Monday, May 19, 2008

Maybe We Should Call Him "Snoop Dog?"

In the midst of the layoffs of nearly a dozen employees, including the paper's sports and features editors, Wendy McCaw's News-Press announced on Friday that it has hired an investigative reporter.

The News-Press barely covers city and county government, has been missing in action in Goleta for over a year and has generally taken a powder on reporting on what goes on down in Carpinteria, but is now deciding it is getting into the investigative journalism game?

Investigate what? The shenanigans out at the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce? "Nielsengate" at KEYT? Brian Barnwell's inability to get his lender to take his ex-wife's name off the mortgage?

And who is it that's going to blow the lid off of all of these brewing scandals? His name is Robert Eringer, whom the article describes as having "enjoyed a wide-ranging career in the information collection and reporting business as a journalist, novelist, private intelligence consultant, undercover FBI operative and, most recently, director of an intelligence service for Prince Albert II of Monaco."

Monaco has an "intelligence service?" I thought their most pressing security issue was fending off the occasional paternity suit brought against the Prince.

No need to worry about not being able to access the website in order to find out the details of this latest hire. The copy for the article (carrying the by-line "Staff Report") that announced the hiring of Eringer appeared to be lifted in nearly verbatim form from the bio that appears on Eringer's website.

And that bio really plays up the cloak and dagger angle claiming that Eringer spent a "10-year stint operating undercover in Moscow and Havana for FBI Counterintelligence."

The bio also notes that Eringer's specialty was "infiltrating extremist groups."

Gee, we have a lot of those around here. Perhaps the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce and SBCAN better start more carefully screening their new member applications.

Other than what is in the bio not much else seems to be known about Eringer other than he's a mysterious guy. There's a Wikipedia article on him that's pretty obscure about his past and it seems that Eringer was included in a story that ran on "60 Minutes" a few years back for his role in trying to thwart a journalist's efforts to write an unflattering article about the Ringling Brothers Circus.

Wonder if they'll play "Send In The Clowns" whenever Eringer walks into the newsroom?

Reportedly the News-Press is taking two cubicles that were once occupied by reporters and creating an enclosed office type cubicle in the newsroom for Eringer's exclusive use.

Yesterday's News-Press "Life" section had a review of Eringer's latest book "Ruse." It made no mention of the fact the paper had hired him.

All of this "spy who came in from the cold" stuff sounds pretty bizarre to me. How can you explain it? One former News-Press employee said it could be explained in three words; "friend of Arthur."

Accompanying the News-Press' announcement of the hire was a photo of Eringer taken in front of the Montecito Cafe. I found myself wondering why he had such a glum look on his face, then I remembered he'd just been hired by the News-Press.

If I were the proprietor of the Montecito Cafe I wouldn't be too happy about that photo. I'd be afraid that people might think that everybody that walks out of my restaurant has a bad case of indigestion.

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First Amendment attorney Michael Cooney will be speaking on "Media Law: The First Amendment, Defamation, and Protecting Reporters' Sources in an Election Year." The program is Wednesday May 21 at noon at the Santa Barbara College of Law, 20 E. Victoria Street.

The cost is $25 and includes lunch. Reservations are suggested and may be made via email to Chris Kopitzke,