Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Queen Is Dead. Long Live the Queen!

Wendy McCaw and the News-Press got a mention today in the Washington Post from Howard Kurtz, the paper's media critic.

Kurtz writes about how the American Journalism Review could very well be on its death bed in light of its deficit of roughly $200,000 -- about one-quarter of its annual budget.

Of course the American Journalism Review is the publication that ran the Susan Paterno article that examined the meltdown at the News-Press.

As Kurtz noted:

AJR's situation has been made more perilous by a lawsuit filed by Wendy McCaw, owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press, over an article published nine months ago about turmoil at the California paper. The piece, like most of the magazine's articles, was written by a freelancer, Susan Paterno, and management was stunned to discover that its libel insurance did not cover freelance writers.

McCaw's suit, filed in state court in Orange County, Calif., said her newspaper was defamed in a "biased, false and misleading diatribe." Paterno's article described an exodus of staffers from the News-Press after McCaw's purchase of the paper, following her divorce from cellphone mogul Craig McCaw, and explored allegations of unethical journalism. The magazine later published a clarification of two minor factual points but has defended the story as accurate.

AJR was not originally named as a defendant but agreed to pay Paterno's legal bills and indemnify her against any judgment.

(In April an Orange County Superior Court Judge indicated he would throw out most of McCaw's lawsuit however, the matter is now being reviewed by the Court of Appeal which is expected to rule at any time.)

Kurtz wrote that "McCaw's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment." Glad to hear that Wendy's bad boy street team of attorneys is treating the national media just as shabbily as it treats us locals.

* * *

Former Washington Post reporter and Summerland resident Lou Cannon apparently has been getting a lot of inquiries for his assessment of how the NLRB hearings are going. He's penned a three page letter sizing up the first week of the hearing.

As for Scott Steepleton's assertion that reporters are supposed to be aware of the editorial positions of the papers they work for here's what Lou had to say:

Mr. Steepletons claim—in addition to contradicting his testimony in another proceeding that he didn’t read the editorials—undermines the entire premise of News-Press owner Wendy McCaw's contention that she sought to eliminate "bias" from the paper. Emphasizing the owner's opinion to a reporter who is covering a story is a means of introducing bias at the soruce. This is what would normally be taught in Journalism 101. I wish that the NLRB lawyers had called someone who pointed out these verities in court.

The good news is the NLRB general counsel or the Union's attorney still have plenty of opportunity to do just that, should they choose.

The complete text of Lou's letter can be found here.

The NLRB hearings resume at 9 am tomorrow and continue on Friday before taking a recess for a week. Location is the Bankruptcy Court building on State Street.

* * *

Now that Leona Helmsley has died I think it's fair to say that the title "Queen of Mean" is now Wendy McCaw's alone.

Return to top of page       E-Mail Me       Print This Page