Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

McCaw Shuts Down Valley Voice, Lays Off 17 Employees

Craig Smith reported today that 17 people were "reorganized" at the Santa Barbara News-Press and both the Goleta Valley Voice and Valley Living in Santa Ynez were shut down. A blow to Ampersand's stated commitment to local news coverage, a news release they sent out today says they will be increasing their coverage in Goleta and Santa Ynez. From what, next to nothing?

Here's what co-publisher, Arthur von Wiesenberger had to say:
The economic forces affecting the newspaper industry are not limited to the News-Press or Santa Barbara. The challenges we face as an industry require a rededication to our core product. The actions taken today were necessary as we respond to our ever-changing industry.

Word is that Goleta Valley Voice Editor Jim Logan was let go. Laying off quality employees like Jim is not the way to solvency or better local reporting. More news on this developing story as it comes in.

One has to wonder if McCaw hadn't spent so much money with frivolous lawsuits against anyone that said 'boo' to the News-Press if these layoffs and the paper's demise would be happening today. Don't be fooled by talk of a bad economy or the big, bad union -- the News-Press could have done much to improve their situation but instead chose to report less and spend their money on expensive lawyers. As far as I am concerned, you 'reap what you sow'.

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Anonymous Go Wendy said...

It's her paper and she can lay off employees if she wants.

This is a free country!

Anyone who does not like how things are done in this country is free to move to another country.
so like it or lump it!

12/04/2008 7:46 AM  
Blogger Eileen Hamilton said...

I still like to read the newspaper (along with looking at blogs and Internet news). Once someone else owns the Santa Barbara News-Press, I'll resubscribe in a heart beat. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to think that Wendy plans on running the paper into the ground, past the point of recovery by anyone else. Sad days.

12/04/2008 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Sycophant not said...

Go Wendy, Wendy is polluting the community with her acerbic and mindless drivel that passes for editorial comment in her newspaper. In a real sense, she has inflicted substantial costs on everyone in SB and its environs as much as if her building were coughing up soot and smoke into the clean Santa Barbara atmosphere. She is permitted by the First Amendment to engage in this societal pollution, and is permitted to some degree to engage in despoiling through her horrible example, though she does not have the right to violate labor law with impunity, as she also has done.

Why is it that folks like you answer criticism with "If you don't like it, you can leave."? Maybe that works in your home, but this country and community is worth fighting for, and those who don't think Wendy's current operation is healthy for either have a right to try to change it, within the bounds of the law. Freedom implies responsibility, and we haven't seen a lot of the latter from McCaw. It seems as if she is the one who doesn't like how things are done here, since she repeatedly violates this country's federal labor law, and thinks that she has a constitutional right to do so. We've got news for her: the Supreme Court determined otherwise, 7 decades ago! So, perhaps it's McCaw who should find herself another country that has even less respect for human rights and dignity than this one, so she can harm employees and be celebrated.

12/04/2008 6:13 PM  
Anonymous More Animal Coverage, Please! said...

Hey Go Wendy ...

another great think about this free country is freedom of speech. For example, I'm free to say that your newspaper sucks.

Like it or lump it!

12/04/2008 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Go Wendy, Please said...

Dear Eileen,

There are many people on the South Coast who miss their News-Press. And I believe there are many journalists who would return in a heartbeat to the newspaper — under a new owner.

I'm one.

12/04/2008 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Peter Pan said...

Wendy did not waste money on what you claim are frivilous lawsuits. She has extremely important issues to protect and defend. She has a right to run her own business and that was under attack.

I am glad she has the resources to defend private property rights against this new union thuggocracy that wants to take over this country.

Go Wendy - I hope you win every one of your lawsuits. You did the right thing. Thank you for taking your time and your money to defend these really critical principles.

The newpaper's owners right to control content and their own free speech is absolutely essential. While the market determines whether that view point is successful or not if a newspaper is meant to be profitable, but if profits are not the driving force because of other independent resources, then by all means the owner makes all the final content decisions.

Or the owner chooses to let the market make those decisions. But these decisions never belong to the employees. And that is something this union crowd never could understand while they whined and confused the issues as labor rights when in fact what they wanted was full control of content and elimination of any role for the owner.

There are many of us who got what was going on and could see through all this anti-Wendy nonsense. It is just in America it is still okay to trash women and Wendy happens uncoincidentally to be a woman - so she is fair game to distort and destroy.

Nope Wendy, you live well in the hearts and minds of many, many people here. Thank you for hanging in there and these are tough times for all print newspapers everywhere.

Just like it is tough times for store front retail with all the internet shopping. How we do our business and live our lives is so radically changed because of the internet. Good by Video Schimdeo - you were so good for so long. And now it is so long to you too.

Change is a b*tch. But that is what everyone wanted. Too late to turn the clock back. Hold on for a bumpy ride these next few years.

12/04/2008 8:03 PM  
Anonymous Satchel said...

