Santa Clara Weekly Sues Former Reporter-Turned-Blogger

A rivalry between the city of Santa Clara’s weekly newspaper and an upstart blog has transfigured into an outright legal battle. In a lawsuit filed last month, Santa Clara Weekly Publisher Miles Barber accuses his former reporter Robert Haugh of defamation, libel and trying to undermine the newspaper’s relationship with the city, which it relies on to buy legal ads. In his claim, Barber accuses Haugh of spreading “numerous false statements” via his website Santa Clara News Online, including that the Weekly isn’t authorized to publish legal notices, skips publication dates and fails to give advertisers a return on investment. Barber’s suit also takes issue with an opinion piece written by Haugh that paints the publisher as a misogynist who disproportionately criticizes the city’s female mayor and councilors. Because of Haugh’s commentary, the claim alleges, the Weekly has lost ad revenue, readers and “now has its business relationship with Santa Clara imminently threatened.” In columns preceding the lawsuit, Haugh has likened Barber to President Trump because of the publisher’s registered lobbying for high-density development and remarks about how Mayor Lisa Gillmor and other women on the council can barely spell their own names. Barber, for his part, accused his erstwhile scribe of disseminating “fake news.” Of note in this whole affray: the firm hired by the Weekly is none other than that of John Mlnarik, who won a defamation lawsuit and a $400,000 judgment against another blogger, James Rowen, a few years back. The specific attorney working on the case, however, is one Bill Winters, a 2014 Santa Clara University law school grad who looks not a day over 12 on the firm’s website. Haugh called Barber a bully and appealed to readers to donate money for his legal defense. As of Thursday afternoon, he had raised close to $5,600—almost enough to hire his own attorney.

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5 Comments

  1. I have known Miles Barber and Lisa Gillmor and the politics of Santa Clara for over 25 years. Miles Barber may be known as very conservative with his opinions, but he is honest and does not try to manipulate matters for political gain or retaliation.

  2. Well, as Will Rogers said, all I know is what I read in the papers, and what I read in the Santa Clara Weekly is quite sufficient to demonstrate that Miles Barber is fully in the pocket of the 49ers and the developers who wish to run roughshod over our community to line their pockets at the expense of our desire to live in a clean, safe, and peaceful community…

  3. I didn’t know about any of this until today, when I read what The Fly had to say about the food fight between the Santa Clara Weekly newspaper and its critic, the Santa Clara News Online blog.

    To get a feel for both sides, I also clicked on the link to the Santa Clara News Online, and read about a half dozen random articles. (I read the Weekly occasionally, but I’d never heard of Robert Haugh’s blog.)

    Now that I’ve read something from both sides, I have a question: Where’s the beef??

    Most of the blog articles were opinions, and clearly labeled as such. I looked for something inflammatory, but I didn’t see what I expected. Mr. Haugh repeatedly stated that his articles were his “opinion”. He says he’s debunking rumors, and answering questions. What’s wrong with that? He doesn’t come across as someone who would deliberately fabricate things. If he believed that what he wrote was true when he wrote it, that’s what really matters.

    If the Santa Clara Weekly disagrees with him, they have a great way to respond, don’t they? The Weekly reaches a lot more readers than Mr. Haugh’s blog. I’ve read the Weekly on occasion, but until now I had never heard of Online. But thanx to the newspaper’s lawsuit, now I’m as aware of the Santa Clara Online blog as both of its regular readers.

    People can be wrong, and often are. Bloggers routinely post incorrect information. Newspapers do too, for that matter. But IMHO a court setting is not the place to settle disputes like this. If it was, we’d hear about it happening a lot more often.

    Blaming a tiny blog for the paper’s lost ad revenue sounds as credible as Hillary complaining that she lost the election because of “The Russians!” If one small blog (which many of us had never heard of until now) really did cause the claimed loss of revenue, maybe whoever runs the Weekly should take some business management courses, because blogs are here to stay.

    Instead of lawyering up, the S.C. Weekly should respond to the Online blog with their own point of view, and let their readers decide. That’s how free speech works: both sides throw whatever they can up against the wall, and wait to see what sticks. The public can decide which one is more credible. After a public debate where each side uses whatever facts they have to argue their case, the public usually comes to the right conclusion. That’s called “The court of public opinion”, and that’s where this bun fight should play out.

