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Opinion: McCaw: Setting the Record Straight

July 25, 2006 7:34 AM

Since the recent resignation of several newsroom staffers, I have done my best to take the high road and not involve the paper in a name-calling contest. I continue to feel that moving the paper forward and putting this behind us is the best course of action. But in light of the recent deluge of misrepresentations, misperceptions, personal attacks and outright lies, I feel I owe it to you to set the record straight.

First and foremost, this is not a freedom-of-the-press issue. I completely support the rights of a free press. I always have and I always will. It is one of the reasons I bought the paper. I support and understand the need for separation between the editorial, news and advertising pages. There is no place for personal opinion or agendas in news coverage.

Violations of our paper's policies and standards are what brought on this conflict. As owner and co-publisher, it was my responsibility to step in and handle this internal matter. Nine members of the staff, out of more than 200, chose to resign rather than accept my decisions. I respect their right to do so.

Earlier this month, I appointed Travis Armstrong to temporarily act as publisher. We are in the process of hiring a new editor who is a strong journalist with impeccable credentials to be the buffer between the newsroom and the publisher. Arthur Von Wiesenberger and I are the co-publishers of the News-Press.

It is personally painful for me, and I know it is for all dedicated News-Press staff, to be placed in such a situation. Our energies can and should be focused in positive ways to work together, not on divisive rhetoric. For the quiet majority who sent e-mails and notes of support to me and my staff, I say thank you. I want to assure you that I remain totally committed to overcoming this adversity and staying the course. Let me put a rumor to rest. The paper is absolutely not for sale.

Some newsroom staff has indicated that they wish to be represented by the Teamsters Union. The National Labor Relations Board has rules and procedures under which a collective bargaining unit can be established and employees can express their uncoerced views, including a secret ballot election.

While I don't believe that union representation is in the best interests of our employees, the paper or this community, I respect our employees' rights to make their own decisions.

Our staff members understand they are free to publicly discuss unionization issues and I expect there will be a full and open debate regarding the attempts by the Teamsters to unionize our paper. Meanwhile, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure the paper is published every day as usual, thanks to our dedicated and hard-working staff.

Let me take a moment to clear the air about the cease and desist letters that were sent out by the paper. One letter went to three former employees and the other to the Santa Barbara Independent. The letter to the employees was based on the company's confidentiality policy, something almost all organizations have in place. That policy clearly states that proprietary and confidential information concerning the internal operations of the paper and internal matters may not be disclosed to our competitors or publicly, even after resigning. All employees are aware of this policy and have respected it to our knowledge, with the exception of those who resigned. In the case of the Independent, there was no question that they published material that belonged to the News-Press without permission in direct violation of copyright law. When we raised this, their attorneys quickly agreed to remove all News-Press copyrighted material.

Our staff members understand they are free to publicly discuss unionization issues. There was no attempt to gag or otherwise hinder free speech. I would not permit such a thing.

One of the basic tenets of good reporting is that there are always two sides to every story. Up to now, most of you have only heard the attacks being hurled at the News-Press by those with other agendas besides journalism. That's over now. I will stand up for this paper, my employees and our community whenever and wherever it is needed.

A new chapter in this paper's history is unfolding. I invite you to join me in making a difference in our community -- instead of forming the great divide which makes for good tabloid coverage but benefits no one.

I would like to personally thank all of our loyal advertisers and readers for staying with us through this difficult time. I am gratified that in July our new subscriptions exceeded cancellations, resulting in a net subscription increase of 406. While the vocal minority has tried to make a lot of noise, the quiet majority are showing their support.

Many years ago, I accepted the fact that the difficult decisions I must make as owner and co-publisher do not make me popular. I am not running a popularity contest. I am running a newspaper. I will always do what I think is best for the News-Press and our community.

Wendy McCaw is owner and co-publisher of the News-Press.


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