The Santa Barbara News-Press issued an apology Wednesday after readers pointed out on social media that the reporter and his job identification in the Christmas edition of the newspaper were explicitly anti-gay, even if spelled incorrectly.
Reporter Paul Gonzalez’s last name was changed to “Paul Gayzalez and his position as staff writer was altered to “News-Press Faggoat.”
Director of News Operations Donald Katich issued a statement that appeared as an editor’s note at the bottom of page A3 of Wednesday’s newspaper just above an “Honest Plumber Integrity” ad, according to KEYT.com. The News-Press editor did not reply to the TV new outlet when asked for comment.
“In Monday’s News-Press, one of our employees changed another employee’s byline to reflect an offensive slur. The News-Press has taken immediate and swift action with this employee; we do not tolerate any form of harassment in the workplace. We apologize to our readers,” the apology read.
The byline appears properly in the online version of the story, followed by “News-Press Writer.” However, as of mid-morning Thursday, the apology was not to be found on the newspaper’s website, official Facebook page, or Twitter account.
Gonzalez told KEYT.com that he didn’t file the story with those misspellings. “I would just like to reiterate that I did not make that edit to my byline,” he told the station by email. He declined to say more.
Katich told the San Francisco Chronicle that the employee behind the change “is represented by the Teamsters. There is a process we are obligated to follow when it comes to discipline or termination. The employee is no longer in the building.”
While this is startling to those outside Southern California, the small newspaper in the largely liberal-leaning area is known for leaning far right. For instance, it was the first California newspaper to endorse real estate developer and Reality TV star Donald Trump in the June 2016 primary and again in mid-October for the general election, one of only six in the nation to do so. The newspaper offered no explanation for the endorsement to the Santa Barbara community that actually voted overwhelmingly for former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton (31,001 for Clinton, 7,842 for Trump).
The newspaper also faced with marches and vandalism after its Jan. 3, 2015 front-page headline: “Illegals line up for driver’s licenses” about the new California law.
The protest was organized by People Organizing for the Defense and Equal Rights of Santa Barbara Youth which urged the newspaper to follow the Associated Press Stylebook when describing immigrants. “We demand accountability and higher journalistic standards from the local media when covering the affairs of Latino immigration,” the group said.
Katich released a statement defending the use of the word “illegal,” saying it was an “appropriate term in describing someone as illegal if they are in this country illegally,” adding that the News-Press has used the word for 10 years, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Ours is a system of laws, a system so valued that people from around the world – including many from lawless nations – flock here,” Katich said. “When breaking the law becomes the norm, America is no better than other lawless nations.”
The Santa Barbara News-Press, one of the oldest newspapers in California, has been a hotbed of journalistic controversy since 2000 when businesswoman Wendy P. McCaw bought the paper for $100 million from the New York Times. That started a series of events in which the editorial staff claimed McCaw interfered with the paper’s editorial content, compromising its credibility. She claimed the news staff and then-publisher were allowing their personal biases and agenda to impact editorial coverage.
Finally, on July 6, 2006, a columnist and five editors—including renowned editor/writer Jerry Roberts—resigned, leading to public recriminations, three civil suits, one criminal investigation and an “Ethics in Journalism” award from the Society of Professional Journalists for the staff that quit in disgusted protest.
In a very pre-Trumpian move, about 60 non-news staff workers signed onto a full page advertisement in the paper on Feb. 14, 2007, thanking McCaw for standing up to the supposed anti–News-Press actions of ex–newsroom staff and others.
In subsequent lawsuits over First Amendment issues, Roberts’ lawyer got McCaw’s lawyer to “clarify” a terrible retaliatory “smear” the paper published about Roberts on the front page. The Santa Barbara News-Press’s computer systems director Raul Gil signed a declaration that the computer hard drive used by Roberts on which child pornography was “found” may have been used by other editors at the newspaper. The claims and counterclaims played out publicly, including exchanges between McCaw and veteran journalist Lou Cannon defending Roberts in the LA Times.
Ten years later, if social media is any indication, it appears the Santa Barbara News-Press is still in the business of stirring up right wing controversy.