Santa Barbara News-Press Files for Bankruptcy, Staff Fired

By the edhat staff

Santa Barbara’s longest running newspaper, the controversial Santa Barbara News-Press, has laid off its staff and filed to liquidate.

On Friday the paper’s parent company, Ampersand Publishing LLC, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy that governs the process of liquidation under U.S. law.

The court filing lists the companies assets of less than $50,000, liabilities between $1-10 million, and owes 200-999 creditors. The filing document also states the company decided to file for bankruptcy during a May 1, 2023 meeting.

In an email to Santa Barbara News-Press staff, Managing Editor Dave Mason wrote: “I have some bad news. Wendy [McCaw] filed for bankruptcy on Friday. All of our jobs are eliminated, and the News-Press has stopped publishing. They ran out of money to pay us. They will issue final paychecks when the bankruptcy is approved in court.”

A creditors’ meeting is scheduled for September 7, 2023. The bankruptcy filing also states, “No property appears to be available to pay creditors.”

Last October, we reported the News-Press would stop delivering papers to its subscriber’s homes and instead would issue vouchers to redeem at select locations. Then in April we reported the dwindling staff of the Santa Barbara News-Press had vacated the historic downtown building at 715 Anacapa Street and announced moving all of its administrative operations, including its newsroom and advertising and circulation services, to the Goleta printing plant.

Just last month the paper announced a pause on all printing and a focus on digital news. A note was issued on the paper’s front page stating the printing editions will be temporarily unavailalbe due to “power issues” with their printing plant at 725 S. Kellogg Ave. in Goleta. Weeks later it was stated the online-only format would be permanent. 

The Santa Barbara News-Press began printing as a weekly paper, The Santa Barbara Post in 1868, and after an acquisition in 1932 and a merger was renamed the News-Press. The respected paper won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1962 under the tutelage of T.M. Storke. The paper was sold in 1964 before being sold again to The New York Times in 1984.

The paper’s current owner and alleged billionaire living in Hope Ranch, Wendy P. McCaw, purchased the paper in 2000 for a reported $110 million. In 2006, controversy swirled the once notable publication as editors and writers resigned with claims of McCaw interferring in the newsroom.

More reporters and staffers were fired, or resigned, leading to numerous lawsuits and an all-out boycott of the paper by the majority of Santa Barbara residents. In 2008 a feature-length documentary titled “Citizen McCaw” played before a sold-out crowd at the Arlington Theatre.

Former News-Press journalists, Melinda Burns and Dawn Hobbs, penned an opinion piece in 2020 on McCaw’s “abuse of power.” They reported an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board ordered McCaw to pay $2 million to the employee union and nearly 50 newsroom employees, in restitution for labor law violations going back a dozen years.

It’s unclear what will happen to the flagship building and parking lot at 715 Anacapa Street that’s believed to still be owned by McCaw, although an edhat reader informed us the parking lot has recently begun renting out parking spots. 

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. The News-Press has been a zombie for years, shrinking to a ‘pamphlet’ relying on wire services, providing little significant reporting. Wendy and her pal Von-whats-his-name drove it into the ground. I might hope that a responsible party might acquire it out of bankruptcy, but am not holding my breath.
    An interesting thought; what happens to the subscription costs paid by subscribers after they made the decision MAY FIRST to go out of business. I knew the ‘power problem’ was a lie, but did they also actively deceive subscribers?

  2. At some point, every business goes out of… The SBNP has had quite a good run, and is simply following the path of so many newspapers around the globe. Bottom line is that Wendy’s bottom line isn’t going to suffer at all. Even the Washington Post, owned by his highness Jeff Bezos, is going to lose $100 million or more this year. Many people feel it’s the fault of Jeff Bezos that the WaPo is headed for the same demise as the SBNP, but it’s not his fault…..nor Wendy’s.

    • Bcakes what you’re saying about the Washington Post is simply extremely laughably absurd.
      I know it’s hard to grasp how rich Bezos is, but paying for and supporting the paper is not much to him.
      You seem to be alluding to the NY Times article with your dollar figure. The article also says:
      “Mr. Bezos has said he wants The Post to be profitable, but it is unlikely to reach that target this year.
      Patty Stonesifer, The Post’s interim chief executive, said Mr. Bezos was happy with “every dollar invested” in the company. One person familiar with Mr. Bezos’ plans said The Post had planned for 2023 to be a “year for investment.”
      “I’m very enthusiastic about what we can do here at The Washington Post in the decade ahead,” Ms. Stonesifer said in a statement. “Jeff’s second decade of ownership of The Post should be even more exciting.”
      Ms. Stonesifer has also repeatedly told staff members that Mr. Bezos is fully committed to the business and sees the newspaper as a legacy for his family.”

    • Some perspective: the estimated cost of Bezos’ new yacht, not including the boat’s support boat, is $500 million.
      Support boat:
      7/20: Amazon’s founder and billionaire, Jeff Bezos, has witnessed a significant increase in his wealth, amassing an additional $7.4 billion in just 3 weeks. This brings his total valuation to a staggering $158 billion, according to data tracked by Nairametrics from the Forbes billionaire index.

    • It does not make sense to me why so many folks are happy to see the perceived “downfall” of Ms. McCaw, but so/so sad about the newspaper’s demise. Maybe Jeff Bezos can buy the SBNP to make a few folks happy around here. The last thing that most people who have a lot of money want to do is to lose it. Owning a newspaper these days is a losing proposition whether it be Bezos or McCaw. Now that the end of McCaw is in sight, her detractors will have to find someone else to dislike and talk about negatively all the time. Maybe have some empathy for those who were let go (not Fired as the headline states). Let’s give it a rest people…at least try to give it a rest (if you know what I’m talking about and everything).

    • I would agree that it isn’t JUST about the money, but wherever business (or any other economic activity) is taking place it will always be in large part about the money. And these days it is very hard indeed to remain profitable selling paper and ink publications. Especially news publications.

  3. We all lost a lot as McCaw took over. Journalism is part of the inherent checks and balance to our system and our city. How else do we get investigative reporting and in depth local news. It’s sad what she did to so many fine reporters, many of whom landed on their feet no thanks to her. It’s a cautionary tale of the damage that can be done by one wealthy individual and her legal team. An administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board ordered McCaw to pay $2 million to the Teamsters and nearly 50 newsroom employees, in restitution for labor law violations going back a dozen years so far she has not paid a dime. And now our community lost a paper that back when Storke ran it took on the Birch Society. Formerly owned by the New York Times. Sad for all of those that were fired and all of us and even our democracy. Journalism informs, entertains and educates but it also finds and exposes corruptions and social concerns.

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