Friday, August 24, 2007

Never A Dull Moment (Well, Actually There Were A Few)

Well the crowd over at Blogabarbara should have plenty of talk about after yesterday's events both in and out of the courtroom.

As I reported in my noontime update yesterday, there will be no sneak previews, advance screenings or command performance showings of Sam Tyler's documentary on the News-Press mess. The judge revoked the paper's subpoena of all of the raw footage of the documentary.

News-Press Human Resources Director Yolanda Apodaca was on the stand briefly in the morning testifying mostly about the paper's payment of bonuses to reporters at the end of 2006, a subject upon which she appeared very conversant. However, when Union attorney Ira Gottlieb asked her if reporters being on a freeway bridge displaying banners saying "Cancel Your Newspaper Today!" was a sign of union support, she answered; "I'm not qualified to make that assessment." I don't know about you but I'm always disappointed when someone turns out to be not as smart as they look.

My noontime blogging yesterday meant that I got back to the courtroom a little late and I missed former Assistant City Editor Bob Guliano's account of his meeting with Arthur and Wendy when they called him in to discuss Anna Davison's tree story. However, according to one observer who was in the audience, Guliano testified that Wendy told him the tree story was biased because it quoted Mayor Marty Blum three times and "we don't quote the Mayor in our newspaper." McCaw told Guliano to reprimand Davison. He didn't. Shortly thereafter he was fired by Scott Steepleton who cited "performance related reasons" as the basis.

Much of the rest of Guliano's testimony centered around his concerns and interactions with former reporter Leana Orsua. Guliano noted that despite all of the problems with her reporting that he had noted during his slightly less than three months there and her own short tenure at the paper, she had been given a higher overall performance rating by associate editor Scott Steepleton than Dawn Hobbs, Davison, or Melissa Evans. Guliano testified that Orsua was not a union supporter while he knew that the other three were.

Guliano had his most difficult moments as a witness during cross-examination by Barry Cappello. For example, after Guliano denied that he had any concerns that Orsua would make a complaint against him for sexual harassment Cappello confronted him with an e-mail he had written to Stepleton where, yep, he had expressed that very concern.

If you want the full play-by-play account of Thursday's hearing I refer you to Chris Meagher's story posted over at the Independent's web site.

The other big News-Press story of the day took place outside the courtroom. Proving once again that the News-Press standard is a double-standard, Travis Armstrong wrote an op-ed column blasting the Ventura County Star's coverage of the NLRB hearings.

I mentioned on Friday that he had asked the Star's reporter, Stephanie Hoops, if he could ask her some questions. She told him she would have to check with her editor who refused to give the green light. Now Armstrong is all up in arms. But he should be grateful he didn't get a nasty-gram from one of the Star's lawyers which is exactly what the Indy's Matt Kettmann got from News-Press lawyers when he called Scott Steepleton at the paper to ask a few questions.

Of course if Armstrong had been paying attention to the testimony at the hearing he might have noticed that the News-Press' own "conflict of interest policy" prevents reporters from speaking to third parties without first getting clearance from management.

The bulk of Armstrong's wrath is focused on the fact that Hoops included an interview with courtroom observer Lou Cannon in her Friday story. Armstrong complains that Hoops "missed important testimony to stand outside the courtroom [and talk] with Mr. Cannon." But apparently it would have been okay for her to miss testimony in order to talk to Armstrong.

Just before the start of Thursday's hearing Hap Freund, executive director of Santa Barbara Channels, community access TV, (and apparently a charter member of the McCaw/Armstrong enemies list) was seated in the second row of the courtroom next to Sam Tyler. Directly in the row in front of them was Armstrong who turned to Fruend and said "Hap, you never got back to me with answers to my e-mails." At that point Tyler cuts him off and says "take it outside." Armstrong stayed put and said no more. I guess he didn't want to miss any "important" testimony.

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