The News-Press asserts it is the oldest daily newspaper in Southern California, publishing since 1855. The oldest predecessor (the weekly Santa Barbara Post) of the News-Press started publishing on May 30, 1868, and so the News-Press is actually younger than the Bakersfield Californian. The Santa Barbara Post became the Santa Barbara Press, which eventually became the Morning Press which was acquired in 1932 by Thomas M. Storke and merged with his paper, the Santa Barbara News, to make the Santa Barbara News-Press. Storke, a prominent local rancher and booster descended from the Spanish founders of Santa Barbara, brought the paper to prominence. For many years his father, Charles A. Storke, ran the editorial page; his son, Charles A. Storke II, oversaw operations between 1932 and 1960. In 1962, T.M. Storke won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing "for his forceful editorials calling public attention to the activities of a semi-secret organization known as the John Birch Society". His children did not express interest in continuing to run the paper, however.
Storke then sold the paper in 1964 to Robert McClean, owner of the Philadelphia Bulletin, who turned over publishing of the News-Press to one of his nephews, Stuart S. Taylor, father of writer Stuart Taylor, Jr.. (The Philadelphia Bulletin continued to be run by another nephew of Robert McLean). Under Stuart S. Taylor's tutelage news writers flourished including Dick Smith, Walker Tompkins, and others. The nearby Dick Smith Wilderness Area was named for Dick, a noted environmentalist. Larry Pidgeon was a well-known editorial writer for the paper. The paper was sold to the New York Times in 1984. In 2000 the paper was bought by Wendy P. McCaw, an ex-wife of billionaire Craig McCaw.
Circulation and ownership
The News-Press had a Monday-Friday combined average circulation of 25,973, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation Publisher's Statement dated March 31, 2011. This is down from 45,389 daily in 2000. Owner Wendy P. McCaw and fiance Arthur von Wiesenberger are co-publishers, and share "overall responsibility for news and opinion pages and all business activities." Their stated goal is to provide strong, unbiased local coverage of news, unbeholden to any outside interest group.
In early summer 2006, the News-Press was featured in international news when six editors and a long-time columnist suddenly resigned. The group publicly cited the imposition of McCaw and her hired managers' personal opinions onto the process of reporting and publishing the news; McCaw has expressed the view that the News-Press newsroom staff had become sloppy and biased. Tensions had existed between McCaw and the newsroom since she bought the News-Press in 2000.
Between July 2006 and February 2007, 60 staff (out of 200 total employees), including all but 2 news reporters, resigned or were fired from the News-Press. Newsroom employees voted to unionize with the Teamsters, and both the News-Press management and the Teamsters made multiple appeals to the National Labor Relations Board. Former employees have encouraged subscribers to cancel their subscriptions to the News-Press, and have encouraged advertisers to cease advertising in the paper. McCaw's attorneys have filed lawsuits against former employees, journalists, as well as competing newspapers, and have issued numerous cease and desist letters, to websites linking to the News-Press website, to local business that display signs in support of former employees, and to former employees who speak to the local media.
The parent company of the Santa Barbara News Press, Ampersand Publishing, filed a Federal lawsuit November 9, 2006 for copyright infringement against the Santa Barbara Independent ("SBI") -- where many former News-Press columnists became contributors to the community weekly—claiming a link on independent.com violated copyright law. The case never reached trial, as an undisclosed settlement was reached April 28, 2008 resulting in a dismissal at the request of the parties. United States District Court, Central District of California. CASE NO. CV 06 6837 (R) (AJWx)
A Federal Judge finally dismissed the employees' suit on the grounds that a newspaper has a right to control both its content and its personnel under the guarantees of the First Amendment. [ McDermott v. Ampersand Publishing LLC, Central District of California, No. CV08-1551 (2008) ] A request for En Banc review by the US Court of Appeals is pending.