Monday, April 06, 2009

Not All Who Care About Wildlife Care About Wendy

At lunchtime on Sunday, Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy McCaw showed up at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Montecito to pick up an award from the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network.

Two former reporters for the paper, whom she had fired over two years ago, along with their supporters, showed up outside the Biltmore to remind McCaw that they are still around, that the Teamsters Union, who represents them, is not going to go away, and to ask, "why do you not treat your Santa Barbara News-Press employees as respectfully as you treat animals?"

A supporter of the fired reporters, who identified himself to me only as "Bob," holds a sign outside the Biltmore on Sunday.

At the front entrance to the hotel the small group of demonstrators, which included, among others, Dick and Mickey Flacks, Tyler Geck and fired reporter Dawn Hobbs, seemed to have trouble getting their literature into the hands of attendees who arrived in their cars and pulled into the driveway to hand their keys over to a valet.

Nevertheless, the group noted that a lot of people waved at them as they drove by. The less expensive the car, the more likely the occupants were to give them a wave, noted one of those who had been standing out front.

Around the back, where fired reporter Melinda Burns, and further down the sidewalk, Teamster organizer Marty Keegan were stationed to intercept the "self-parkers," they seemed to have more luck in making contact with attendees.

Some of those arriving, who had paid $100 each for tickets, clearly had mixed feelings about coming to the event. I witnessed one couple telling Keegan that they were "torn" about attending the luncheon and had weighed it in their minds. They stated they would be "sitting on their hands" when McCaw was called up to receive her award.

But not all who showed up were in a quandry. A few minutes later another couple, after accepting and looking over the open letter to McCaw that the Teamsters had composed, handed it back to Keegan, indicating that they were not sympathetic to the reporters' cause.

McCaw was not the only honoree on Sunday. Also being recognized at the luncheon, which was attended by about 150 people and raised about $20,000 for the organization, were the Humane Society and Heal the Ocean's Hillary Hauser.

At least one attendee came to the luncheon to work. Among the "self-parkers" was former News-Press gossip columnist Richard Mineards, whose 'hood the Biltmore lies in, who was there to cover the event for his new employer, the Montecito Journal.

Stating that he had given some advance thought to how he might greet the owner of the paper that had laid him off in January, he noted it might be "like Caesar greeting Brutus."

As it turned out, he never came face-to-face with Wendy. After the event, Mineards told me that although he had a friendly five-minute chat with News-Press co-publisher, and boyfriend to the Wendy, Arthur von Wiesenberger, he didn't speak to McCaw.

Seen in the lobby of the hotel was Travis Armstrong, the editorial page editor of the paper, who at times seems to fill the dual role of McCaw's personal lap dog and pit bull. He was accompanied by News-Press city editor Scott Steepleton, who was presumably there to cover the event for the paper. And did I mention that a lunch was involved?
© 2009 by Craig Smith and