Monday, August 18, 2008

Armstrong Takes Shot at Montecito Journal, Journal Fires Back

In the two years since the meltdown at Wendy McCaw's News-Press, the paper has had few allies among its brethren in the media.

That should come as no surprise, as McCaw and her editorial page editor Travis Armstrong have viewed attempts by others to report about the controversy at the paper as hostile acts.

The Independent, KEYT, the L.A. Times, and of course, those of us in the blogosphere have all become charter members of "the cabal" based upon the mere act of chronicling the events that have caused the News-Press train wreck.

Noticeably absent from that list of what Armstrong has called "the rival media that aim to exploit" has been the Montecito Journal, the weekly paper that covers Santa Barbara's toniest enclave.


Owned by the conservative James Buckley (who has placed his son Tim at the editorial helm), the Journal hasn't covered what's going on at the News-Press. I would assume this is the result of one well-to-do newspaper owner (Buckley) showing deference to another (McCaw) for how she chooses to run her business.

Not to mention the fact that the Montecito Journal is printed by the News Press' commercial printing division.

However, the amicable relations between the Journal and the News-Press may be coming to an end.

Armstrong used his op-ed column of August 8 to take a victory lap to celebrate the defeat of Rick Caruso's plan to develop the Miramar. In doing so, he singled the Montecito Journal out as being one of Caruso's "pied pipers in the media" and said that the paper had "become a cheerleader for bad development under Tim Buckley's watch."

Tim Buckley responded to Armstrong in the August 14 edition of the Journal, saying that his paper had not taken an editorial position favoring the Caruso project, wondering out loud specifically what "bad development" Armstrong was referring to, and noting that "incendiary statements" were not welcome.

It may come as no surprise to you, but I have to agree with Buckley on this one. In fact, the only blatant cheerleading I've observed on his part in the past year-or-so was for the News-Press when he wrote the following in July of 2007:

The News-Press is looking much better these days and ad revenue appears to be on an upswing, so this sale, if true, may signal the beginning of the end of the boycott and the revival of the grand old Santa Barbara newspaper.

That was a pretty optimistic prognosis. The "sale" he referred to was a rumor about Tom Cruise purchasing Rob Lowe's Montecito estate, a transaction, which, as far as I know, never came to pass. Even if it were true, how it would have favorably impacted the prospects of the News-Press was something that he never bothered to explain. But it shows the lengths to which the younger Buckley was willing to go to write something positive about the News-Press.

I'm not saying that past support of McCaw on the part of the Buckleys should exempt them from criticism on the News-Press editorial page if Armstrong feels they deserve it. But you would think that their support would cause Armstrong to be careful about checking his facts before launching a volley against the Montecito Journal.

And if Armstrong is so careless with his facts when it comes to Wendy's "supporters," it kind of makes you wonder what happens when he has one of Wendy's "enemies" in his crosshairs.