September 26, 2022
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Court sides with paper

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On Jan. 26, a court of appeals sided with Ampersand Publishing and Wendy McCaw, owners and publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press, saying that the newspaper’s First Amendment rights would be violated if it were forced to reinstate union employees. The appeal was brought after a U.S. District Court Judge had ruled that granting an injunction forcing reinstatement of eight union employees posed significant risks of violating the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment protects the rights of a newspaper to control its content,” U.S. District Court of Appeals Judge Richard R. Clifton wrote, and the News-Press reported. “The main thrust of the employees’ campaign to secure representation by the Graphic Communications Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters appears to have been to block or limit the influence of the News-Press over the content of the news sections of the paper and to focus that authority in the employees themselves, as reporters and editors.”

The newspaper has said that a union campaign began with newsroom employees’ desire to control its content; something the publisher felt was a violation of her constitutional rights.

The union had countered that newspaper employees require independence from publisher pressures. “The news side has to have the independence and freedom to report the news … and not be pressured by the paper in a certain way,” Melinda Burns, a union organizer, reportedly said at a court hearing.

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