Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Community Post: What did the News-Press expect?

PLEASE NOTE: Although I don't agree with all of Goleta Watchers assumptions about each of the three newer members of council, the News-Press editorial the other day brought up some questions as to what they expected when they endorsed Onnen, Bennett and Aceves. Aceves has proven to be what he said he would be, a moderate. He's also surprised a few environmentalists who didn't expect his support on key issues. Still, what will happen in Goleta this fall will be interesting to say the least. I'm including two relevant snippets of the News-Press editorial below. -- Sara
The News-Press supported the three challengers who won in 2006 because Goleta needed a more responsive government. Their win was not a mandate for an extreme pro-growth agenda. The community trusted their assurances that rampant development wouldn't be in store under their watch.

What happens to an area known as Bishop Ranch -- agriculturally zoned land off Highway 101 between Los Carneros and Glen Annie roads -- may set off the South Coast's biggest battle over development.

.....What's troubling is that development-connected interests -- which now have the council's ear -- appear to be following the same road as the last council bloc in terms of not listening to community concerns and desires.

--two parts a Santa Barbara News-Press editorial 05/13/08

======Community Post===========

I know you can't run the full SB News-Press editorial of May 13, Sara, but it's worth considering. In 2006, the NP threw its support hard against the slow-growth incumbents in Goleta of Brock, Connell, Hawkhurst in favor of the Chamber of Commerce-supported team of Bennet, Onnen and Aceves, who were raring to team up with council-member-for-life-Blois.

Those four immediately got to work ripping apart the General Plan that had been the subject of hundreds of earnest community meetings and to favor Bacara/developer requested changes. Not only to favor, but to have the city pay for what the Bacara wants. They've also worked to push out the law firm that had been involved with the city from its beginnings and to get in its place other lawyers more likely to be amenable to the present pro-growth Council. Again, a 3-2 vote.

Now, the last important large open space is headed for development, the Bishop Ranch property off Cathedral Oaks. Pretty much as promised by the N-P candidates it's headed for massive development, close to 1,200 dwelling units plus commercial space; and now the NP stirs and cries weakly, whoa!

Aceves seems to be trying to back away from some of the extreme measures of his associates, but it's too late: the votes are consistently 3-2 (Aceves/Wallis) in favor of development. The last council was responsive to the public but the public could not stand up against the rush of money that came in in the wake of the NewsPress endorsement -- or at least it did not. And the then council members did not see it coming and ran weak campaigns.

There will be an election this November with two seats up, Blois's and Wallis's. Undoubtedly Blois will run, but will Wallis? It will be interesting to see Blois run on her actions of the last two years of tearing down the general plan and welcoming in development. It will be interesting, too, to see if the News-Press continues its support of unrestrained development candidates of what was once the good land.

A Goleta watcher

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Anonymous ban the bias said...

Is the News-Press opinion page even relevant any more with the massive loss of readers and its "don't know up from down" positions?

5/15/2008 10:14 PM  
Anonymous the letter said...

. . . this is the letter (as reported in the press) . . .

Dated: May 13, 2008 (delivered May 14, 2008)

Dear Newsroom Employee,

I am writing with regard to the recent layoffs and accompanying letter from the Publisher. Sadly, though not unexpectedly, the Publisher refuses to accept any responsibility for the continued decline of readers and revenue at the Santa Barbara News-Press that she claims has forced her to layoff employees.

Instead, she attributes these losses in part, to the Teamsters’ call for subscribers to cancel the paper and what she characterizes as the incessant litigation over unfounded charges causing the expenditure of significant economic resources. Interestingly, in the middle of the summer of 2006, the paper published a vicious (and on many points, blatantly inaccurate) editorial denying that the Teamsters’ efforts had had any impact. Similarly, at the time of the unlawful firings of six newsroom employees, the News-Press claimed that “The paper is doing fine. In fact, it is doing much better since the changes in the newsroom.”

Her public comments at various times indicate that depending on the identity of her audience, Mrs. McCaw tends to blame the decline in readership to whatever cause suits her, be it the condition of the industry, the Union or certain individuals who she perceives as adversaries. It should be noted that since the negotiations began there have been no rallies, media ads, or press conferences called for the specific purpose of encouraging subscriber to cancel their subscriptions. This is not by accident; this is by design.

I have discussed with Teamsters campaign people the need to give the negotiations process a chance to succeed (without distraction) in the event the Publisher demonstrates she is serious about bargaining. Unfortunately, the Publisher has not shown the least bit of interest in trying to reach an agreement that would address employees concerns. I will meet again soon with the campaign strategists to review available options that may move the negotiations forward.

I am still trying to understand how someone can be repeatedly found guilty of “unfounded charges.” I have informed News-Press Management on several occasions that they will be held accountable for what they say and do. If they break the law, they take the chance that it will cost money in litigation. The simple solution is: Obey the Law.

