Miller McCune’s Pacific Standard Scuttled; News-Press Entices Business

Sara Miller McCune started what is now Pacific Standard in 2008.

Not much news media can be found around Santa Barbara these days, but some subtle changes are occurring during this dearth of journalistic prominence. 

The most recent example can be seen in the demise of the decade-old, Santa Barbara-based Pacific Standard magazine earlier this month, which came as no huge surprise to media watchers since the print edition was halted last year while the online version battled onward. 

And, over at the slowly dying Santa Barbara News-Press the new “director of news” apparently is trying to breath some life in the continually thinning daily paper with some front-page local business features. 

Meanwhile, the complete shutdown of Pacific Standard apparently came as a complete shock to 16 journalists and the Social Justice Foundation, which funded the publication. Prior to this month, there was talk of a 10-year plan to plot Pacific Standard’s future course. 

The magazine’s founder, Thousand Oaks-based SAGE Publications owner Sara Miller McCune, to date has yet to comment on the shutdown, which is official as of Aug. 16. She initially founded the publication as the nonprofit Miller McCune Magazine during the recession with hopes of rivaling The Atlantic. Tens of millions of dollars later, that didn’t happen. 

Miller McCune, 78, also founded the Social Justice Foundation, which put up some $3 million a year to fund her now-defunct magazine that once bore her name. 

Prior to the birth of her Santa Barbara-based magazine, there was talk of Miller McCune buying the News-Press, which had lost most of its full-time staff through firings or resignations and gone through harrowing labor disputes. Either purchase talks were unfounded or just no deal was ever struck. 

Earlier this year, News-Press City Editor Scott Steepleton was fired and former sports editor and photographer Nick Masuda took the title of director of news. Steepleton’s wife, Life Editor Charlette Boechler, still works at the paper. 

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Masuda returned to the News-Press in December. He had worked as the paper’s deputy sports editor in 2004 and 2005. He wrote the recap of this year’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta, reporting the number of arrests and other data. 

In recent weeks, the News-Press’s front page has been dominated by larger-than-usual photo images and a recurring small business feature story about some sports bar, mom-and-pop shop or the like, which were randomly chosen presumably to boost dwindling advertising sales, which have dropped to almost nil in the past decade. 

Newspapers often find business features to publish in areas where they hope to gain advertising. Not many small business ads can be seen in the News-Press these days. 

In fact, the paper has not published a regular, local business section in some eight years. 

The total number of its pages has dropped to so few that a newspaper carrier would have to put a rock in it to throw it onto someone’s door step. 

That may be because the News-Press newsroom staff these days consists of a dozen men and women, including editors and photographers. That’s now many folks to record the local news and pit it into mostly wide-open pages that are mostly filled with “wire” copy or the like. 

And, another byline is appearing more often in the shell of a newspaper that once was the News-Press. Co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger, better known as “Nipper,” has had a few bylines of late. He shares the co-publisher title with his cohort, Wendy McCaw.

Von Wiesenberger is best known for his travel and cuisine radio and TV programs, but has taken recently to addressing other topics.

Posted Aug. 13, 2019.

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