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News-Press commentaries

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Columnist

Protecting this newspaper's free speech


February 13, 2007 12:00 AM

It's been a sorry spectacle to witness some of my former colleagues humiliate themselves in front of the News-Press building over the last days. How desperation can reduce former journalism professionals to banging kitchen utensils to make noise is worthy of a UCSB psychology study.

In betraying the principles of their past craft, they appear to want to shut down the paper's free speech, as well as hurt the livelihoods of 200 News-Press workers and their families.

I've worked in three newsrooms where we had union representation. No one ever dreamed of stooping to such behavior. But uncivil tactics and personal attacks have been a common denominator of the Teamsters and their hired outside organizers from Los Angeles.

Growing up in a Teamsters family, I remember as a young boy listening to men talk over the kitchen table or on the phone about spreading nails or damaging trucks. It was scary stuff.

Those who have brought such an outfit to our peaceful community deserve scorn.

Also deserving of a public rebuke are the politicians intent on trashing the First Amendment and trying to close down the independent news and editorial voice of the News-Press.

Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum and former county Supervisor Susan Rose have actively worked to try to silence the newspaper because it has dared to hold them accountable for their failures while in office.

Where are groups such as the ACLU in battling this governmental interference in free expression?

Now apparently joining the elected officeholders trying to squelch the free press or use their position to attack the newspaper is Santa Barbara City Councilman Brian Barnwell.

The News-Press has called him onto the carpet for a number of misdeeds, such as ignoring state law regarding deadlines to disclose campaign donations. At one point early in his first term, Mr. Barnwell said such disclosure reports were "little things." Eventually, Santa Barbarans learned that some of the dollars he didn't immediately disclose came from Bermant Development Co.

More recently, the paper has focused on him becoming Enemy No. 1 for Santa Barbara neighborhoods because of broken campaign promises to be an advocate for neighborhood preservation and against harmful development. Neighborhood protection was the centerpiece of his 2003 bid for the council.

I can see why Mr. Barnwell, who's up for re-election this year, would like to quiet the free press.

AM 1290: Please tune in to AM 1290 at 10 a.m. Wednesday when Dean Stanislaus Pulle of the Southern California Institute of Law at Santa Barbara & Ventura joins me.

The dean is an expert on constitutional law.

Travis Armstrong is the editorial page editor of the News-Press.