap this trial for us? We hear from numerous blogs, websites, and newspapers what's going on in the courtroom, but who's winning? Scoring points with the judge? Hopefully someone that has some sort of experience with this type of trial can weigh in. For example, is the Newspress' excuse that they didn't know 6 people on top of the freeway holding a banner to cancel your newspaper had anything to do with a union drive make the firings okay? Or do warnings of "bias" in previous articles amount to enough evidence to fire someone?

8/17/2007 3:51 PM  
Anonymous wineguy said...

Sara -- Did you see Craig Smith is reporting that the NLRB has denied the N-P objections to the Union election and certified the Teamsters as the lawful representative of the N-P newsroom employees.

8/17/2007 6:03 PM  
Anonymous AnonyWestmontAlum said...

Former resident of SB from days of my youth, but a follower of the SBNP story through blogs n such.

Just caught up on coverage through CraigSmith, Independent, VentaCountyStar, LA Times, and this blog.

Among other parts of the hearings, I'm struck by this one detail... that concerns itself with poor performance evaluations relating to temper or rudeness or profanity in the newsroom.

It's come up in the hearings, and I've read it before, this notion of loyalty to the paper. Loyalty uber alles, Wendy.

What's striking about performance evaluations based on bias/temper/loyalty is that it's very one-sided, when viewed agasint the backdrop of a year's worth of actions by McCaw. Articles smearing her "enemies", cease and desist orders, lawsuits, and (this is harder to place) some intemperate outbursts.

Given all that, I find myself hard-pressed to imagine what "ideal working conditions" at the paper would look like. The best I can imagine is some kind of Wormtail-Voldemort dynamic. The staff quail in obsequeous fear, stammering "Y-Y-yes, ma'am, you're r-r-right about that."

McCaw's money gives her the near-equivalence of being able to say Avada Kedavra to whomever displeases her.

8/17/2007 6:38 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Moreno said...

Yo, 2:16 -- Whaddaya got to back up your nonsense? Put up or shut up.

Smearing Melinda Burns, an excellent journalist and one of the finest humans beings I've known, as a "horribly biased reporter" is cheap and gutless.

You said: "Every thing she wrote and how she treated people illustrated her bias every day." Really, everything? It's clear you don't know her or ever worked with her.

Bleeping coward.

8/17/2007 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't it against the law to disclose someone's medical history (rehab)?

8/18/2007 4:25 PM  
Blogger jqb said...

the fact is though as a long time person involved in the media - Burns was a horribly biased reporter. Every thing she wrote and how she treated people illustrated her bias every day.

no excuse for how wendy carried out her firings - but know the facts are with her on bias in the case of Burns.


This is no better than the anonymous notes about the crimes of their neighbors that Venicians would drop into a box on the free side of the bridge of sighs. Put your name to this slander and back it with facts.

8/20/2007 4:01 PM  

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