Monday, August 20, 2007

Subpoenas and Silver Platters

I've previously written about how News-Press attorney Barry Cappello issued somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 subpoenas for the NLRB vs. News-Press hearings which began last week. How wide a net has he cast? Consider this.

Imagine that you are writing the great American novel, recording an album of songs, or are making a film. But before you can publish your novel, release your album or premiere your film, someone hits you with a subpoena demanding that you produce your manuscript, cough up your lyrics or fork over all of your raw film footage.

Well, that's what happened to local film maker Sam Tyler. Since late last year Tyler has been working on a documentary tentatively titled "The News-Press Story." It examines not only the News-Press meltdown in detail but also examines the larger issue of national media ownership. Far from some shoestring film making venture, it has a budget of $180,000, Tyler and his principal cameraman Brent Sumner have shot over 50 hours of footage (mostly in high definition) interviewing everyone from Carl Batchelder, one of the fired pressman, from Goleta, to Ben Bradlee, fabled editor of The Washington Post, in Washington D.C.

In between he's also interviewed just about every departed journalist from the News-Press and at least one blogger (and yes, that would be me.)

In an attempt to get both sides of the story he's asked the principals of the News-Press for interviews. They've turned him down (surprise, surprise) Maybe the idea of having to discuss journalistic ethics on camera was too terrifying a proposition? But don't get the idea that they don't care because they apparently do, having sent him three "warning letters."

The process server darkened Sam's door recently and slapped him with a sub demanding that he appear on the first day of the NLRB hearing and bring with him all of the footage he shot for his film. The News-Press is claiming that all of the former journalists he interviewed must not have had anything charitable to say about Ms. McCaw and they want to find out what it is. (And yes I did say "Ms." McCaw as opposed to "Mrs." because that's how I've heard Barry refer to her in the hearing.)

Sam has filed his objections to the subpoena with the NLRB and his petition to revoke it will most likely considered by Judge Kocol later this week when the hearing resumes.

How will the judge rule? I don't know but if I were arguing Sam's case I'd point out that the information that Sam has, interviews with the departed journalists, is something that's equally accessible to Cappello and the News-Press. That is, Cappello can do exactly what Sam did, call 'em up and ask them for an interview. And if they refuse Cappello can do something that Sam can't. Subpoena them so that he can question them under oath! Which is exactly what he has done. Asking for Sam's film footage is a pure fishing expedition. In light of that why should Sam have to hand over his work on a silver platter to the News-Press?

Besides from what I've seen, Cappello has a bigger crew working on this case than Sam has working on his film.

Assuming the judge doesn't order a command performance/sneak preview, Sam's film is set to have it's premiere showing January 11, 2008 at the Arlington Theater.

* * *

Lou Cannon was one of the observers in the gallery at the NLRB hearing on Thursday. In an interview with Stephanie Hoops of the Ventura County Star, he said "What's at stake here is much bigger than the fortunes of a few former reporters and editors at the News-Press."

* * *

Although there was nothing about it on the News-Press website, I understand there was indeed story in Saturday's print edition about the NLRB rejecting Wendy's appeal of the outcome of the union election. It was three short paragraphs buried on B-9 and carried the "Staff Report" by-line.

The Associated Press has a story on the ruling. And for a sampling of the reception the ruling is getting elsewhere in the blogosphere, take a look at Bob Cornwall's blog.

* * *

As seen on Blogabarbara, the Ventura County Star has an editorial cartoonist, with a sharp eye for the News-Press.

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