Thursday, October 16, 2008

Red Hot Race Gets Condensed Coverage

Slipping into town this past weekend for a second helping of Citizen McCaw was Wendy's sister, Susan Petrak, who once again came down from Redwood City with a teenage daughter in tow for the encore showing of the documentary about her estranged sibling's ownership of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

If Petrak had bothered to pick up a copy of her sister's paper while she was here, she would have found it to be pretty light in the content department. Take the example of the race between Republican Tony Strickland and Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson for the 19th district state senate seat. It's one of the most hotly contested races on the ballot in the upcoming election, but the News-Press has been pretty much AWOL when it comes to covering it as a news story.

Exhibit "A" might be the front page story that was in Wednesday's paper. The article was absolutely flat. Flat, as in, no background, no depth, no perspective.

Here's what passes for serious reporting at the News-Press these days. It describes Strickland as "the owner and vice president of Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC, a renewable energy company." The reporter, Angel Pacheco, didn't bother to ask Strickland whether it is true, as Jackson claims, that the company has no employees and is not yet operational.

The article also reports that Strickland cited the relocation, a few years back, of title company Fidelity National from Santa Barbara to Florida as an example of the need to be more "business friendly." Strickland's brother, who was employed by Fidelity, moved with the company to Jacksonville. The article then noted that Strickland described himself as being "extremely close with his brother."

Which I suppose is more than you can say for Pacheco's boss Wendy McCaw and her sister.

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Now, I don't mean to be hard on Pacheco. With the recent departure of Jeremy Foster from the newsroom, the Life section of the paper, with four reporters, now has more reporters than the news department, which is down to three.

If you're keeping track, the news reporters are Pacheco, Nora Wallace who is based in north county, and Bill McMorris, who is an intern.

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In the unlikely event that you need a reminder of how far the News-Press has fallen when it comes to political news coverage, take a look at the article that The Independent ran last week on the Jackson vs. Strickland race.

The story goes beyond the candidates to examine the issues, the voters, the stakes and the messages that are involved.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention it, the article was written by former News-Press editor Jerry Roberts.