Media people

Lou Cannon rips McCaw a new one

Longtime journalist Lou Cannon sums up the case against Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy McCaw in a lengthy open letter that runs in the Santa Barbara Independent. It follows another written attack on him by McCaw in the July 3 News-Mess that the Independent calls "a rambling, illogical attack." (It's outside the pay wall for everyone to read.) Some choice tidbits from Cannon, a Reagan biographer and former Washington Post political reporter who lives in Santa Barbara and is working on his ninth book:

Dear Mrs. McCaw:

In your desperation to justify your insulting conduct, you have stumbled across an important truth: we live in different worlds....My world is the United States of America. It is a democratic republic in which ordinary people matter. It is not Wendy’s World, in which all that counts are the opinions of a few celebrities and the idle rich.

In Wendy’s World, a wealthy newspaper owner (you) feels free to smear Jerry Roberts, a most respected journalist, because he rebelled against suppression of the news. In Wendy’s World, this owner (you) feels free to smear me — another journalist who is respected within his profession — because I dared to write the truth about the harm you are causing our beloved Santa Barbara.

Mrs. McCaw, what have done with your life that entitles you to smear me?


Mrs. McCaw, let me tell you something. If you want to reach Santa Barbara, give your next column to The Independent. It has more readers than the News-Press. Since The Independent ran my letter, I rarely go down the street or walk on the beach without someone coming up to me and praising me for telling the truth about the News-Press....

At the low end are a handful of papers often called counting-house newspapers. They spend little on editorial content and fill their pages with press releases and wire-service stories. They make money by skimping on the news. That is the model you’ve chosen, and it’s your right. But even counting-house newspapers, except for the News-Press, follow basic rules of journalism.

For instance, in violation of these rules, the News-Press carried a story in which it reported that two of the charges made against it by the National Labor Relations Board had been dismissed BUT DID NOT REPORT THAT SEVEN OTHER CHARGES WERE BEING PURSUED! One blogger said that this was like giving the score of the losing team and not the winning one. Mrs. McCaw, do you realize that people, including some of your employees, are laughing at you?


Frankly, I question your business judgment as well as your commitment to journalism. Anyone knowledgeable about the news business would tell you that a newspaper property is worth more without a union than with one. Yet you single-handedly have brought the Teamsters to Santa Barbara. Again, it wouldn’t take much work on your part to learn that historically I have been critical of the Teamsters. I had nothing to do with getting them here—my choice would have been the American Newspaper Guild, to which I belonged for twenty-five years.

But in a town that is largely unsympathetic to organized labor, you managed to treat employees so shabbily that they voted for the Teamsters by a 33-6 vote! The Teamsters should have you for an organizer.

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