Op-Ed: Journalist Corrects the Record on LA Magazine Article
[Disclaimer as of 2/28/22: At the request of LA Magazine, their articles have been retracted and any associated links have been removed. For further information read our latest update here. The original article is available in its entirety below.]
By Mitchell Kriegman, former Santa Barbara Resident
Regarding the article I authored that was published in LA Magazine, March 12, 2021, despite statements to the contrary, please note that all parties relevant to the article, including Mr. Wagner, the Mayor, the former Police Chief, and the City Administrator, were individually contacted well before publication, directly by emails uniformly entitled, “An Opportunity to Comment.” Those emails included specific questions and interview requests for each individual. Several parties were contacted more than once.
The City Attorney was the only party to respond. His response was a dismissal of the request. In the City Attorney’s response he pointedly copied City Administrator Paul Casey, Mr. Wagner, the Mayor, and everyone who had been contacted previously. He further widened the group and included every City Council Member in his response.
Presumably, when the City Attorney copies a city employee in an email to a reporter that includes the entire City Council, it would be noticed. Further, as a group, the same parties and City Council Members copied were emailed by me in reply to the City Attorney with a renewed request for interviews and further specific questions in the hopes they would respond either collectively or individually. Thus Mr. Wagner was not only emailed directly, he was also included on all of these multiple email exchanges with the City Attorney. All the submitted questions and interview requests were ignored.
Unless withheld or redacted these emails would be a matter of the City’s public record and available in a Request for Public Information or PRA.
In another matter, in a column published March 17, 2021 in the Montecito Journal, Gwyn Lurie, CEO and Executive Editor of the Montecito Journal asserted that my story had been rejected by her publication. That was not the case. On September 17, 2020, I chose to withdraw an early, preliminary version of the LA Magazine story from the Montecito Journal in correspondence directly with Ms. Lurie. At that time she confirmed that I had withdrawn the story on that day in a WhatsApp text. The story’s withdrawal was verified by me in a subsequent email and via WhatsApp on the same day. There was no discussion previously with Ms. Lurie or any staff members of the Journal refusing the article. The story was never rejected by the Journal.
The first submitted draft to Los Angeles Magazine six months ago was a 5,000-word story. The article subsequently went through several rounds of edits, revisions, research and fact-checks before it was published at a more concise length on March 12th.
Finally, I’ve responded to two recent requests for comment, one from Nick Welsh at the Independent and the second from Jerry Roberts’ Newsmakers in which I stated as above that Mr. Wagner had been contacted as well as others. Both reporters instead declared that I had declined to comment which was not the case. They have not to my knowledge corrected the record.
Despite the characterization of the LA Magazine story as “theatrical” and the work of “an outsider,” it should be noted that in the last approximately six years I’ve written seven cover features for the Santa Barbara Independent in close collaboration with its Editor-in-Chief and at least twenty other stories and reviews. Working closely with the Executive Editor of the Montecito Journal I’ve written approximately fifteen cover features, many other stories and columns, as well as developing and launching the Morning Mojo e-newsletter and serving as its Editor. Additionally I’ve written two cover features for the Santa Barbara Sentinel, and two cover features for Inside San Ynez.
Until less than a year ago, I had been living on Santa Barbara’s East Side for almost a decade. My kids attended Santa Barbara High School, my daughter played soccer and lacrosse and my sons attended Santa Barbara City College. I’ve mentored and lectured multiple times at UCSB in Environmental Science and Film and media.
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