Monday, January 28, 2008

Columnists Controversy, You Be The Judge

I knew that tackling the story of columnists being laid off at the Santa Barbara Daily Sound would be difficult. After all, I was one of those being "put on hold." But I had been critical of the Santa Barbara News-Press for not reporting its own story so I felt it would be hypocritical of me not to address what was going on at the Sound.

I first found about the layoffs around 2:30 Sunday afternoon while I was at the Center Stage Theater listening to a Q & A of local documentary filmmakers. My iPhone vibrated telling me that I had gotten an email message. It was from Jeramy Gordon, editor and publisher of the Daily Sound. I looked at it and here's what it said.

I should note that all of the recipients of the email were blind copied so I had no way of knowing who received it. Later that afternoon I contacted Leslie Westbrook, another Daily Sound columnist to confirm that she received the e-mail and she told me that she had.

Around 5 pm I replied to Jeramy's e-mail. I told him I would be willing to do one more column, for which I had already done the interview and to do it on a non-paid basis. I also asked him if he could give me an on the record explanation of the reasons for the layoffs.

Almost exactly seven hours later, a little after midnight, I got a reply to my email. Jeramy gave me a response which he asked that I keep off the record. A request which I have honored. I went ahead and posted my report about the layoff of the columnists.

About 2 pm Monday, Jeramy emailed me asking that I call him as soon as possible. I did. He was unhappy with my story and later said that it was "inflammatory." He also said my facts were wrong. Only four columnists were being laid off, (Leslie Westbrook, Leslie Dinaberg, Karen Telleen-Lawton and myself) not "all of the columnists" even though a fair reading of his email indicated that was indeed the case.

After speaking with him I went to the Daily Sound's website and saw this article addressing the columnists layoffs.

I gave Jeramy the opportunity to say whatever he wanted when I first contacted him about the layoffs. He chose not to do so. Certainly if he had offered the reasons he gave in his article I would have been glad to print them.

I am disappointed that Jeramy implies that I got the story wrong and that I was sloppy in reporting it. On the contrary, I reported the facts, attempted to get an on the record statement from him, which he declined to give me, and I contacted and obtained a reaction from one of the people who was affected by the decision.

So, no, there won't be anymore columns from me appearing in the Daily Sound. Nevertheless I wish them well. They got along fine before I joined them, I'm sure the Daily Sound will be fine now that I'm gone.

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