Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NLRB Hearing Wraps Up

On its 17th day the News-Press NLRB hearing finally concluded at around 11:30 this morning.

Only one witness testified this morning, John Irby, who is three months into his tenure as the editor of a 30,000 circulation newspaper in Bismarck, North Dakota. He had served as an associate professor of journalism at Washington Statue University for the past eight years.

News-Press attorney Barry Cappello called him as an expert in standard practices in the newspaper industry but honestly didn't have a lot of luck in eliciting information from him on those practices.

At one point in Cappello's direct examination of Irby I counted 10 objections in a row to questions he attempted to ask that were sustained on the grounds of relevance.

The witness did manage to testify to the fact that in his opinion there is no "wall" between the publisher and the newsroom and that the only "wall" is between the editorial (including both opinion and news gathering) and the business side of the paper which would include advertising.

His denial of any "wall" may have been more a matter of semantics or terminology than anything else in that he did acknowledge there was a division between opinion and news and that it was not typical for a publisher to intervene in the running of the newsroom.

My impression was that the judge didn't find much in his testimony that would be helpful to him in deciding this case.

After Irby was excused there were some motions that were ruled upon the most notable of which was a motion by the News-Press for sanctions against the Teamsters union and their attorney Ira Gottlieb for fraudulently concealing the existence of the "Rock the House" and other e-mails that were sent in the aftermath of the August 14th attempt to deliver a letter to owner Wendy McCaw.

The judge apparently felt the failure to produce it was not motivated by an intention to conceal it and the judge further noted that Gottlieb had been cooperative in the process of determining why it had not been produced.

So what's next? There were no closing statements or arguments as would be the case in a typical court trial. Rather the parties will submit written closing briefs. Briefing is scheduled to be completed in mid-November. The judge will then consider the briefs and the evidence and then issue a written decision. That should take anywhere from four to six months after the final briefs are submitted.

Well, nobody said this would be quick.

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