Wendy McCaw, the film

creditThe documentary "Citizen McCaw" bills itself as "the story of an epic struggle for the soul of journalism." It will debut in Santa Barbara on March 7, assuming it isn't blocked by lawyers for News-Press owner Wendy McCaw. The film's producers — five Santa Barbara residents with film experience — have received four letters from McCaw lawyers and an attempt at a subpoena of all raw footage, a demand that was rejected by a judge. The producers hope to raise funds through the premiere to pay for production costs and, I'd guess, lawyers. The evening includes a Q&A with the filmmakers. Tickets go on sale Friday. The poster is available for download at the film's website. From the flackage:

The film chronicles events since July 2006, when editor Jerry Roberts and five of his colleagues quit the Santa Barbara News-Press, citing owner and Co-publisher Wendy McCaw's abandonment of journalistic ethics, which McCaw denied. Since then, McCaw and dozens of her former staffers have been engaged in a fierce clash of wills that raises important national questions of journalistic ethics and media ownership.

McCaw’s attorneys assert that she alone can decide how news is covered. The other side, represented by journalists and community leaders, says that journalism is a public trust, asserting that the publisher must keep out of the news operation.

The film chronicles the twists and turns of community protests, legal maneuverings, a union vote, child pornography charges, a 25% decline in circulation, a noticeable drop in the paper's coverage of local news and issues, and numerous other events, including a surprise ruling in early January 2008, when a federal labor law judge found that McCaw's paper had violated federal law by firing six of her reporters for pro union activities. The paper is appealing the ruling.

Add News-Mess: Ace blogger Craig Smith says "As of Monday, News-Press associate editor Scott Steepleton had yet to make an appearance in the newsroom this year. He has reportedly phoned in sick for over a week now. Perhaps it was that scathing review of his testimony from labor law judge William Kocol that made him ill."

Also: The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan is currently moored off Santa Barbara, dwarfing everything around.

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