Film About Santa Barbara Newspaper Turmoil to Debut

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Documentary filmmaker Sam Tyler didn’t have to go far to find the subject of his next movie.

“Citizen McCaw,” which will debut Friday at a theater in Santa Barbara, chronicles the newsroom turmoil at the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Wendy McCaw is the owner of the daily newspaper.

Tyler and several other local residents whittled down more than 80 hours of interviews for the movie that raises questions about journalistic ethics and media ownership.

“The message is really important about who owns the newspapers, and if those people adhere to the standards,” Tyler said.

The News-Press has been embroiled in controversy since July 2006, when a dispute between McCaw and staff spilled into public view as nearly every top editor quit to protest what they said was the owner’s interference with coverage.

McCaw fired back with a front-page note to readers saying those who quit were upset they could no longer inject their personal opinions into the newspaper.

Newsroom employees voted to form a union, sparking an ongoing fight over the legitimacy of the vote certified by the National Labor Relations Board.

Among those who were interviewed and appear in the film are former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee and Ronald Reagan biographer Lou Cannon.

Tyler said the film cost about $190,000. He hopes it can make its way onto public television or cable.

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