Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Letter That Will Never Be Printed In The News-Press

If anyone has the antidote for the poison pen of News-Press editorial page editor of Travis Armstrong, it's former Washington Post reporter Lou Cannon.

As previously noted here last Friday, apparently miffed that the Ventura County Star would send a reporter up here to cover the first week of the NLRB hearings, and even more miffed that the reporter would actually interview someone who could provide some insight and analysis, Armstrong wrote an op-ed column last Thursday taking pot shots at The Star, it's reporter, Stephanie Hoops, and of course Cannon.

Of the many complaints he has about the Ventura County Star, and believe me, he has plenty, the one thing that he is most bent out of shape about is the fact that Hoops interviewed Cannon about the hearing. Of course it's not like Wendy would have ever consented to an interview. In fact, it's fairly safe to say that Travis would never have consented to one either. In fact when was the last time anyone who works at the News-Press agreed to talk about anything?

Case in point, The L.A. Times ran a story on the abandonment of the lightblueline project. Reporter Steve Chawkins noted: "(Bruce) Caron (originator of the project) said inflammatory coverage in the Santa Barbara News-Press turned local business interests against him. Scott Steepleton, the newspaper's associate editor, did not respond to requests for comment."

In case you're wondering, that song you're hearing playing in your head right about now is "Our Lips Are Sealed."

Of course the one guy whose lips aren't sealed are Cannon's. He took exception to Armstrong's column and over the weekend sent him a letter telling him so. Since I think it's safe to say that Lou's letter will never be printed in the News-Press, here's part of what he had to say:

Mr. Armstrong, you can write a column less cluttered with facts than anyone else I know. It has become a badge of honor to be attacked by you, for you specialize in smearing honest reporters like Stephanie Hoops of the Ventura County Star who wrote balanced stories about the NLRB hearings. When is the last time you wrote a balanced story or column about anything?

If it turned out it was in this lifetime, I'd be shocked.

As for Armstrong's characterization of critics of the News-Press as being "liberal" or "left-leaning" Lou had this to say.

As you know, my views tend to the conservative side of the political spectrum. But the dispute about the News-Press has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with fair play. Essentially, it's a contest between journalists who favor traditional ethical standards and an owner who rejects the view that a newspaper is a public trust and asserts her right to print (or suppress) whatever she wants. I have no doubt that Wendy McCaw believes what she is saying. What's your excuse?

Even I'd be willing to buy a News-Press to find out the answer to that one.

As for Armstrong's speculation as to why Cannon and Sander Vanocur were attending the hearing:

You say in your column that Mr. Vanocour and I "appear to be attending the News-Press hearing"—actually an administrative hearing on NLRB charges of illegal practices by the News-Press—"in part to influence the coverage by talking to any impressionable journalists they can." What a piece of detective work. Mr. Armstrong, the easy way for you to find out why we are attending the hearings is to do what journalists normally do and ask us.

We know he wasn't shy about asking Stephnie Hoops for an interview. What is his excuse for not asking Vanocur or Cannon?

I've posted the full text of Cannon's letter if you'd care to see it.

* * *

Armstrong's column quoted a reference describing Vanocur as a "liberal." (As if that were a dirty word around here.) He has definitely been called worse. During a break at Friday's hearing Sander told me that while working for NBC in the '60's he was assigned to cover the Civil Rights movement in the south. While down there he would regularly receive crude looking letters stuffed inside envelopes that addressed him as "Slander" Vanocur. Some how, I doubt he's losing any sleep over Armstrong's column.

As for why he has been in attendance at the NLRB hearings, Vanocur told me; "This case is tremendously important to the First Amendment."

* * *

I was reading the Sunday L.A. Times Business section when I came across the following letter on page C5 from Celeste Barber of Santa Barbara.

I appreciate your coverage of the battle between News-Press publisher Wendy McCaw and the reporters she sacked. ("Trial dissects roles at newspaper, Aug. 15). Since she assumed control the News-Press has pretty much been destroyed.

We gave up our subscription months ago, after well-respected reporters were unceremoniously escorted from their desks for not kowtowing to a petulant McCaw. Now it's nothing more than a venue for a billionaire-turned-publisher who knows nothing about journalism and cares little for our town. If this publisher wins, look out!

When Travis Armstrong gets tired of writing about Lou Cannon and the Ventura County Star, I think we know who he'll be turning his attention to.

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