by Bob Guiliano, former assistant city editor, SBN-P, 10/30/06-1/26/07
Now that my share of the testimony at the NLRB hearing is over, I feel like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can continue on with my life.
I am not happy, however, that I failed to accomplish my mission, which was to help Wendy McCaw fix the News-Press, and help resolve all the various conflicts taking place between her and past and present news staff and members of the community.
This controversy caught my attention while I sat at my desk at the North County Times in Escondido, Calif., peaceful and secure in a position I had held for eight years, editing stories and designing pages. I had just received a good annual review and raise, and my vacation time increased from two to three weeks. And I had also been substitute teaching about three days a week for five years in local high schools, something I enjoyed doing as I considered making a permanent career change to teaching.
What particularly caught my attention about the News-Press was not all the controversy about the Rob Lowe land story, or the Travis Armstrong DUI story, or even the mass exodus of editors and reporters, but that a group of remaining reporters bonded together and risked their financial well-being and careers for something they believed they were fighting for, journalistic ethics and integrity.
Opinions may vary on whether they have been justified to stand up to the owner/publisher of the newspaper, who possesses the right to determine the paper's philosophy and choose what areas of coverage she would like prioritized in Santa Barbara County.
Of course, a newspaper must be a champion and community leader demonstrating ethics and integrity to maintain its credibility. And, a truly non-biased newspaper would not only require a variety of comments and all sides to be reflected in any story, but it would cover all the news, and publish readers' letters to the editor or op-ed columns, whether they agree or disagree with the publisher's, or editorial page editor's or other readers' viewpoints.
Now, back to my case in point. How often in your lifetime have you seen a group of American co-workers show the courage to risk all in their fight for what they believe is right? Troops have experienced such bonding in combat to the extent that they regard each other as brothers or sisters, and remain close for their lifetimes.
I figured that if Wendy McCaw could recognize the courage in her team of reporters and harness their energy, she could have propelled them and her newspaper to excel in covering Santa Barbara County and perhaps there would have even been Pulitzer Prizes down the road!
Giving up the security of my jobs at the North County Times and the Escondido high school district to enter this mess in Santa Barbara was something I wanted to do. I felt there was such potential, with the combination of an individual, financially independent owner who is not beholding to anyone, and a group of reporters who have the guts to fight. Hell, don't fight them, get in front of the line and lead them! Give them direction, build their confidence, appreciate them and set them loose!
Besides typical news and feature stories, there are always social issues to investigate. The ones I've been involved with or interested in over the years include political and police corruption, illegal drug dealers (you'd be amazed where the kingpins live and what country clubs they belong to), human trafficking, sex & domestic slavery (the best investigative report I read about this was done by El Universal newspaper in Mexico City several years ago, focusing on North San Diego County), child pornography, gangs, and real estate fraud.
One thing about being on the night shift at the News-Press, you field calls from a variety of people giving you tips for breaking news or possible investigative reports. That was always one of the most interesting parts of my job at a newspaper, developing sources, determining if they were credible, and then investigating and writing the story myself, or hooking the source up with a reporter.
In conclusion, I hope the Santa Barbara News-Press can resolve its many situations and get back to focusing on being a real newspaper and serving the community. And I wish the best for the courageous eight fired reporters involved in the NLRB hearing, remaining copy editors and other staff I had the pleasure to work with at the News-Press; community members and religious leaders I've met; my late-night tipsters who kept me company when I was alone in the newsroom, and who provided some really solid leads for stories; and Sara De la Guerra, for allowing all voices to be heard on Blogabarbara!
Labels: NLRB, Santa Barbara News-Press