    It looks like the Weekly is most concerned about someone threatening “…the newspaper’s relationship with the city, which it relies on to buy legal ads.” I can understand the paper’s concern over their legal ad revenue, since the city appears to be its milk cow. But unless there’s a lot more to this than what’s being reported, I seen no legitimate reason to escalate this into a legal war. My own (no doubt unwanted and unappreciated) advice would be to either run the Weekly better, or sell the paper to someone who can manageit profitably. Because if small blogs could take down city newspapers, there would be nothing but blogs in this country.

    And if the Santa Clara Weekly thinks this commenter is taking sides for any reason other than to support free speech without being sued for it, I also have a problem with some of Robert Haugh’s blog comments, such as referring to the new President in a derogatory way. That puts Haugh squarely in the minority. Because if he was in the majority, we’d have President Clinton 2.0 now, wouldn’t we?

    I don’t entirely blame Mr. Haugh for jumping on the anti-Trump bandwagon. I have friends who voted for Donald Trump, and a couple of them are getting weak-kneed due to the constant, vicious, and unrelenting drumbeat of media attacks that never have a good word to say about the peoples’ choice for President. And the same media always takes the side of every Trump hater.

    When people constantly hear nothing but bad things about someone, and never anything good, they begin to wonder if there’s a fire causing all that smoke; it’s just human nature. Big Media knows exactly what it’s doing: they’re trying to rabble-rouse and incite the public to the point that people will jettison what was a free and fair election for the first time in our country’s history, because they’re a bunch of sore losers. Despicable, no?

    Smart fellers like Robert Haugh should know better than to start head-nodding along with the media’s poor sportsmanship, and their lack of civility, and their incessant juvenile tantrums. The same television talking heads who endlessly kissed up to B.H. Obama refuse give the winner of this election a fair break. Haugh and lots of others are obviously being manipulated. Can’t they see it?? But instead of fighting back, they’ve meekly started agreeing with the same losers who now preposterously claim that Trump could have only won because of “the Russians”, or whatever other errant nonsense they’re being spoon-fed 24/7 by a highly partisan, dishonest media.

    You’d think the folks who put their candidate in office would wise up by now. But they don’t even ask themselves cui bono? They never ask how Donald Trump was able to defeat sixteen of his opponents, one after another during the Primaries, spending less than 10% of what they did. And then he went on to destroy a candidate who should have been a shoo-in; a woman who had the entire media shamelessly acting as her personal propaganda entourage, free of charge. The media was Mrs. Clinton’s personal cheerleader, and they still are. But instead of shouting back at those self-serving propagandists, and telling anyone who will listen exactly what Big Media is doing (constantly spoon-feeding the public the ‘Big Lie’), the side that WON the election are the ones getting weak-kneed!

    Americans have always admired the underdog, the guy who never gave up. The guy who tenaciously kept fighting hopeless battle after hopeless battle, against overwhelming odds. The underdog who kept fighting a candidate who had all possible advantages…

    …but an underdog who finally prevailed, winning the final battle against the evil parasites feeding off of our once great country at our expense.

    But now they’re getting weak-kneed when the same despicable media that lost the election tells them what to think. And some of them are even starting to agree! This is a verbatim quote by a woman who let her guard down: http://tiny.cc/sezmjy She is telling everyone exactly what’s going on right in front of them… but they still believe the carp they’re being fed! And their message is always the same:

    Trump—> BA-A-A-A-D! Hillary—> GO-O-O-O-D!

    There aren’t many people who wouldn’t have caved by now under the intense, non-stop media onslaught that Donald Trump has been subjected to every hour of every day. What does he need that endless grief for, when he could simply renege on his campaign promises (like G.H.W. Bush did: “Read my lips; No. New. Taxes!”), and then kiss up to the liberal media the way that über-partisan gang desperately craves?

    If The Donald just took the easy way out and ‘came to his senses’, they would carry the new apostate around on their shoulders, glorifying in the victory produced by their anti-American media sabotage. Trump would be more fawned over than B.H. Obama. Then, after selling out the voters who elected him, he could leave the government to the same old unelected career bureaucrats and sail away to a tropical island somewhere, a billionaire with no cares in the world, finally loved (or at least tolerated) by the partisan media. And Big Media’s message would be broadcast loud and clear across the land: ’WE will tell you chumps what to think.’ In fact, they’ve already said that. They really believe that they are the anointed ones, and they hold that exalted position in our society.

