Friday, July 18, 2008

After Tossing Employees Overboard, It's Anchors Aweigh!

Over the past two-and-a-half months, Wendy McCaw's News-Press has laid off more than a dozen employees. A May 1st memo to staff cited the downturn in the newspaper industry, the financial costs of waging an ongoing battle with the Teamsters Union, and the need to reduce costs as justifications for letting people go.

The results of the cost cutting are evident almost everywhere in the paper. The sports department that used to have nine employees is now down to four, and only a couple of reporters are assigned to cover "hard news" on the South Coast.

Well, almost everywhere. Not being pared down at all is the extravagant lifestyle of owner McCaw and her boyfriend, Arthur von Wiesenberger (a.k.a, "the best kept man in Santa Barbara").

On Thursday, von Wiesenberger called into his weekly radio show, "Around the World," from Greece and disclosed he was vacationing there with his two sons and, presumably, his paramour, McCaw.

The month-long vacation is an annual tradition for Wendy, who likes to get out of town to celebrate her July birthday.

Although he didn't come out and say so during the radio segment, I think it's a safe bet that he was calling from aboard McCaw's yacht, the good ship "Layoff."

* * *

Bargaining took place between representatives of the News-Press and the Teamsters Union on Thursday and Friday last week. There's really no progress to report, but the paper's management did admit to one thing: it doesn't like blogs.

As I've noted here before, starting back in February 2007, the News-Press began blocking employees' access to certain websites including my blog, Edhat, the Independent, Blogabarbara, and Wikipedia.

Reportedly, McCaw didn't like the way she was being portrayed on those sites.

It was the ultimate case of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face because as we all know, the Internet has become an essential research tool. Yet the paper's management doesn't seem to mind that its reporters, who work in a newsroom without full access to the Internet, are at a competitive disadvantage.

In a written response to the Union's proposal for full Internet access management stated:

"Santa Barbara News-Press is comfortable with the fact that employees will not have full access to the internet. Being the party that is responsible for content, we can accept the possibility that something might be missed by restricting access to the internet. As we stated at the table, Santa Barbara News-Press does not value very highly the use of blogs."

It wasn't that long ago that Wendy promised readers "the best local news to be had." Without full access to the Internet, and local sources of information, her reporters figure to be among the last to get the news.

* * *

In my post yesterday, I mentioned that Travis Armstrong refuses to give Mayor Marty Blum an opportunity to come on News-Press radio for an interview.

Reader Marjorie Wilser wrote in to say: "Bullies are usually cowards. Armstrong is so much more: a bully for hire."

Well, I will say this: with his unsubstantiated report of Blum considering resignation, Travis does put the "bull" back into bully.