Peter Pan, you remain in fantasy land, and you are still believing the lies from N-P management that the union wanted to control content of the newspaper. That's a slogan, nothing more. The reporters want to keep their individual integrity, and that they have a right to do. They do, under the law, have the right to control more than whether they stay or go; they have the right to form a union and demand better working conditions, which includes protection from arbitrary management decisions -- of which there have been many, including 10 illegal firings -- and consistent and fair treatment even for competent employees who the employer doesn't much like.

Wendy's lawsuits and legal forays are a joke. She has filed over a dozen unfair labor practice charges against the union, and lost every last one of them. She sued Sue Paterno because Paterno dared to harshly criticize her, and now Wendy will pay Paterno's attorneys for defending her. She sued the Indy and got what was likely a trivial settlement after no doubt spending hundreds of thousands. She sued Michael Todd and got zip. The NLRB is prosecuting her like there's no tomorrow, and she and her lawyers and management reps are committing more unfair labor practices every day. She threatens shopkeepers with frivolous vexatious libel suits because they put "McCaw, Obey the Law" signs in their windows, as they have the right to do. She didn't dare bring suit against them, because she would have paid their lawyers, too. She lost one overtime lawsuit against former employees. She put up an illegal fence to obstruct passerby's view of "McCaw, Obey the Law" signs in her employees' vehicles. McCaw and her imbecile lawyers call what is clearly handbilling "picketing" because they lie for a living. The union has not been prosecuted. Who's the thug? On what basis can you label the union representing the newsroom employees thugs? Because that's the word Steepleton and Travis fed you, right?

There is also nothing but "woe is me" victimhood behind this crapola that Wendy is a victim of sexism. The N-P is the one putting full-page ads in the paper lying about the union; the union, for its part, does not make gender attacks. Yes, she is incompetent, evil, malicious, harsh, vindictive, and factually-challenged, but so are Travis and Steepleton. The union has never said or implied that this is about her gender, and there is no question that there are malevolent iconic anti-union males that have been justly vilified by the union movement: Frank Lorenzo comes to mind. So do any number of California growers; Zell of the LA Times is certainly among the megalomaniacs in the newspaper biz. The cretins who ran JP Stevens are in the pantheon of evil. You're just grasping for sympathy when unwarranted mistreatment of middle class workers (many of whom are women) by a very wealthy malefactor merits no such reaction.

The union is prepared for a bumpy ride, but one that it will survive, and thrive once it's over.

12/04/2008 10:34 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Satchel or Bucky :)

12/04/2008 10:40 PM  
Blogger john said...

I'm rather baffled how there are daily reports in the press about continual layoffs throughout the newspaper industry, yet Mrs. McCaw's decision to streamline her newspaper is greeted like the holocaust. Papers are closing, being sold, staff are being laid off by the thousands, yet the Santa Barbara News-Press is supposed to keep a full staff even as a handful of vindictive people and the union work diligently at losing the newspaper ads and subscribers. I have never seen such a vindictive and calculated attack on an organization as I see coming from The Independent (which might have less-than-altruistic motives --- namely killing off it chief competitor); the Union, which is doing its part to strong arm the New-Press to the mat (oh, by the way, the UAW is finally relenting some of its bloodsucking tactics to the auto industry to try to keep them in business, after helping to bankrupt them) ; and then there are the unemployed makers of "Citizen McCaw" who are also waging their video vendetta for purely inspirational, non-profit, and non-egotistical reasons (Hey, is that DVD for sale yet?) And if the face of all these helping hands amid the worst economic downturn the nation has ever seen, Mrs. McCaw lays off a small portion of her staff to try and turn her business around. Oh my God, what a hard-hearted, evil, calculating thing to do!

12/05/2008 1:08 AM  
Anonymous Snarky said...

The only issue is that while other papers are laying off, and can blame the economy, the real issue with that Wendy cannot be truthful to herself.
She could turn this around if she wanted better paper, more than she wants to crush employees. She's Cartman... "Respect my Authority".

If ampersand shareholders wanted to produce more than a tabloid paper with AP articles, and local coverage produces by inexperience people who are not locals. They could. But they would rather stand on principle that produce a product that the community wants to support.

Can anyone support the invaders; a gossip columnist who knows more about the UK monarchy than the De la Guerra heritage, an investigative reporter who really does not really do local stories, and a editorial columnist who acts like an investigative reporter with the exception that they don't provide the investigative details.

Come on, give the community a paper it deserves... oh wait... from your perspective, you are

12/05/2008 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Whistlin' Dixie said...

John, you're looking through the wrong end of the telescope, if you're viewing all of Wendy's enemies and yet not addressing how they became that way. First, Wendy has proven herself unethical, vindictive and incompetent at running a newspaper. Second, she has sued or threatened to sue everything and everyone that moves. Third, she has violated labor law repeatedly, illegally firing 10 people so far, refusing to bargain in good faith, threatening her employees because of their protected activity, and insisting on not having normal checks on her power that a union always brings (we're not talking about economics here). She and her highest-ranking staff have been found to have lied under oath at least once, and in the cases of Travis Armstrong and Scott Steepleton, twice.

