Santa Barbara News-Press: Santa Barbara’s historical paper, the Santa Barbara News-Press, a recipient of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize and one of California’s oldest journalistic establishments, has reached a definitive end following its owner’s declaration of bankruptcy. In an unexpected turn, the publication, with a rich heritage spanning 150 years, has ceased its traditional print operations, transitioning to an online-only platform earlier this year. However, the digital endeavor met a somber fate as the owner, Wendy McCaw, was compelled to file for bankruptcy, rendering the continuation of the newspaper unsustainable.
According to reports, the managing editor, Dave Mason, broke the disheartening news to the staff via email, revealing the financial predicament that has now brought the paper’s operations to a standstill. While the website remained accessible to readers, with its most recent articles dating back to the previous Friday, there was no explicit mention of the publication’s imminent closure or its financial troubles due to the bankruptcy filing.
The bankruptcy documentation filed by Ampersand Publishing, the parent company of Santa Barbara News-Press, indicated that the assets amounted to less than $50,000, while the debts and liabilities were estimated to be within the range of $1 million to $10 million. The proceedings will involve a meeting of creditors, whose number falls between 200 and 999, scheduled for September 7th.
At its zenith, the Santa Barbara News-Press boasted a robust daily circulation of 45,000 copies, distributed throughout the upscale city of Santa Barbara, which houses around 90,000 residents. This reputable publication earned its Pulitzer Prize distinction in 1962 when the esteemed editorial writer, Thomas M. Storke, garnered the prestigious accolade for a compelling series of editorials centered on the John Birch Society.
The newspaper’s course took an intriguing twist in the year 2000, when Wendy McCaw, a prominent local philanthropist and billionaire, acquired the daily from The New York Times Co. As the new owner, McCaw appointed herself and her fiancé, Arthur von Weisenberger, as acting co-publishers. Nevertheless, the ensuing years witnessed a period of upheaval, leading to the resignation of several top editors and a columnist, including the departure of Santa Barbara News-Press Editor Jerry Roberts. Their decision to step down was driven by allegations that McCaw’s involvement compromised the publication’s journalistic integrity and ethics.
As the paper bid its final farewell, it left an irreplaceable void in the community, as Santa Barbara lost its sole newspaper. The closure of the Santa Barbara News-Press, while not entirely unforeseen given its gradual decline, is indeed a lamentable moment for the city and its inhabitants.
Santa Barbara, a picturesque coastal city, renowned for its scenic beauty, wineries, and attracting tourists and celebrities, remains fortunate to have a few remaining media outlets, including the weekly newspaper, The Independent, and the digital platform, Noozhawk. The nearest major daily newspaper now lies in Ventura County, while San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles, each located more than 90 miles away, also cater to daily readership.
Alas, this demise represents another distressing instance of the struggling news media landscape, as media companies find themselves grappling with formidable tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, which dominate the advertising market. The absence of a profitable business model for local news has only exacerbated the challenges, leading to an ongoing local news crisis that transcends geographical boundaries, affecting even affluent cities and suburbs.
In recent times, the media industry has experienced a series of setbacks and reshuffles, with layoffs at the Los Angeles Times and the sale of The San Diego Union-Tribune. The latter, covering the second-largest city in California, now finds itself under the ownership of MediaNews Group, a conglomerate that controls numerous newspapers across the country. However, the parent company, Alden Global Capital, has faced criticism for budget cuts and job reductions, signaling further instability within the news media ecosystem.
Tragically, this echoes the narrative of the Mail Tribune, one of Oregon’s oldest newspapers, which ceased operations in January. The decline in advertising revenue and difficulty in recruiting personnel culminated in the permanent shutdown of the publication, marking a distressing moment for the media landscape in the region.
As we look ahead, the challenges confronting the news industry seem daunting, with data suggesting that the United States is at risk of losing a considerable number of newspapers by 2025, at a rate averaging two per week. The need for sustainable models to safeguard local journalism is now more pressing than ever, as we grapple with the seismic shifts brought about by the digital age and the influence of tech behemoths. Only through innovation, adaptation, and a collective commitment to the integrity of journalism can we hope to preserve the invaluable role of local newspapers in our communities.
Our Reader’s Queries
What is the main newspaper in Santa Barbara?
The latest scoop from The Santa Barbara Independent.
Who owns Santa Barbara News-Press?
The Santa Barbara News-Press, a daily newspaper, was owned by Ampersand Publishing and published by Wendy P. McCaw and Arthur von Wiesenberger. It was founded on May 30, 1868, but unfortunately ceased publication on July 21, 2023.
Who owns SB News-Press?
Wendy McCaw, formerly known as Wendy Petrak, is a successful businesswoman who currently owns the Santa Barbara News-Press. Unfortunately, the newspaper filed for bankruptcy on July 21, 2023.