Friday, September 07, 2007

Another News-Press Employee Says "See Ya!"

I'll bet you thought there were no long-term employees left at the News-Press who hadn't already resigned. Not quite. Today is the last day at the paper for Matt Armstrong, the production equipment maintenance manager at the paper's Goleta printing facility who has spent 35 years with the company.

In a phone conversation last week, Armstrong told me that he is disappointed in the direction that the News-Press has gone.

Describing himself as being "neither pro union or anti-union" he said that the attempt by the paper to link former editor Jerry Roberts to images of exploited children found on a company computer was what got him on the phone looking for another job. "The humanity of company has gone away."

Once reprimanded for asking co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger whether the publishers were committed to the public statements they had made, he stated that the situation has gotten so bad at the paper that anybody on the ball is going to think twice about accepting a job there and noted that morale is very low among the "old-timers" at the Goleta production facility.

He lamented that "nothing has any direction at the News-Press these days." As an example he cited the fact that the paper has no operating budget for this year and the employees still haven't heard if they are going to get a raise this year.

He compared the attitude of the paper's former owner, The New York Times Company, who made it known that "our biggest asset is our employees" to that of current owner McCaw who openly questioned why she had to provide health insurance for employees of the company.

While the pace of resignations may have slowed, they don't appear to have stopped.

* * *

You would think that at most newspapers the most controversial beat for a reporter to be assigned to would be politics, the planning commission or even religion. Not so at the News-Press. After listening to the testimony of fired reporter Anna Davison at yesterday's afternoon session of the NLRB hearing, I've concluded that the most controversial beat at the News-Press is science reporter.

Davison was cross-examined about an article she authored that appeared in the paper back on July 24, 2004 under the headline, "The Eagles Have Landed." It reported on the reintroduction of bald eagle chicks to Santa Cruz Island, a habitat from which they had all but vanished.

What could be perilous about reporting that "feel good" story? You'd be surprised.

A copy of the article was projected onto the screen in the courtroom. On it were handwritten notes which said: "Very biased. Only National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife are quoted. No other point of view. No discussion as to the disadvantages. She's like the reporter before her has become a mouthpiece."

Davison had never seen the notes before and testified that no one at the paper had ever complained to her about the article or discussed it with her. She didn't know whose handwriting it was on the copy of the article. Based upon Barry Cappello's opening statement at the start of the hearing, I expect that at some point later in the trial it will be established that the note was written by McCaw.

The News-Press is pointing to this article as an example of the "biased" reporting that prompted them to fire Davison, rather than any union activity that she engaged in, as alleged by the NLRB. By the way, the reporter referred to in the note who preceded Davison on the science and environment beat was Melinda Burns.

Davison, who has a delightful New Zealand accent, finally completed her testimony at the end of the day. For a complete account of her testimony click on over to the Independent's account of Thursday's proceedings. On tap as the witnesses today when the hearing resumes at 9 am are former Life section editor Andrea Huebner and former crime and courts reporter Dawn Hobbs.

* * *

Got home late last night from Ventura, where I teach a class on Thursday nights, switched on the TV and happened to find out that that the ABC high definition signal is back on Cox Cable channel 703. It was not on as recently as Wednesday night.

Apparently KEYT and Cox Cable have settled their dispute which has kept KEYT's digital signal off of Cox ever since the third week of April. Thankfully for us college football fans the settlement couldn't be more timely.

* * *

Today's last word comes from someone who uses the handle "SB8BALL" and left this comment over at Edhat in response to my coverage of the News-Press NLRB hearings. "Why do I get the feeling that (Craig Smith) will NEVER write a bad word about any other attorney? He must be too afraid to alienate himself from his brethren."

Just for the record, I don't criticize dogs that bark, pit bulls that bite, sharks that attack or scorpions that sting either.

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