Never a dull moment on the Wendy McCaw/Santa Barbara News-Press beat. Today the American Journalism Review posted its response to her lawyers' complaint about the recent AJR story on the mess in Santa Barbara. The review's lawyers dismiss nearly all the points raised — and note that since McCaw didn't ask for timely retractions she has pretty much given up her right to successfully sue anyway. Letter posted here. Meanwhile, a hearing is going on up there over National Labor Relations Board charges that McCaw's people violated the union rights of employees. And tonight the LA Weekly has posted a freelance piece by Ross Johnson on the brouhaha.
He notes that when McCaw first bought the News-Press she wisely said, "I will not have any role in the news-gathering or reporting process. I would hope that no friend or acquaintance of mine asks me to intercede with the paper, but if they did, I would tell them what I just told you." He reports on McCaw's legal jihad:
From somebody who’s said she would have no role in editorial functions, McCaw’s story has morphed into a tale of a woman using some of her reported $2 billion fortune (some say that stash has shrunk) to threaten current and former employees for talking to other media, sue a Southern California journalism professor for defamation, threaten shopkeepers for posting window signs that challenge McCaw’s legal maneuvers, stage a mini-war against the Teamsters union trying to organize her news force — and threaten writers with legal action merely for trying to contact her or her posse.
Twists that Johnson notes: Some lawyers believe the suit against AJR writer and professor Susan Paterno violates the ant-SLAPP law, her brother plays poker with McCaw's lawyer (who has an ACLU award under his belt), and McCaw's PR flack Agnes Huff insists on being called "Dr. Huff" based on a Ph.D from Columbia Pacific University, "a correspondence school shut by the state in 2000 for losing its accreditation."