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Historic Pulitzer-Winning 'Santa Barbara News-Press' Files For Bankruptcy, Stops Publication

The News-Press has a storied history dating back to its founding in 1855, proudly claiming the title of 'Southern California's oldest newspaper.'
UPDATED JUL 25, 2023
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Santa Barbara News-Press
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Santa Barbara News-Press

The Santa Barbara News-Press, a historic newspaper with a rich 168-year-old legacy has faced its most challenging chapter yet as it filed for bankruptcy and laid off all staff. The once-thriving publication's decline is a poignant reminder of the rapidly changing landscape of the media industry and the challenges traditional newspapers have been facing in the digital age, per SFGATE.

After over 150 years of uninterrupted publication, the Santa Barbara News-Press has succumbed to financial hardship. The parent company, Ampersand Publishing, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a move that signals the end of the newspaper's existence. The news came as a shock to the staff, who were informed of the closure via an email from managing editor Dave Mason. The decision to shut down operations resulted in the unfortunate elimination of all jobs associated with the newsroom.

Image Source: Pexels/Towfiqu barbhuiya
Image Source: Pexels/Towfiqu barbhuiya

In an effort to adapt to changing times, the Santa Barbara News-Press underwent significant changes in recent months. The newspaper moved from its long-standing location at Santa Barbara's De La Guerra Plaza to a space within its Goleta printing plant. Additionally, the publication decided to discontinue its print version and shifted entirely to an online format. While such transitions have been attempted by many traditional newspapers seeking to survive, it appears that these efforts were not enough to save the News-Press from its ultimate fate.

The Santa Barbara News-Press has a storied history dating back to its founding in 1855, proudly claiming the title of 'Southern California's oldest newspaper.' Throughout its existence, the publication changed hands multiple times, with one of its notable owners being Thomas M. Storke. Under Storke's leadership, the newspaper earned its place in history by winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1962. However, ownership changes continued and in 1985, The New York Times took ownership of the paper before selling it to local billionaire Wendy McCaw in 2000.

Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Scott Olson
Image Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Under Wendy McCaw's ownership, the Santa Barbara News-Press faced its share of controversies. McCaw, the ex-wife of cellphone pioneer Craig McCaw, garnered national attention in 2006 when executive editor Jerry Roberts and several other members of the editorial staff resigned over concerns regarding journalistic ethics. The upheaval in the newsroom was captured in the 2008 documentary titled Citizen McCaw, which highlighted the events following the 2006 resignations, per Santa Barbara Independent.

The fallout from the ethical concerns and subsequent staffing changes significantly affected the newspaper's reputation and circulation. Over 70 employees resigned or were fired and many readers canceled their subscriptions in solidarity with the editorial staff. The News-Press which was once a staple in Santa Barbara households faced dwindling support and struggled to maintain its relevance in the local media landscape.

Image Source: Pexels/Kaique Rocha
Image Source: Pexels/Kaique Rocha

Despite its unfortunate end, the Santa Barbara News-Press's legacy will not be forgotten. For over a century and a half, it served as a reliable source of news and information for the community. Its Pulitzer Prize win and contributions to journalism are a testament to its past glory. While it is no longer in operation, its impact on the region's media history will remain a part of Santa Barbara's collective memory.

The closure of the Santa Barbara News-Press serves as a poignant reflection of the broader challenges faced by traditional newspapers in the digital era. As readers increasingly turn to online platforms for news consumption, print publications have struggled to maintain profitability and relevance. The rise of social media, digital news outlets, and changing advertising dynamics has led to significant disruptions in the traditional newspaper business model.