    So, are we going to bend over and take that from those clowns? It’s time to man up and fight back! The President needs support. OUR COUNTRY needs our support! Don’t hand it back to those reprobates. Because if we do, our country will be overrun by new waves of foreign parasites, and America will become subservient to the despicable UN. (Those things would certainly have happened if Mr. T’s opponent had won, since she explicitly promised to do them. And the same media clowns would have cheered her on).

    But Donald Trump won’t abandon our country. He has more character than to give in to those partisan liars. In fact, he has more character than all of them put together, and he’s not going to sail off into the sunset and leave our once great country in the hands of corrupt media heroes like George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. I don’t worry about the President. What I worry about are wishy-washy supporters, who buy into the media’s ‘Big Lie’ tactic and start head-nodding along. Get a grip! They are not your friends. They’re just Smiling Faces.

    This President endures more slings and arrows from the rabidly partisan press than any other President has, bar none. Their attempted character assassination began months before he was even in office—as if those scribblers could read his mind, and knew beforehand that he would—of course—welsh on his campaign promises. If their character assassination succeeds it will be because Big Media understands that if they constantly tell their Big Lies, some weaker folks might not speak out. Or worse, they might be persuaded to join the vindictive media’s hate-fest and look for ways to criticize the new President, instead of calling out the gang that’s trying to foment Hillary’s Revenge.

    The central reason Donald Trump is President is because the career elected contingent routinely ignored the chumps who pay the freight <–(that's us). Instead, special interests are the electeds' new BFF’s (and in that respect they're no different from our own local "leaders", who presume they know what's best for us proles. One example of many: http://tiny.cc/bjzljy . Rather than making it a priority to fix our crumbling infrastructure, as soon as they get elected they make their personal proclivities an excuse to dig ever deeper into our wallets—for things they never mentioned when they were campaigning. Could there be a DJT in their future, too?)

    This election was the result of the pervasive "Us versus Them" tribalism that was incessantly promoted by Mr. Trump's predecessor for eight long years. As a result, incivility is ratcheting up everywhere: "To hell with the 1st Amendment, he said things we don't like. Sue the bastard!"

    Personally, I don't have a lot of hope for this country after the Obama debacle. All we proles can do is vote (and post our rants online). But is voting enough, when every television network, and every big city and national newspaper, and the national ‘news’ magazines are all owned by just six (6) corporate entities—which are all marching in lockstep with each other to negate the electorate's choice? Why even have elections? If the voters pick someone the media doesn’t approve of there will just be a re-set, and to hell with whoever the majority voted for.

    Donald Trump is human like all of us, therefore he can make mistakes. They all make mistakes! And like everyone else, he has personality traits that can be exploited by a devious, dishonest, and thoroughly un-American media, which could just as easily demonize anyone else.

    This is the real question: Why does the winning side in this election tolerate what they’re doing? The voters are not to blame, and neither is the new President. Rather, it is the arrogant, out of touch media that should be called to account. Why aren’t more folks doing that? Or is the winners’ new attitude ‘BOHICA’?

    Finally, think for a moment about what might have been… and be *very* thankful we dodged that bullet.

  4. I also have spent many years observing and participating in the politics in Santa Clara. Certainly, Mr. Barber is very conservative (not a bad thing in and of itself), but if one reviews his editorials from the past 3 or 4 years, it’s obvious that he is not consistently or completely honest with “facts” he prints, and has more than once indulged in name-calling, insinuations or outright lies about politicians and others in Santa Clara who refuse to kowtow to him. His use of the Weekly to push agendas he wishes to advance (whether they are personally advantageous to him or not) is certainly his right as editor. However, I would expect from these editorials integrity in addressing the readers (disclosing any personal/financial connections between himself and the subject/project he is advocating) and absolute honesty in the information he presents. The manipulative language and bullying tone currently used in the paper have put many of us in the community off. A review of his column, and the paper’s articles in general, during this last election cycle were cringe-worthy. If Mr. Barber wants to increase readership of his paper, he would do well to address his audience and the subjects of his editorials with respect, even when he opposes them.

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