Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reporter Gives Notice, Gets Bum's Rush In Return

This time, the appellation "Angel of Death" wasn't quite appropriate. In fact, for this most recent News-Press departure, Yolanda Apodaca, the paper's human resources director, could instead be called "the head usher." You know, the one who shows people the door.

Bethany Hopkins, who started working at the News-Press in April 2006, first as an unpaid intern before being hired as a full-time staff writer for the Life section, came to work on Monday and quietly gave two weeks' notice that she would be leaving, having decided to commence her doctoral studies in history at UC Davis this fall.

When the end of the work day rolled around, Apodaca told her that the paper wouldn't be needing her services, presented her with a final paycheck for the two-week-notice period, and sent her packing without affording her an opportunity to tell her co-workers what was going on.

Not that there are many people working in the newsroom these days to say goodbye to. In a phone conversation with me late Wednesday afternoon, Hopkins said that the newsroom where every chair was taken when she started as an intern is now nearly empty most of the time.

Indeed by my count, the features, or Life, section of the paper is down to just three writers: Marilyn McMahon, Karna Hughes, and Charlotte Boechler, the assistant editor of the section. Ms. Boechler reports to her husband, Scott Steepleton, the associate editor of the paper who, according to Hopkins, is technically in charge of the Life section now, following the firing of Mindy Spar. Lately, though, Hopkins is not quite sure who has been running the section.

With what is, by all appearances, an understaffed paper, it's surprising that management would hustle out of the building an employee who had the courtesy to give them two weeks' notice that she was leaving. But the News-Press is probably the most peculiar employer in town these days.

In describing her tenure at the News-Press, the history scholar said that she "feels like [she's] been observing an historic event from the inside."

Of course, with that nearly empty newsroom, it doesn't sound like there's been a whole lot to see lately.

* * *

The front page of Wednesday's News-Press had a story about a Florida man who had his arm bitten off by an alligator.

Luckily, it was a wire service story, so the writer doesn't have to worry about Wendy McCaw reprimanding him for being “anti-alligator.”

* * *

Elsewhere on the web, Tom Jacobs, another former writer for the News-Press, has an essay on the recent deaths of George Carlin and Tim Russert posted on the Miller-McCune magazine web site.

* * *

Last week it was Al Steinman. This week, another "Santa Barbara Institution" has passed on: Mr. Mack, the driver of the pimped out Cadillac, has died at age 90.

I always got a kick out of seeing him driving up and down State Street.