Ross Johnson takes a hard look, a really hard look, at Wendy McCaw, the embattled and battling owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press. Here’s the nut:
From somebody who’s said she would have no role in editorial functions, McCaw’s story has morphed into a tale of a woman using some of her reported $2 billion fortune (some say that stash has shrunk) to threaten current and former employees for talking to other media, sue a Southern California journalism professor for defamation, threaten shopkeepers for posting window signs that challenge McCaw’s legal maneuvers, stage a mini-war against the Teamsters union trying to organize her news force–and threaten writers with legal action merely for trying to contact her or her posse.
She’s a busy, busy gal! Johnson shares the blame on McCaw’s cadre of lawyers and toadies (not always the same thing).
Former editor Jerry Roberts sued for $500,000 after he gave interviews about his ethical concerns under McCaw.
A hairstylist and three other small Santa Barbara shop owners got letters from high-priced lawyer Barry Cappello demanding they remove defamatory signs from their own windows.
Susan Paterno, Chapman University journalism professor, who wrote about McCaw for American Journalism Review, got hit with a 17-page defamation and libel complaint filed by Larry Stein, a show-biz attorney who’s received awards from the ACLA for his pro-bono First Amendment work.
As well as law suits filed against her lovers, her architect, her employees and fellow publishers.
And she’s got a yacht the size of an small oil tanker, so that she can get away from it all.