Journalist Jerry Roberts will retire from his post as publications director of the Daily Nexus today.
Roberts, who has worked at UCSB for the past three years, is the former editor and publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press as well as a former vice president and managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Aside from advising the newspaper’s staff, Roberts has also been credited by his colleagues for ameliorating the Daily Nexus’ financial predicaments and mobilizing the university’s press council.
According to Roberts, being diagnosed with stomach cancer — which has been in remission for three years — has made him more aware of his mortality. He therefore decided to leave his job in order to make more time for his family, writing and travels.
“Having had cancer a couple of years ago, I asked myself, ‘If I don’t do this now, when am I going to do it?’” Roberts said. “It seemed like the best of both worlds.”
However, Roberts has not retired from his career as a journalist and will continue working for Calbuzz.com — a news site devoted to California politics — and the Santa Barbara Independent.
Roberts’ replacement, Linda Meyer — current Storke publications advertising director — said she will not only miss Roberts’ talent and passion for the job, but his sincerity as well.
“What I enjoy most about Jerry is the candidness and honesty he brought to every conversation,” she said.
Additionally, Roberts said Meyer’s business savvy makes her the ideal candidate to take over his position.
“We’ve had a good partnership,” he said. “She’s much smarter than I am on the business aspect of the job. … In terms of finances, she’s going to turn things around.”
Roberts has received numerous accolades over the years, including PEN USA’s First Amendment Award and the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism from the University of Oregon in 2007.
His fame as an ethicist and First Amendment defender can be traced to Roberts’ resignation from the Santa Barbara News-Press in 2006. Roberts was the executive editor of the News-Press when Wendy McCaw, who bought the newspaper from the New York Times, began to exercise more editorial control. McCaw has been criticized for compromising the journalistic integrity of the paper and promoting unfair labor practices, which led a majority of the newspaper’s editorial staff to quit in protest.
Roberts was one of the first editors to resign his position, causing McCaw to wage a $25 million lawsuit against him for breach of contract, among other claims.
Despite the chaos surrounding Roberts at the time, UCSB hired the journalist when he was “hot and controversial” — a decision that Roberts said he will be eternally thankful for.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young said the university was fortunate to employ a person of Roberts’ caliber to protect freedom of press.
“Jerry represents for me who I would like to be,” Young said. “One of the things I admire most about this man is that he lived up to his morals and values that he espouses. … He had the courage to stand up for forces that were trying to prevent him from telling the truth.”
After four years of legal battle, an arbitrator ordered Ampersand Publishing — McCaw’s company that owns the Santa Barbara News-Press — to dispense $900,000 in legal fees to Roberts earlier this year. Ampersand is currently seeking to overturn the court ruling.
Roberts said the long-awaited victory didn’t come as a surprise.
“I was delighted,” he said. “I felt vindicated. I never had any thought that we wouldn’t prevail, I just didn’t know when.”
In addition to writing a new book — in 1994 Roberts authored Never Let them See You Cry, a biography of Senator Dianne Feinstein — the Harvard alum said he will also be hard at work helping two of his daughters plan their upcoming nuptials.