Monday, October 22, 2007

The World According to Wendy, Exhibit 199

Of the hundreds of documents that were introduced into evidence at the recently completed News-Press/NLRB hearing probably none is more interesting than Exhibit 199.

It's a memo from News-Press owner Wendy McCaw to Joe Cole, who was the publisher of the paper at the time.

Although it's not a "smoking gun" and the outcome of the hearing is not likely to turn on it, it is nevertheless fascinating for the insight it provides into why McCaw was unhappy with her paper under Cole and editor Jerry Roberts and why Cole departed a little over a month after the memo went out.

I've obtained a copy of the entire document which is now part of the public record.

Dated April 8, 2006, it is two and a half pages in length and addressed to Cole who was then the publisher. It begins as follows:


Since you have been away, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the paper and what has not been happening. I am extremely frustrated that my goals for the paper have not been achieved, in fact I feel they have actively been thwarted.

She then goes on to bullet point 21 items that she sees as "continuing problems" at the News-Press.

Some of the things I've mentioned before. Her complaints about the "biased" reporting of Anna Davison. Her displeasure with "Dish" columnist Martha Smilgis. But I haven't had a chance to talk about most of them. I'll take the time today and tomorrow to go through most of the items on Wendy's list.

She starts out complaining about an "Us" vs. "Them" mentality.

This has been a very big problem for far too long not because you haven't heard a lot of complaints about this, but because you have done nothing to stop it. This will now stop IMMEDIATELY even if it means firing the whole newsroom and getting new editors. This has nothing to do with the purported wall between news and editorial, it has everything to do with biting the hand that feeds you.

"Purported" wall? Well at least no one can ever accuse her of not being aware of the fact that there is a wall.

But what about the wall between news and advertising? Based on the memo, Wendy didn't appear to have much respect for that barrier.

NO mention of the Home Design Store opening, still NOT ONE word, this IS news after all. It wouldn't surprise me if we have therefore offended what might have been a good advertiser.

Certainly wouldn't want to offend any "good advertisers" by virtue of not covering their openings as news stories. (And didn't anyone ever tell Wendy that when you use all caps it's too much like shouting?)

Wendy didn't appear to care about having bad news reported in the paper either.

and yet large articles about craigslist, we'll probably see a huge article about how craigslist and Google are taking away our real estate ad dollars,

(And people write me to say that I don't know how to use commas.)

The April 1, 2006 edition of the paper featured
a front-page article that contained a triple play of transgressions
as far as McCaw was concerned. According to her it featured:

Al Franken doing radio show for 1340AM at SoHo, with Marty Blum in photograph and a quote by (Daraka) Larimore-Hall taking a swipe at the editorial page (is any one even THINKING here???). These are just RECENT examples. I could write volumes about this type of stupidity. These things keep happening because people are not being held accountable and they will keep happening until something is done about it.

Yeah, that's a trifecta all right. Writer Shelly Leachman had managed to include mentions of a competing news outlet, a critic of a News-Press editorial opposing the living wage and the Mayor, all in the same news article.

Apparently in Wendy's world, rival news outlets, those who criticize the News-Press' editorial positions and Mayor Blum should be banned from news articles, even if they make news.

Surprisingly, the one-time billionaire McCaw was pretty cost conscious when it came to running the paper and her radio station.

And yet apparently someone has been hired specifically to write "radio ready" news at $15 hr or $15,000/yr. With 58 people in the newsroom, this is beyond mindless . . . We need to discuss this. In the meantime there will be a hiring freeze until further notice. This goes for ALL departments.

All departments? Apparently the people in charge of hiring lawyers didn't get the memo.

More on the memo later.

* * *

KEYT reporter Tracy Lehr, who has anchored the station's weekend newscasts for what seems like forever, anchored the weekend shift for the last time yesterday.

The station wants her to be more of a Monday through Friday presence in Ventura County where she is normally based during the week so they are taking her off of weekends. This is just one of a number of changes that are about to be implemented in a mini-shakeup of the news team.

* * *

And finally, congratulations to The Independent's Barney Brantingham on reaching his latest milestone, 50 years in the newspaper business.

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