Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy McCaw told readers Thursday that the resignations of nearly all her top editors were prompted by her unwillingness to let them “flavor the news with their personal opinions.”
The editors quit last week, citing meddling in news coverage by McCaw and her team. In a “note to readers,” McCaw said the editors ? not her ? were the problem.
“When I purchased the News-Press, I had goals to improve the quality of the paper, to have accurate unbiased reporting, and more local stories that readers want to read,” McCaw wrote.
“Some of the people who lost sight of these goals and appeared to use the News-Press for their own agendas decided to leave when it was clear they no longer would be permitted to flavor the news with their personal opinions.”
Publisher Travis Armstrong said a survey of readers conducted by an independent company late last year found many believed stories were slanted. He wasn’t able to provide details about the findings.
Armstrong said the paper has lost several hundred subscribers since last week but newsstand sales have increased.
Editor Jerry Roberts, managing editor George Foulsham and his deputy, and the sports, business and city editors all quit, as did a longtime columnist.
“I resigned because of a difference in fundamental, journalistic, ethical and management principles,” Roberts said Thursday. “Any other characterization is inaccurate.”
Following McCaw’s letter, another staffer quit. Reporter Scott Hadly, an eight-year veteran, said his decision was based on the letter and the paper’s refusal to print his story on last week’s resignations.
“She’s trashed her own newspaper right there,” Hadly said of McCaw’s letter. “I can’t fathom why she did that.”
The News-Press, founded in 1855, is locally owned and published by McCaw’s Ampersand Publishing LLC, which bought the paper in 2000 from the New York Times Co. It has a 57-person editorial staff, publishes seven days a week and has a daily circulation of about 41,000.
McCaw, a wealthy social activist, wrote that journalists and editors must separate their personal feelings from their professional news judgment, saying that “otherwise, the reader is ill-served and journalistic integrity is lost.”
“When news articles became opinion pieces, reporting went unchecked and the paper was used as a personal arena to air petty infighting by the editors, these goals were not met,” McCaw wrote.
Earlier this week, Armstrong appointed four new editors. The paper has yet to name a new chief editor and managing editor.