Editors fired for sickening bias. How could that be?

Publisher Says Under Oath: Firings Involved Biased Reporting, Disloyalty

Mick Gregory

Santa Barbara News-Press owner and co-publisher Wendy McCaw testified Tuesday that concerns about biased reporting and disloyalty, not union activity in the newsroom, led to the firing of eight reporters earlier this year.

Ms. McCaw said she began directing managers to correct what she saw as biased reporting soon after buying the paper in 2000 because the problem was hurting the paper’s credibility.

During questioning, attorney Barry Cappello, who represents the newspaper, asked McCaw if two reporters had been fired in January because of union activity.

“No,” McCaw answered strongly.

She added that six employees had been fired for disloyalty after they held signs over a freeway overpass urging people to cancel subscriptions.

The six others were terminated the next month after protesting the two previous firings and urging residents to cancel subscriptions, the union-based, leftist National Labor Relations Board attorney has said.

The NLRB is trying to get all eight former employees reinstated with back pay.

McCaw shot 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’s coverage.

McCaw testified Tuesday that she considered it disloyal when the six newsroom employees displayed the signs above the freeway.

“It was disparaging our product and it was also trying to create financial harm,” she said.

McCaw said she did not order Associate Editor Scott Steepleton to fire the six workers but supported his decision.

Cappello produced several e-mails and handwritten notes sent by McCaw beginning in 2003 complaining about bias in stories, including an item about a plan by the Hope Ranch Association to kill coyotes on the property.

“It was anti-coyote,” McCaw said in explaining why she thought the story was biased. “It was very negative toward those poor animals who are on the verge of being annihilated.”

In other memos, McCaw said she was “sick” of the bias and called it “disgusting.”

On cross-examination by NLRB attorney Brian Gee, McCaw said she believed Steepleton had helped eliminate bias from the paper, although she said she did not know whether he had conducted any training for employees or produced any guidelines for unbiased reporting.

The hearing began on Aug. 14 and was expected to end this week. It targets Ampersand Publishing LLC, the paper’s corporate parent.

McCaw was called to testify in defense of the newspaper that has a circulation of 38,000 and covers the wealthy coastal community of Santa Barbara.

She said she has been concerned about biased reporting since buying the paper from the New York Times.

“For a paper to have credibility, the stories need to be neutral and the readers need to make up their own minds,” McCaw testified.

Cappello said no employees have ever been terminated for taking pro-union or anti-union positions.

He said the goal of the union was not higher wages or better working conditions. Instead, it wanted to take control of the newspaper, so the owner and publisher have no involvement in how stories are written or published, he said.

I’ll report updates as they roll in.

The liberal bias goes on and on as they wait in line for Hillary’s ‘magic wand’

Mick Gregory
UPDATED October 5, 2007

Politico.com has turned up yet another story of the liberal lap dog major media has become in the U.S.

Earlier this summer, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D) campaign for president learned that the men’s magazine GQ was working on a story the campaign was sure to hate: an account of infighting in Hillaryland.

So Clinton’s aides pulled a page from the book of Hollywood publicists and offered GQ a stark choice: Kill the piece, or lose access to planned celebrity coverboy Bill Clinton.

Despite internal protests, GQ editor Jim Nelson met the Clinton campaign’s demands, which had been delivered by Bill Clinton’s spokesman, Jay Carson, several sources familiar with the conversations said.

A former aid to the corrupt Democrat Speaker of the House, you know the big, fat drunk, Chris Mathews, claims he never pulled punches on Democrats.

“The Clinton camp,” Mathews said, “never put pressure on his bosses to silence me.”
This was at Mathews’ 10th anneversary gala of his Hardball show on MSNBC.

“Not so this crowd,” he added, explaining that Bush White House officials — especially those from Vice President Cheney’s office — called MSNBC brass to complain about the content of his show and attempted to influence its editorial content. “They will not silence me!” Matthews declared.

“They’ve finally been caught in their criminality,” Matthews continued, although he did not specify the exact criminal behavior to which he referred. He then drew an obvious Bush-Nixon parallel by saying, “Spiro Agnew was not an American hero.”

Matthews left the throng of Washington A-listers with a parting shot at Cheney: “God help us if we had Cheney during the Cuban missile crisis. We’d all be under a parking lot.”

Following his remarks, a few network insiders and party goers wondered what kind of effect Matthews’ sharp criticism of the White House would have on Tuesday’s Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan, which Matthews co-moderates alongside CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo.

The Republicans will be there anyway.

Imagine Rush Limbaugh asking directing questions at Democrat presidential hopefulls.

GQ writer George Saunders traveled with Clinton to Africa in July, and Clinton is slated to appear on the cover of GQ’s December issue, in which it traditionally names a “Man of the Year,” according magazine industry sources.

And the offending article by Atlantic Monthly staff writer Josh Green got the spike.

“I don’t really get into the inner workings of the magazine, but I can tell you that yes, we did kill a Hillary piece. We kill pieces all the time for a variety of reasons,” Nelson said in an e-mail to Politico.

He did not respond to follow-up questions. A Clinton campaign spokesman declined to comment.

The campaign’s transaction with GQ opens a curtain on the Clinton campaign’s hard-nosed media strategy, which is far closer in its unromantic view of the press to the campaigns of George W. Bush than to that of Bill Clinton’s free-wheeling 1992 campaign.

There’s little left to chance. Hillary Clinton may have an unparalleled campaign “war room” — but there aren’t any documentary film-makers wandering around this one, and lovers of the D.A. Pennebaker film “The War Room” can rest assured they aren’t getting a sequel.

The spiked GQ story also shows how the Clinton campaign has been able to use its access to the most important commodity in media — celebrity, and in fact two bona fide celebrities — to shape not just what gets written about the candidate, but also what doesn’t.

There’s nothing unusual about providing extra access to candidates to reporters seen as sympathetic, and cutting off those seen as hostile to a campaign.

The 2004 Bush campaign banned a New York Times reporter from Vice President Dick Cheney’s jet, and Sen. Barack Obama briefly barred Fox News’s Carl Cameron from campaign travel.

But a retreat of the sort GQ is alleged to have made is unusual, particularly as part of what sources described as a barely veiled transaction of editorial leverage for access.

The Clinton campaign is unique in its ability to provide cash value to the media, and particularly the celebrity-driven precincts of television and magazines. Bill Clinton is a favorite cover figure, because his face is viewed within the magazine industry as one that can move product. (Indeed, Green’s own magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, ran as its October cover story “Bill Clinton’s campaign to save the world.”)

It’s a fact that gives the Clintons’ press aides a leverage more familiar to Hollywood publicists than even to her political rivals — less Mitt Romney and more Tom Cruise, whose publicists once required interviewers to sign a statement pledging not to write anything “derogatory” about the star.

The Clinton campaign has more sway with television networks than any rival. At the time Clinton launched her campaign, the networks’ hunger for interviews had her all over the morning and evening news broadcasts of every network — after her aides negotiated agreements limiting producers’ abilities to edit the interviews.

This past weekend, she pulled off another rare feat — sitting for interviews with all the major Sunday talk shows. In most cases, the Sunday shows will reject guests who have appeared on competing shows.

But not with the Hillary Clinton machine.

Update: A gay magazine editor reports the rumors that Hillary is a lesbian are not substatiated. Well, that puts it to bed.