Monday, January 21, 2008

Local News? Never On Sunday!

I've noticed a trend over the past few months. Less and less local news in the Sunday edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

A little over a year since owner Wendy McCaw promised us "the best coverage of local events that can be had" and less than a month since she bragged that the paper had "expanded our local news coverage" a glance at yesterday's front page of the News-Press seems to cast some serious doubt on the accuracy of those claims.

There was not a single "local" story on the front page of yesterday's News-Press.

Don't be fooled by the article that carries Angel Pacheco's by-line that takes a "local look" at President Bush's economic stimulus package. Other than throwing in brief quotes from three local residents the article is actually a wire service story from the Associated Press.

In competing against The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times for Sunday newspaper readers the News-Press' competitive edge should be its coverage of stories that are local to Santa Barbara.

The News-Press certainly seemed to be aware of that back in the fall of 2002 when it took local news out of section B of the paper and moved it over to section A where local stories could be prominently placed on the front page.

Judging by yesterday's paper that switch seems to have been all for naught.

With the Sunday paper being the showcase edition with the largest readership and commanding the highest advertising rates you'd think there would be an extra effort made to get local content onto the Sunday front page.

After all, good content is essential to that lazy Sunday relationship so many of us have with our newspaper.

Of course the biggest problem at the News-Press is there aren't enough reporters to go out and cover stories.

Wendy once said that while she doesn't believe that a union is in the best interest of the community or the newspaper she respects the employee's rights to make their own decisions. Now that its been decided that the employees won the right to unionize fair and square and that she had no business firing them for protesting her failure to sit down and negotiate, how about hiring them back and giving us back local news in the Sunday paper?

I don't know about you, but it would make my Sunday's a little lazier.

* * *

Of course down at the L.A. Times, where Sam Zell recently completed his buyout of Tribune Co., it's not like anyone is sitting around the camp fire singing "Kumbayah." It was reported late yesterday that James O'Shea, editor of The Times, has been fired for his refusal to lay down for another $4 million in cuts to the paper's budget.

Last summer I, along with Marianne Partridge of The Independent, was on a panel with O'Shea down in L.A. talking about the future of newspapers. O'Shea was taking a lot of heat from the crowd of mostly L.A. media types over the fact that he appeared to many of them to be presiding over the dismantling of one of the world's great newspapers.

I wonder if anyone who was giving him a hard time that night is feeling guilty today?

* * *

There was some good news in yesterday's News-Press though. Lorraine Wilson's "On the Town" column had a photo of Father Virgil Cordano sitting and smiling at a recent event celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Daughters of Charity.

As recently as Thanksgiving Father Virgil was reportedly very ill. So ill in fact he failed to make it to Grandparent's and Special Friends Day at Marymount School to preside over the prayer service. It was the first time in memory that he had ever missed the annual day-before-Thanksgiving event.

So it was good to see his smiling face in yesterday's Life section.

* * *

Congratulations to CASA Magazine which was saluted as one of 2007's Downtown Citizens of the Year by the Downtown Organization. CASA was honored for promoting downtown Santa Barbara as a center for art, culture, entertainment and commerce.

The current edition of CASA has a great guide to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival which starts this Thursday.

* * *

Today is Martin Luther King Day.

In Santa Barbara Dr. King's memory will be observed with a 9 am Rally at Santa Barbara High School followed by a 10 am march from the high school down to Santa Barbara Junior High. Starting at 11 am there will be a Celebration at the Marjorie Luke Theater on the campus of the junior high, 721 East Cota Street, featuring music, children’s essay competition winners, speakers and celebrations.

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