Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lawyers Blow Once In A Lifetime Opportunity

Former News-Press columnist Starshine Roshell was on the witness stand this morning at the News-Press/NLRB hearings. I must say I was disappointed that NLRB attorney Brian Gee as well as News-Press defense counsel Matthew Clarke both passed up once in a lifetime opportunities to say "Good Morning Starshine" at the beginning of their respective turns to ask her questions.

Of course, at this point in history it's probably only middle-aged Aquariuns and fans of rock operas such as myself probably who appreciate the humor of that fine point.

One of the charges that the News-Press is defending itself against is that it abruptly canceled Roshell's popular column in retaliation for her being a supporter of organizing a union in the newsroom.

Roshell's appearance at the hearing has provided for one of the snappier direct examinations of the hearing thus far. She was asked about a column she wrote about the uses of duct tape, a visual device that had been utilized by the paper's reporters at public rallies to symbolize the fact that management had placed a "gag order" on them. Roshell was asked to read an excerpt from that column:

When removed quickly and with no small amount of courage it saves you a bundle on lip waxing.

That line drew audible laughter from both sides of the bar in the courtroom. Even the normally stoic Judge Kocol could be seen holding his fist in front of his mouth to conceal the fact that he was laughing.

She went on to repeat the account, earlier testified to by her editor Andrea Huebner, of the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of her column and the reasons that the paper's management gave for it.

As snappy as the direct examination was the cross-examination by Clarke was excruciatingly laborious. The one bright spot was when Clarke asked her to attempt the same demonstration of repeating an expletive in the courtroom for the benefit of News-Press editorial page editor Travis Armstrong who was seated in the audience. The judge then asked her: "Ms. Roshell, do you feel awkward shouting that phrase in the tone and manner you did on that day?" She glanced over to the front row of the courtroom where Armstrong was seated and quickly said, "Not at all."

As Clarke went over with Roshell the by now all-too-familiar list of community columnists who also had their columns canceled one thing struck me as being obvious. Wendy McCaw didn't want any opinions that didn't track her own in the paper.

When will she ever get it? Without those variety of opinions the paper is doomed to be as dull as a Matthew Clarke cross-examination.

Time for me to head back to the hearing. Hopefully if I walk slowly enough, Clarke's cross-examination which was to resume after the lunch break will have been completed.

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