AJR, Publisher of Story That Got Chapman Professor Sued for Libel, Goes Online-Only

Only the journo-nerds in your household will care, but the American Journalism Review, as with several of the media outlets it covers, is going online-only in the fall.

AJR, which I refer to as the thinking man's Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), has a strong local connection–whom I refer to as Sue Paterno.


A former Orange County Register reporter and longtime Chapman English and journalism professor (and twice my boss there, and once for Gustavo), Paterno has been a contributing writer to AJR for years.

She has tackled several hot-button issues in the journalism world over the years, but no story may have had the “legs” of “Santa Barbara Smackdown” in the December 2006 AJR.

It's about the daily Santa Barbara News-Press and its owner, Wendy P. McCaw. Editor Jerry Roberts and five of his colleagues quit the paper in June 2006 over McCaw's alleged “abandonment of journalistic ethics.” Her early reign included community protests, legal wrangling, pushes to unionize, child-pornography charges, a drop in circulation, allegations that local news coverage had dropped and even the intervention of the federal courts.

So, yeah, Paterno had a meaty story all right, but the printed version didn't sit well with McCaw, who sued her for libel. The case, which set legal precedents, was decided in Paterno's favor in December 2008.

Chapman Journo Professor Defeats Wacky Santa Barbara Publisher

Meanwhile, the entire sad episode was chronicled in the documentary Citizen McCaw, which did screen locally, including at Chapman, with Paterno there in Orange for the Q&A afterward.

Citizen McCaw Comes to Chapman. Sue Paterno Is Ready

AJR was not named as a defendant in McCaw's suit, but the magazine agreed to pay Paterno's legal bills and indemnify her against any judgment. Here's hoping it keeps up the good fight online. Here's the AJR announcement on the publishing change.

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *