Thursday, October 09, 2008

And I Thought That I Was The Only One With This Problem

Paranoia on the part of newspaper owners about journalists talking to bloggers evidently isn't limited to Santa Barbara.

Over at LA Observed, the blog's editor and publisher, Kevin Roderick, had this to report:

I've never felt the need to do this before, but it seems prudent to alert the Los Angeles Times staffers who help me stay informed about the inner workings of the paper. According to multiple sources at the Times, new publisher Eddy Hartenstein has been calling it 'treason' for employees to share information with LA Observed.

Like my blog at Wendy McCaw's News-Press, LA Observed was once blocked from employee's computers at The Times and at KTLA Channel 5 which, like The Times, is also owned by Tribune Co.

That changed when new owner Sam Zell took the reins at Tribune and decreed that employee's Internet access would no longer be censored.

But according to Roderick's sources at the paper, management is displeased about internal info getting out and is considering taking disciplinary action against staffers.

Sounds like The Times has taken a page right out of the Wendy McCaw playbook.

Roderick also says that management is interested in finding out the identity of the blogger who writes Tell Zell, a blog that is reputedly authored by someone who is currently of the Times' payroll.

Roderick asks, "does the most troubled newspaper in the U.S. over the past couple of years have time to worry about stuff like that?"

He might get an argument from some of us here in Santa Barbara about which U.S. newspaper has been the most "troubled" over the past two years.

* * *

Meanwhile, back at the paper that gets my vote for "the most troubled," no progress has been made in labor negotiations between management and newsroom employees.

Back on Sunday September 28, the paper ran a "To Our Readers" letter that was signed by Wendy's co-publisher and boyfriend, Arthur von Wiesenberger, better known as "the best kept man in Santa Barbara."

The letter claimed that the News-Press has made "completely reasonable proposals and counterproposals" and implied that the inability to reach an agreement could be attributed to an intransigent union.

The fact that von Wiesenberger chose to take his case to the public prompted the Union's negotiator, Nick Caruso, to release his most recent correspondence with News-Press management.

In a letter dated September 22 of this year that responded to a so-called "secret" update on negotiations that McCaw had distributed to employees of the paper, Caruso told McCaw:

If more of a concerted effort was made to discuss and resolve issues at the table than to cultivate material for the Paper's hit pieces, negotiations would have been completed long ago.


Since my involvement with the Santa Barbara News-Press began approximately one year ago, I have witnessed an unparalleled waste of resources by Management. First it was to fight the Unionization itself and the duty to bargain. Then it was against discussing certain issues. If that time energy and money were expended to improve the lives of the workers and the health of the paper, how different would the situation in Santa Barbara be today?

In an October 6 letter to the "best kept man," Caruso took issue with the version of events that von Wiesenberger described in his letter to readers.

Your version of what has happened in the negotiations and that of co-publisher McCaw are so outrageously different from what is actually occurring at the bargaining table that it is difficult to believe you are describing the sessions in which I have participated.

Towards the end of the letter, Caruso wrapped up things with this observation:

In closing let me say that the Santa Barbara News-Press today is not the quality paper that it has historically been. You know it. I know it and so does all of Santa Barbara.

That last line is believed to be the only documented incident on record of a labor union guy paraphrasing former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.

* * *

And lastly, this reminder; the first of four showings of Citizen McCaw is tonight.

Last Chance to See Citizen McCaw

Metropolitan’s Fiesta Five Theatre

916 State Street, Downtown Santa Barbara

October 9, 10 and 11 at 7:30PM

October 12 at 2:30PM