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More Mess at the News Press

As of today, Thursday July 6, every senior editor in the paper’s news department had quit, five in all. Resignation tendered.


Thursday, July 6, 2006

Breaking News, Rumors and Opinions on our Evolving Media Scene

For those waiting for the other shoe to fall at the Santa Barbara News Press, it has. But in this case, it’s more like all the shoes from Imelda Marcos’s closet. As of today, Thursday July 6, every senior editor in the paper’s news department had quit, five in all. Resignation tendered.

Wendy McCaw
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

Wendy McCaw

Executive Editor Jerry Roberts returned from a vacation in Crete and turned in his resignation about 9 am. He was then escorted out of the News-Press building by Human Resources chief Yolanda Apodaca. On the way out, tearful reporters and editors hugged Roberts and wished him well. As this happened, Travis Armstrong, Roberts’s nemesis at the News-Press, emerged from his office to make sure that Roberts left, reportedly saying something to the effect of, “Roberts you’ve got to go.”

According to one report, Armstrong—who appointment as publisher of the News Press last Friday precipitated Roberts’s resignation—clasped his hand around Roberts’ arm to help escort him from the building. This was greeted by a chorus of “Fuck You, Travis!” from the News-Press employees bidding Roberts good bye.

The chorus reportedly continued for some time; one of the louder voices in that choir belonged to Metro Editor Jane Hulse, who likewise had submitted her resignation that day. After Armstrong escorted Roberts—the former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and who’d worked for the News-Press nearly four years—he came back to escort Hulse from the building too..

The day before longtime newsroom editor Don Murphy—a 19-year veteran of the paper—walked out, and at some time so did managing editor George Foulsham, who’s been with the News-Press now just less than a year. Business Editor Michael Todd, who’d been placed on indefinite unpaid suspension last week, also resigned. Persistent but as yet unconfirmed accounts indicate that News-Press columnist Barney Brantingham, a 46 year fixture at the News-Press, also quit. Early Friday moning, Sports editor Jerry Spratt also quit.

The melt-downof the newspaper’s editorial leadership reflects long simmering differences between the news room and the paper’s owner, reclusive billionaire Wendy McCaw. For many who resigned, the final straw was McCaw’s appointment of editorial page writer and editor Armstrong to the position of acting publisher. Armstrong, who is intensely disliked in the newsroom, has managed to infuriate and alienate almost all of Santa Barbara’s often warring political tribes. Many who resigned objected not just to Armstrong himself, but that his appointment consolidated authority over news, editorials, and business functions in the hands of just one person, thus violating the so-called separation of church and state that is supposed to exist at any self-respecting newspaper. For more background see this week’s Angry Poodle column.

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