The News-Supress

17paper.1901.jpg A protest against Wendy McCaw, the billionaire owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press, is scheduled for tomorrow, promising to fan the flames of journalistic outrage that is burning through this college/resort town.

In her first interview since the walk-out, McCaw told the New York Times: “This is not a freedom of the press issue, or of intimidation of the newsroom. There were personality differences in the newsroom, and the people who didn’t want to be there are not there any longer.”

Please, Wendy. We’ve worked at newspapers. There are always personality differences, and nobody wants to be there. How can you, of all people not know that? Oh, right. You’re the chick who claims only to read your own paper “occasionally.”

We can’t get enough of this story. Not just because it stars an out-of-touch megalomanic (the best kind, really). Not just because it’s an allegory of all that is wrong with media today — be it corporate-owned or local (the paper’s profit margin rose to 25 percent from 11, while readership declined by 8,000 in the last six years). Not just because it makes us go, “Santa Barbara? Really? This is happening in Santa Barbara? But because this isn’t like the union vs. management newspaper wars we’re used to. This isn’t Detroit. It isn’t even Seattle.

This is . . . this is real. This a fight about what it means to “control” the news, rather than report it. At a time when the national media is just waking up to the fact that it’s suppose to, you know, double-check stuff that’s said at White House briefings, it’s refreshing to know there are at least eight journalists in Santa Barbara who remember why they went into this business in the first place.