Thursday, December 04, 2008

News-Press Employees Still On The Endangered Species List

As Santa Barbara News-Press employees arrived for work on Wednesday morning, the signs of change were subtle, but they were there.

First, an extra security guard was on duty. He wasn't there to protect the paper's owner Wendy McCaw. Neither she nor her boyfriend/co-publisher, Arthur von Wiesenberger would be coming in on Wednesday. They prefer to lay low whenever employees are let go.

Instead, there were workers to be escorted out of the building and shown the door.

There was the word that an "all-hands-on-deck" meeting of staff had been called for 3 pm. Before noon, six employees would be informed that they were being laid off. By the end of the day, the total would rise to 17.

Unlike the May Day Massacre, newsroom employees were spared this time. Instead all of the cuts came from other departments of the paper. But the big news was that McCaw was shutting down the Goleta Valley Voice and Valley Living, two weekly periodicals that were devoted to community news in Goleta and the Santa Ynez Valley respectively. McCaw had already quietly stopped publishing Blue Edge, a surfing lifestyle news magazine. The Valley Voice had been losing money for some time.

At the 3 pm meeting, Director of News Operations Don Katich informed the employees of the "consolidation" while News-Press associate editor Scott Steepleton stood by his side and occasionally nodded. The staff was told that the information that was being shared with them was "proprietary." In other words, what happens in this room, stays in this room.

Unlike, the lay offs that came in May, the News-Press was putting its own spin on its decision to let people go claiming that what the Valley Voice and Valley Living had covered in the past would be rolled into the News-Press.

Some employees though were undoubtedly wondering to themselves how, with the laying off of staff especially at the Valley Voice who would be taking with them years of institutional knowledge, the events of earlier in the day could be presented as a "consolidation." On the contrary, this was clearly an "elimination."

Reportedly no one who was laid off was given any type of severance pay or compensation. They merely got their checks for this week's work.

And don't you have to wonder about the timing? Christmas is only three weeks away. Couldn't McCaw have held off until after the New Year before sending people to the unemployment line?

Wendy has never been known for her compassion when it comes to dealing with employees and the handling of Wednesday's layoffs only bolster her reputation for being cold-hearted.

A partial list of the names of those who were laid off Wednesday.

Jim Logan, managing editor of the Goleta Valley Voice, a former News-Press reporter copy editor.

Kim Leonard, special sections.

Linda Jorgensen, from the paper's community relations department.

Angela Adams, who came to the News-Press from Chicago to work in customer retention and sales.

Martha Lannan, community editor of the Goleta Valley Voice.

Lara Cooper, Valley Voice Staff writer.
With the shuttering of the Valley Voice and Valley Living, that means that the only News-Press satellite publication that still survives (other than the "throw away" News-Press Direct advertising circular) is El Mexicano.

Coverage of yesterday's lay offs elsewhere:



The Independent

Santa Barbara's Blog

The Daily Sound.

My "breaking news" updates from yesterday are here and here.