Monday, September 24, 2007

She's No Katherine Graham

In case you missed it, and the anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that many of you did, the News-Press ran an editorial on Sunday in which it goes on record as saying that it is the owner of a newspaper that should have the final word over what news appears in the paper.

"There is a belief among some journalists that proprietors should never interfere with the news judgments of reporters or editors. We don't agree with that assessment" the editorial tells us. Yes, unfortunately we've noticed.

Let's not forget, this is the same paper that killed one of its own senior writer's stories reporting what actually happened the day its top editors quit.

It has come out through testimony elicited in the ongoing NLRB hearings that the News-Press has an editorial board that meets to decide what positions the paper will take on its opinion pages. When editorial page editor Travis Armstrong was on the witness stand he stated that the editorial board consists of owner Wendy McCaw, her boyfriend Arthur von Wiesenberger, who has the title "co-publisher," and Armstrong himself.

So, was the News-Press editorial board able to name even one major paper where the publisher or owner interferes with the news judgments of editors or reporters?

Uh, no.

What I found amusing about Sunday's editorial were the references to the late Katherine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, former publisher of The New York Times, as examples of owners who controlled the news content of their papers.

The editorial argues that those papers would have never broken the stories of the Watergate scandal or published the Pentagon Papers had the owners not given their permission for those stories to run.

Of course if McCaw had been in the shoes of Sulzberger I suspect the Pentagon Papers would never have seen the light of day. The woman can't even stand up to Rob Lowe, how would she have ever stood up the the Nixon administration?

I find it curious that in arguing for the owner's right to put the kibosh on a news story the only examples the author can come up with are of owners who gave the green light to articles.

Then again, no one ever won a Pulitzer Prize for killing a news story.

* * *

Speaking of newspaper editorials a reader wrote in to tell me that the National Conference of Editorial Writers has a Statement of Principles posted on its web page. There are nine principles but this one stands out.

The editorial writer should realize that the public will appreciate more the value of the First Amendment if others are accorded an opportunity for expression. Therefore, voice should be given to diverse opinions, edited faithfully to reflect stated views. Targets of criticism -- whether in a letter, editorial cartoon or signed column -- especially deserve an opportunity to respond.

Can't wait to see how many letters the News-Press runs from readers who disagree with the notion that the paper's owner has veto power over news articles.

* * *

Over at the Goleta Valley Voice, another Wendy McCaw owned paper, the lone staff writer, Sonia Fernandez has given notice that she's leaving. She's taking a position at the soon to be launched Noozhawk.

Hannah Guzik, who left the News-Press a little over a week ago has returned to Coastal View News in Carpinteria where she worked prior to taking her News-Press job.

* * *

I heard from my old friend, long-time criminal defense attorney James Crowder, who represents Andrea Nowak, one of the Double Trouble Twins.

James wrote to say that contrary to what I reported here on Friday, Andrea was not arrested for burglary but rather, was only arrested for receiving stolen property. Her sister Alyssa Nowak, was the only one arrested for burglary.

Both are still in custody. Their next court date is October 11.

* * *

With the News-Press/NLRB hearings resuming today it's back to two-a-days for me. This morning's post will be followed by a mid-day update on today's proceedings. Travis Armstrong is expected to resume his testimony on the witness stand at 9 am this morning at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court building in downtown Santa Barbara.

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