Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mystery Press Conference Makes Front Page Splash

On Monday morning, many people in the local media, mainstream and otherwise, received an e-mail announcing that a press conference would be held at noon on Tuesday to announce the filing of a lawsuit against the County of Santa Barbara.

The press release was particularly coy in that it did not mention who the plaintiff was and what the allegations against the county were going to be.

It did mention the names of county sheriff Bill Brown and county executive officer Mike Brown and claimed that the lawsuit would have "state-wide implications."

So far, that's not much of a story. After all, when I worked as a lawyer for the county, I would have sworn we were in the business of getting sued.

So, I was surprised to see an article on the front page of Tuesday's edition of the News-Press dutifully reporting
that this press conference would be held
. The News-Press story had little beyond what was contained in the press release although it did have the reactions of various county officials who, not surprisingly, had very little to react to since the lawsuit had not been filed and they had not seen it.

I showed up at the press conference hoping to catch News-Press city editor Scott Steepleton, who is ostensibly responsible for assigning these stories, so I could ask him why he thought a news release about a yet-to-be held press conference about a yet-to-be-filed lawsuit, merited a front page story.

Of course, it being the noon hour and the organizers of the press conference not offering any free food or refreshments to the attendees, Steepleton was nowhere to be found.

So, while readers of the News-Press were well-informed about what press conferences are going to be held in town on Tuesday they were totally in the dark about the fact that Preserve Our Santa Barbara has spent over a half-million dollars to stuff voters mailboxes and saturate the airwaves with political ads regarding the vote-by-mail election that is underway.

That story hasn't made any page of the News-Press let alone the front page.

By the way, the lawsuit was filed by former county employee Shawn Terris who claims that she was wrongfully terminated by the county. The county says she was laid off due to budget cuts. You can read the details at Noozhawk, The Daily Sound, or watch KEYT's coverage of the story.

* * *

As I mentioned on Monday, daily circulation at the News-Press
has dropped by 15%
as compared to a year ago. Several people have written to ask how much it has dropped since the "meltdown" in July of 2006. Well, in October of 2006, daily circulation was reported to be 41,000.

The latest figure of 27,576 for daily circulation means that the paper's readership has fallen by 33% since October 2006.

Not something you're likely to ever read on the front page of the News-Press.
© 2009 by Craig Smith and