Thursday, September 06, 2007

She Walking On Broken Glass

I must say, trying to cover the News-Press/NLRB hearings gavel-to-gavel has given me a new appreciation and respect for the job done by the real reporters who are assigned to follow this case.

Matt Kettmann, Chris Meagher and Nick Welsh of the Independent and my Daily Sound colleague Eric Lindberg all amaze me in their ability to spend six hours a day in a courtroom taking notes and then who-knows-how-long pounding out a coherent story.

But of all of the people in the small media corps that shows up at the hearing day in and day out, the one with the toughest job has got to be News-Press reporter Hannah Guzik.

Now, let me be very clear about this. Other than to nod hello I've never spoken to her. With Travis Armstrong sitting in the courtroom every day she has enough troubles as it is. She doesn't need to be worrying about how it will look to her boss if I'm trying to chat her up with the small talk let alone ask her anything substantive.

And no, I haven't attempted the stunt that Armstrong tried with Stephanie Hoops of the Ventura County Star, asking if I could interview her and then making a big stink about it when she's compelled to say "I'll have to check with my boss first." Besides, I've sat through enough testimony already about the News-Press' policy that prohibits their employees from speaking to other members of the media without the permission of their editor.

Of course, steering clear of me is probably the easiest part of her job. The toughest part is writing a story about a trial every day when your employer is essentially the defendant in it.

For example take a look at Guzik's article that appeared in Wednesday's News-Press. In reporting the testimony of former business editor Mike Todd and his description of his working relationship with senior writer Melinda Burns, Guzik quoted him as follows: "I tend to be a little right of center and she (Ms. Burns) tends to be a little left of center . . . so we complemented each other."

Notice the ellipses indicating that something was left out of that quote. What was left out, as I reported yesterday, was Todd's observation that: "Together we put together some bullet-proof stories."

Now why did she leave that out? Of course, I took his reference to "bullet-proof" as meaning "bullet-proof" to allegations of bias which of course was the stated reason for firing Burns. If that part of the Todd quote stays in the story, it tends to undermine the News-Press' justification for firing Burns.

The real question is, did Guzik leave that part out when she originally wrote the story or was it removed during the editing process? Somehow I don't think that her editor Scott Steepleton, is going to give Guzik the green light to talk to me about that.

I had to leave yesterday's hearing early, at 3 pm to be exact, to go pick up my daughter from school then get out to a late afternoon meeting at UCSB. That meant I missed Barry Cappello's cross-examination of former News-Press writer Barney McManigal. He was the third witness who testified yesterday.

The territory covered by McManigal was, by now, very familiar, running from the attempt by newsroom employees to deliver a letter to McCaw to the freeway banner incident which ended up getting him fired.

The morning started with Sarah Sinclair, the paper's former director of classified advertising, who was called to the stand to describe two occasions where she saw a member of the News-Press security staff videotaping union rallies that took place in De la Guerra Plaza. One of the allegations against the News-Press is that they committed an unlawful labor practice by spying on Union rallies.

Former reporter Anna Davison will be on the stand when the hearing resumes at 9 am this morning at the Bankruptcy Court, corner of State and Sola.

And if you want the complete low-down on yesterday's hearing, including what I missed, take a look at the Daily Sound's article.

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I guess Laker owner Jerry Buss wasn't buddy-buddy enough with Wendy McCaw to keep the details of his sentencing for drunk driving off of page A8 of yesterday's News-Press.

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If you don't have your ticket to see Barack Obama at Oprah's on Saturday afternoon, or to go to the smaller locals luncheon for Obama in Montecito earlier that day, you still have a chance to see him in person while he is in town.

The Obama campaign has announced a Grassroots Rally this Saturday at Santa Barbara City College. Doors Open at 10:30 a.m. It will take place on the West Campus Lawn across from Luria Library.

Admission is free, but as I understand it, you do need to sign up to attend. You can sign up on line at:

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