Monday, November 02, 2009

Armstrong's Departure: Sudden, Swift, But Probably Well-Planned

Has there been a local story in recent memory that's brought a bigger collective YIPPEE! from the community than the news that Travis Armstrong has left the News-Press?

I doubt it.

My post about his resignation attracted huge numbers of readers over the weekend.

At Saturday morning's Cinema Society screening at the Rivera Theater, the casual mention of Armstrong's departure, made just prior to the introduction of the day's movie, was reportedly greeted with raucous cheers.

Independent columnist Barney Brantingham, who has found himself in Armstrong's cross-hairs in recent years, described the editorial page editor as "arguably the most hated man in town."

Comments left at Edhat, Blogabarbara, and the Independent would seem to confirm that.

Indeed, the people around here who are sorry to see Armstrong go appear to be few and far between.

Even though they had the inside track on the hottest story in town, the News-Press did little to capitalize on it.

Although they announced his departure on the early Friday evening, the article containing the particulars didn't appear on the website until after midnight, along with the rest of the stories in the Saturday edition. And, of course, you had to be a paid subscriber of the paper in order to read it.

And if you had read it, you still would be in the dark as to exactly why Armstrong was leaving. The article was utterly silent as to any reasons behind the sudden departure.

While many suspect some kind of blow-up between himself and the mercurial Wendy McCaw and others have pointed to the fact that no one resigns "immediately" without some type of drama lurking in the background, I seriously doubt it.

Perhaps it's a coincidence, but his resignation was announced on the last working day of the month, which to me indicates that it was planned. And back on October 19 I had heard that Armstrong and his partner had purchased a home in Palm Springs although I couldn't confirm it at the time.

The fact that there was any article at all about his departure would seem to suggest that McCaw and Armstrong parted ways on good terms. After all, did Barry Punzal, Richard Mineards or "The Investigator," get stories in the paper announcing their departures? And of course, this article talked about Armstrong in glowing terms.

And, as recently as a week ago, there was a clue that he had one foot out the door.

Back on October 23, Armstrong's op-ed page column opened with this sentence: "For nearly eight years, I've had the privilege of being the editor of these opinion pages." The reflective mood continued: "It's a position in which you see a lot of good and bad in Santa Barbara County, from neighbors who take on City Hall out of concern about this community's future, to politicians who are in it for the power and their egos. But it is the Santa Ynez band of Chumash Indians who stand out the most when I think of my years here."

He was "thinking of his years here?"

It certainly sounded like he was looking back and about to wrap things up. So much so that I quickly scanned the rest of the article to see if indeed he was going to announce that he was leaving.

He didn't.

Nevertheless, that column was the last op-ed page article that appeared under his byline in the News-Press.

So who will take Armstrong's place? I sure don't know, but my guess is whomever it might be, he or she isn't going to have all of their oars in the water because no one in their right mind would ever take that particular job.

And anyone who thinks they can pull a "Star Trek" and "boldly go where no man has gone before" by simply doing a good job without having McCaw express her appreciation with a pink slip and perhaps even an escort out the door, would be well-advised to talk to Mineards, Punzal or Mindy Spar, just to name a few.

As far as we know, Armstrong is one of the few people of late to leave the News-Press building on his own terms and at a time of his own choosing. And some people aren't too sure about him.
© 2009 by Craig Smith and