On his Angry Poodle blog at the Santa Barbara Independent, Nick Welsh breaks the news that ex-News-Press columnist Barney Brantingham has been served with a cease-and-desist letter demanding he stop criticizing his former employer of 46 years. The blog also posts some of the original documents that will form the record of what has gone down at the News-Press. Included is Friday's resignation letter from presentation editor Colin Powers, who cited the "vicious and unfounded" front-page note by owner Wendy McCaw that told readers that Brantingham and the paper's top editors were disgruntled employees who quit over disputes about the direction of local news, not over her ethics. Welsh includes the news story that reporter Scott Hadly wrote about the resignations that was spiked by publisher Travis Armstrong in favor of an innocuous note to readers. Hadly resigned Thursday.
Welsh also includes the formal reprimand that News-Press owner Wendy McCaw put in the personnel file of then-business editor Michael Todd for listing the 700 Picacho Lane address in a story about the controversy over actor Rob Lowe's plans to build a 14,000-square-foot home. The address was widely circulated in Santa Barbara media and a prominent part of the public record on the case. The paper's practice had been to use addresses. No matter: a celebrity complained so McCaw began reprimanding editors.
Including Mr. Lowe's address has damaged our credibility with the Lowe family and potentially damaged relations with other high profile readers. As a result of this error the Lowe family cancelled their subscription.
It is now company policy that no addresses are to be published.
After Todd responded in a letter that the reprimand was "malicious and defamatory," McCaw replied that publishing Lowe's address was "sensationalism..and unethical." The paper has since sought a restraining order against Todd alleging that he made a threatening remark about a female photographer at the paper, a charge he denies.