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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

As the Film Documenting SB's Newspaper War Turns 15, an Inside Look at the Aftermath for Local Media

On March 7, 2008, more than two thousand people packed a sold-out Arlington Theatre for the premiere of an historic documentary telling the story of the aughts-era newspaper war that shaped Santa Barbara's media landscape of today.

Co-produced by Santa Barbara-based filmmakers Rod Lathim, Charles Minsky, Peter Seaman, Brent Sumner and Sam Tyler, the documentary titled "Citizen McCaw," depicted in detail the remarkable media, legal and political brawl dubbed the "Santa Barbara Smackdown," ; significantly it also provided a prescient look at the future of the news business here and across the nation, as the internet, social media, the Great Recession and billionaire owners reshaped the ways Americans receive, consume and define "news."

The film stands up, both as a singular record of a watershed period of Santa Barbara history, and as a harbinger of what was to come for the entire industry of local news coverage, with costly consequences for journalists and citizens alike.

The documentary, which has been shown at journalism schools across the country, may be viewed via this link or on YouTube below:

In a special "Press Clips" edition, Newsmakers TV takes note of the 15th anniversary of the movie with a roundtable discussion including five local journalists who were in the middle of the controversy and contentious events it depicts, as Starshine Roshell, Melinda Burns, Josh Molina and Nick Welsh join the genial host for a conversation about the generation of transformational change, both personal and professional, that has followed.


You can watch this episode of Newsmakers TV via YouTube below, or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. The show airs on TVSB, Cox Channel 17, at 8 p.m. on weeknights and at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. KCSB, 91.9 FM, also broadcasts the program on Monday at 5:30 p.m.


Cartoon by Teresa Pankhurst Burns for The New Yorker.

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