Back when The New York Times was offloading some of its far-flung newspapers years ago, the Santa Barbara News-Press was one of those put on the chopping block. Make no mistake, the Times pays well, and people at the News-Press were worried that their new owner wouldn't be so generous -- both with pay and resources.
To great delight, Wendy McCaw, the ex-wife of McCaw Communications founder Craig McCaw, used money that she worked hard to earn in a divorce settlement to buy the paper.
Everything was hunky-dory until the owner, who had no identifiable journalistic background, decided that aggressive, watchdog journalism was fine ... unless it annoyed her Hollywood pals.
In the past year most of the staff of the News-Press has resigned or been fired.
And this past weekend it got ugly. In a front page article, McCaw's News-Press published a likely libelous attack on former News-Press editor Jerry Roberts tying him to child porn found on a computer that he used. It also turned out that at least three previous editors also used the computer (none of whom were named in the story, let alone in the story's headline), and that the computer could be accessed by just about anyone in the News-Press newsroom.
This outraged prompted the weekly Santa Barbara Independent to run this cover:
I encourage people who are interested in the story to read these articles from the Independent:
Shameless News-Press Breaks Out the Kiddie Porn
There's a very real opportunity for someone with moderately deep pockets to go into the Santa Barbara market and put the News-Press right out of business. The News-Press, under McCaw's ownership, isn't worth a bucket of warm spit.
We're hoping Jerry wins big and buys the newspaper.
In the meantime, some of the reporters she fired illegally have started a top-notch Web site for Santa Barbara County news.
[...] Barbara News-Press newspaper owner Wendy McCaw has issued a “clarification” on the story which ran last month not-so-subtly linking former editor Jerry Roberts to child [...]
[...] I’d also remind the Times newsroom to be careful what they wish for, they might just get it. [...]