The Publisher’s letter also fails to mention that much of her legal expenses are related to taking, or threatening to take legal action against anyone and everyone who oppose her viewpoints, including local businesses, authors of articles critical of how she runs her newspaper and competitor publications. What appears to be obvious to everyone but the Publisher is that many of the misfortunes at the Santa Barbara News-Press appear to be the result of mismanagement at the top, including a disregard for the employees’ interests. In a competitive News Industry it is critical that responsible cost cutting be paired with wise investments to retain and attract readers.

So let’s look at the Santa Barbara News-Press owner’s track record over the past few years. She began by increasingly interjecting her opinions on how news should be reported with the Management Staff at the paper after publicly promising to allow the professionals to do their jobs. Failing to convince those professionals that she knew better, the owner decided to act as Publisher with her companion serving as co-publisher. Shortly afterward several staff resigned in protest over her meddling in the reporting of news and the discipline of employees deemed to have disobeyed nonexistent rules.

In the months that followed many more staff and employees were either terminated because they were perceived as disloyal or incompetent by the Publisher despite the fact that many were recognized by the industry and regularly won awards for their accomplishments, or were driven out because they could no long tolerate the working conditions. The recent layoff further depletes the pool of experienced, competent staff. Some positions in the newsroom have not been replaced while others are being filled with long-term “temporary” workers with no employee benefits, though they perform bargaining unit work.

The decisions made thus far by the current Management haven’t exactly panned out for the Santa Barbara News-Press. If the owner is unwilling or unable to acknowledge she has made mistakes, she cannot learn from them. At some point she must recognize that situation has gotten far worse, not better under the current ownership/management at the paper and she is ultimately responsible. The release of experienced, competent and respected employees and managers is not the model of a successful business plan. Escorting these individuals out the door without a fair severance package should be considered an embarrassment, not a sound business decision.

Having the employees and staff fear your wrath is not the same as having them respect your judgment. If the top Management cannot see these distinctions, something is seriously wrong.

The decisions made to date do not exactly inspire confidence in the Publisher’s ability or desire to do the right thing. If it is her intention to run the Santa Barbara News-Press into the ground because she prefers to fight every fight, rather than to do what is right, she can pursue that option and there is not much anyone can do about it.

On the other hand, if she truly wants to re-establish the Santa Barbara News-Press to its former prominence the Union is willing to listen and work collaboratively. We have expressed these sentiments several times throughout the negotiations. However, at this time Management is not winning friends at the table or in the newsroom with its proposals and overall approach. While we are willing to work collaboratively if the sentiment is reciprocated, we have shown that we are not afraid to fight to improve the situation in the News-Press Newsroom. The Committee believes it is not too late turn things around should the Publisher conclude that is what she wants. The ball is in her court. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to call me.

Sincerely, Nicholas D. Caruso, International Representative GCC/IBT CC: Union Committee

-- 30 --

5/15/2008 11:19 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

This must have something more to do with another issue...I'll pull this out to another post.

5/16/2008 6:55 AM  
Anonymous Private Eye said...

The NewsPress editorial page is very relevant. It is driving change in this town, is playing its weight in council elections and will be even more relevant with the hiring of this new investigative reporter.

His first task should be to investigate the scope developer influence on the lower rungs of the city planning department staff -- where are the real decisions get made before their nonsense gets rubber stamped on the way up the process.

How exactly are developers influencing these staff members to consistently ignore the zoning ordinance and grant every modification requested essentially creating their own unaccountable fiefdom.

Is it gifts, flattery, presence, favors ..... something is smelling rotten in Denmark and it is time we got to the bottom of it.

It is time now for fired and former NewsPress workers to stop calling and harassing and threatening NewsPress advertisers.

The NewsPress is doing just fine.

5/16/2008 10:26 AM  
Anonymous just wondering said...

"The NewsPress is just fine."

So why do people keep dropping it?

5/16/2008 10:27 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

I must respectfully disagree that the News-Press "is doing just fine." I have become bored with the whole News-Press saga, but I cannot let the big lie (the one that becomes the truth if told enough times) to pass without comment. By any measure of quality and success, the News-Press is not fine. It is losing subscribers and advertisers and therefore income to such an extent that the publisher felt it necessary to lay off employees. The quality of writing is poor the coverage of news haphazard and spotty at best. There is no next-day coverage of the meetings of the County Board of Supervisors and the death of leading commuinty figures can go without coverage for days. Steepleton has sunk to putting his by-line on unedited and uninvestigated press releases, for which one can hardly blame him considering how over-worked he is. Finally, the quality of the writing nowadays is just plain poor, akin to the harmonica players on the old Amateur Hour show. This is not to mention the one-note-johnny who sits athwart the editorial page. Sadly the Santa Barbara News-Press is not doing fine. I, for one, truly wish that it was. With regard to the community post about the Goleta general plan, it is not over yet as the whole thing has to go through the CEQA wringer. There are environmental impacts of the changes that will have to be disclosed in the EIR, which will present interesting problems. If the impacts are not disclosed, law suits will ensue. Negotiations will occur and deals will be struck. Stay tuned.

5/17/2008 5:51 PM  

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