Friday, August 03, 2007

Just When They Thought They Were Out, They Got Pulled Back In.

Few people get a chillier reception than the process server so if you think it's been a cool couple of first days of August, you can probably thank the News-Press.

A whole slew of former News-Press employees have been subpoenaed by the paper to appear at the upcoming NLRB hearings which will begin on August 14th.

I understand that most of those who have been served are absolutely baffled as to why they are being called to testify. The group includes advertising manager Sarah Sinclair, assistant to Jerry Roberts, Joy Wells, graphic artist Mary Koenig, community columnists Rochelle Rose and William Etling and special sections editor, Ann Peyrat. None of them were ever members of the union or even eligible for union membership.

In the upcoming hearings the News-Press will be defending itself against allegations that it violated the National Labor Relations Act by committing various unfair labor practices including firing eight of the reporters who had voted to unionize. So in theory, in order to be subpoenaed and called to testify those who just got served would have to have some knowledge that is relevant to that issue.

At this point, it's hard to figure out what that knowledge could be. For example, Etling and Rose, the two community columnists, were let go in mid-August, long before many of the events that will be the subject of the hearing ever took place.

Owner Wendy McCaw may fancy herself as an environmentalist, but this is yet another example of her scorched earth policy when it comes to litigation.

"Thanks News-Press."

* * *

With so many people focused on the upcoming hearing let's not forget that we are still awaiting a decision from the NLRB on the News-Press' appeal of the ruling of an administrative law judge upholding the results of the 33 to 6 vote in favor of unionization.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that the decision will come down sometime next week. Why am I so confident? Because I'll be out of town next week, out of the country in fact, in Canada and something always seems to happen on the News-Press front when I'm out of town.

I'll be ready this time though.

* * *

There's been a lot of stories in the news about Rupert Murdoch's pending purchase of the Wall Street Journal. One of the things he consented to in order to seal the deal was the appointment of a five member panel who will address disputes that may arise between editors and the owner.

According to the L.A. Times, "Murdoch agreed to let the new committee intervene if the top news editor of the Journal, the top opinion editor of the Journal or the head of Dow Jones Newswires was threatened with firing or had major changes in duties. Protected duties were spelled out and include decisions on what stories to run and how to spend money that News Corp. allocates."

Think Wendy would ever agree to that?

* * *

Was at the El Mercado at De La Guerra Plaza during the lunch hour yesterday where I saw former News-Press systems director Raul Gil who was manning the Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce booth which features food from El Zarape restaurant.

Also spotted mingling in the El Mercado crowd, News-Press editorial page editor, Travis Armstrong.

* * *

According to one reader the worst thing about Fiesta is the fact that the streets are crowded with too many people for whom the one and only time of the year that they go out and drink is, Fiesta.

I agree. These amateur drinkers really ought to stay at home and leave it to the professionals like myself.

* * *

Today's last word comes from "Nelville Flynn," who wrote to take exception to my comment earlier this week that no one can clear a room faster than Wendy McCaw.

"You, Lou Cannon, Jerry Roberts and the others simply are unable to articulate a journalistic rationale for your ludicrous attacks. Here are facts: The News-Press is embarked on a process of change and improvement . . . introducing "tighter and brighter" reporting and story presentation . . ."

But apparently it hasn't improved enough for him to associate his real name with the paper instead of hiding behind that pseudonym whenever he writes to defend it.

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