Most employers of the size of the N-P or larger try to ease the pain of layoff with severance pay, avoiding doing it during the holidays, and doing other sacrifices first; not Wendy McCaw, who has more love for critters than her own employees. How did all of that (which is just scratching the surface) escape your notice?

You give yourself away as an anti-union neanderthal when you label the UAW's tactics -- that is, its bargaining skill to achieve economic gains and protections during good times -- "bloodsucking", but don't mention anything about McCaw's venality and hypocrisy. Unions are capable of, and do regularly agree to "givebacks" when the circumstances warrant, and those UAW givebacks didn't start just this week. Autocracy in the workplace is neither humane nor wise business practice, if, that is, you're genuinely interested in putting out a quality newspaper.

The union has little alternative in the face of McCaw's massive lawbreaking but to mount what economic pressure it can, which McCaw sometimes denies is effective and other times blames for her troubles (when she's not blaming Jerry Roberts, Marty Blum, the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, fox-hating munchkins or pro-"high-rise" developers). The others are reporting or commenting on an important story right here in town, and McCaw would like to sue and/or apply duct tape across the mouths and keyboards (and cameras) of each and every one of 'em.

The trouble is, given all of the above, and the fact that we've heard all of the "turnaround" stuff before, McCaw has no credibility. She can't hire a managing editor, Katich has proven himself clueless (and probably a lawbreaker) so far, Steepleton is a lying mini-tyrant, her legal help is advising her not to avoid breaking the law, but to try to hide as much lawbreaking as she can, and she keeps talking about making the paper better but does nothing concrete about it. Whining doesn't cut it.

If she were to cut a reasonable deal with the union -- and the law requires her to try, which she hasn't done in over a year at the table -- a lot of this could be turned around. In the spirit of the season, she should reach out. Think you can convince her, John?

12/05/2008 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Moonrunner said...

Let's see. How much money has Wendy McCaw spent trying to overturn the legitimate election by her own employees for union representation? And how much has she spent trying to silence the free speech she doesn't agree with. What efforts has she made to improve the paper?

And where was the News-Press when the community needed it the most -- during three major fires in the past 1 1/2 years? It was behind a pay wall. Readers turned to other media -- print as well as online -- to get the news they needed.

Mrs. McCaw is her own worst enemy.

12/05/2008 1:54 PM  
Anonymous Adding it up said...

Snarky, you mentioned Ampersand "shareholders". Please explain this. Is Ampersand a publicly held corporation or a closed corporation. You imply its shareholders should run the company, not Wendy. Did you do any fact-checking before you wrote this?

12/06/2008 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Adding it up said...

Mrs. McCaw is still the sole owner of the NewsPress. Live with this.

She is doing a fine job under adverse circumstances for all print media and this union assault still going on by union officials who love having some action in Santa Barbara. Why not?

A lot of readers came to hate the liberal bias in the old NewsPress and they are happy with the changes. Live with that too. Wendy's newspaper problems have nothing to do with the petty vindictive actions of those former writers who left, it has everything to do with the plight of all daily papers across the US. And you cannot prove otherwise.

I am glad Wendy has the resources to fight for her rights and for private business enterprises everywhere. We have just begun to see the mess unions are going to create in this country now that they demand payback from Obama for giving him all their special interest money that bought this election for him.

Without them his campaign would have been toast and he knows it, but he will destroy the country if he actually gives in to their demands. And this is a story well worth following.

Caving in to the unions will bring down Obama in his first two years and he will get the same midyear election backlash Clinton got his first term when he overstepped his agenda to satisfy the fringe of his party. Nothing would make me and millions other happier.

It is yours now to blow, Obama. And on that topic you should be very familiar.

12/06/2008 10:33 AM  
Anonymous editrix said...

She's not really doing a fine job at all. There's no reporting on beats, like City Hall, ABR and Planning Commission, not to mention the police, county or School Board. It's very obvious that stories of egregious misdeeds, when perpetrated by her friends, are overlooked and unpublished. I'm beginning to suspect she'll join others who hire stringers in India to do local reporting via streaming at the rate of $7.50 per 1000 words, as detailed by Maureen Dowd in the NYT last week. That outsourcing strikes fear in the heart of every freelancer, including this one.

12/06/2008 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Help wanted said...

Adding it up, you're prepared to blame anything negative that happens on unions? How about the mess we're in right now? It's a bit difficult to blame this on unions, when it's been the financiers lending and gambling money to a fare-thee-well.

It's the unions that built this country and can do so again, if employees are allowed to voice their desires for representation without fear of vindictive employers like your beloved Wendy, who'd rather violate the law, intimidate her own staff, and pay the trivial consequences down the road while expecting the union to disappear in the meantime. The law needs to change to rein in the vilest of the anti-union recidivists, and Wendy is rising on the anti-union chart. If Obama fails to even the playing field, then basic human rights at the workplace will continue to be sacrificed at the altar of corporate greed, ego, and inequity.

12/07/2008 6:08 AM  

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