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Santa Barbara News-Press owner compares COVID restrictions to Nazi Germany; editor exits

Santa Barbara
The Santa Barbara News-Press drew supporters in 2015 after running the headline “Illegals line up for driver’s license.” The newspaper has just lost its latest editor in chief.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The Santa Barbara News-Press lost its editor in chief this weekend after the newspaper published an editorial by owner and co-publisher Wendy McCaw that accused Democratic lawmakers of using the coronavirus for their own political agenda and compared stay-at-home orders to Nazi Germany.

“Our liberties are being stripped for what, a virus?? Think about this,” McCaw wrote in the editorial, published Friday and titled “We are living in tyranny.”

She continued: “If this country can be put into this situation by a virus, what would it take to completely turn us into the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany? We are not that far away now, having to stand in line to get into supermarkets....”

A note at the end of the editorial read: “Wendy P. McCaw is the co-publisher of the News-Press and the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the SBNP staff.”

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On Saturday, the Santa Barbara Independent reported that News-Press editor in chief Nick Masuda had stepped down from his 18-month stint at the helm of the paper. His last byline on the News-Press website is dated April 30. A source said that with Masuda’s departure, 12 journalists remain in the newsroom.

Whether Masuda was fired or quit is still unclear, according to the Independent. When reached by an LA Times reporter, Masuda confirmed that his last day at the paper was Friday but said he had no other comment at this time.

Masuda started at the paper in 1998, when he was a 19-year-old student at UC Santa Barbara. He left the paper in 2001, returned for a quick stint as deputy sports editor in 2004, then came back again to take the top job in 2018.

In a Facebook post published soon after his departure, he wrote that he never took his position for granted but added, “We all have bosses and sometimes you simply just don’t see the world the same way.”

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“Sometimes you simply can’t coexist, especially when views go against all that you stand for as a human,” he wrote.

McCaw has long been a controversial media figure in California. The ex-wife of a cellular phone pioneer, she bought the Santa Barbara News-Press in 2000, one year after she was ranked 159th on Forbes’ list of America’s richest individuals.

Under McCaw the paper has taken a stand against turkey dinner on Thanksgiving — “a tradition that involves the death of an unwilling participant” — and attacked the minimum wage and a living wage proposal, saying they “force a counterfeit value on labor.”

In 2015 scores of protesters marched outside the News-Press offices after the paper ran a front-page headline that read “Illegals line up for driver’s licenses.” In 2016 it was the first of only three American newspapers to endorse Trump for president.

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The report from the Independent suggests that Masuda was a good editor who brought more local news to the front page of the paper in his short reign.

“Masuda’s departure is no cause for celebration — it is a sad victory for the bitter, the paranoid, the kooky and the wacky,” wrote Nick Welsh of the Santa Barbara Independent.


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