Wendy's turn

McCawWendy McCaw finally took the witness stand to defend her reign of error over the Santa Barbara News Press. She contended that two veteran reporters were fired because of biased stories, not their union activities, as the government charges — or their support for the other top editors and reporters who left rather than accept McCaw's notions of journalism. Matt Kettmann of the Santa Barbara Independent observed the scene.

In the long, sad war over the fate of the Santa Barbara News-Press — a paper that, since July 2006, has gone from award-winning to the subject of federal labor law prosecution — Tuesday, September 25, will go down as landmark battle. It was the day that the paper’s owner and co-publisher Wendy P. McCaw, who’s now reviled by many in Santa Barbara and a beyond for allegedly disregarding journalistic ethics, came out from behind the veil of her newspaper and took the stand to tell her side of the story.

An hour before she took the stand, the day’s energy around the U.S. Bankruptcy Court on State Street was palpable....

[McCaw] walked in wearing a loose-fitting, grayish skirt-like top and matching pants, sparkling earrings, and a white bracelet. Her whitish-blonde hair was clipped into a bun that, from the right angle and with a little imagination, formed head-top swirls that resembled an ampersand, which is the name of her publishing company that owns the News-Press. She didn’t seem entirely uncomfortable on the stand, yet McCaw clearly wasn’t overjoyed to be there, only offering hints of smiles a couple of times throughout the day. And while she wasn’t really a warm, engaging, or brilliant witness during her couple hours on the stand, she didn’t turn out to be the wicked witch of Hope Ranch either. She appeared sincere in her beliefs — and quite passionate when it came to anything about animals — though McCaw seemed a bit out of touch with standard journalistic practices.

Cropped photo: AP / Damian Dovarganes

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