Op-Ed: Journalist corrects record of LA magazine article

By Former Santa Barbara Resident Mitchell Kriegman

With respect to the article I authored and which was published in LA Magazine, March 12, 2021, despite statements to the contrary, please note that all parties involved in the article, including Mr. Wagner, the mayor, the former police chief and city administrator, were contacted individually long before publication, directly via emails uniformly titled “An Opportunity to Comment”. These emails included specific questions and interview requests for each individual. Several parties were contacted more than once.

The city attorney was the only one to respond. His response was a denial of the request. In the city attorney’s response, he pointedly copied City Administrator Paul Casey, Mr. Wagner, the mayor, and everyone who had been contacted previously. He expanded the group further and included every member of the city council in his response.

Presumably, when the city attorney copies a city employee in an email to a reporter that includes the entire city council, it would get noticed. In addition, as a group, the same parties and members of the city council in CC received an e-mail in response to the city attorney with a new request for interviews and other specific questions in the hope that they would respond collectively or individually. So Mr. Wagner was not only emailed directly, he was also included in all of these multiple email exchanges with the city attorney. All submitted questions and interview requests were ignored.

Unless withheld or redacted, these emails would become part of the City’s public record and would be available in a Public Information Request or PRA.

In a separate matter, in a column published March 17, 2021 in the Montecito Journal, Gwyn Lurie, CEO and Editor of the Montecito Journal claimed that my story was rejected by its publication. This was not the case. On September 17, 2020, I elected to withdraw an early draft of the LA Magazine story from the Montecito Journal in direct correspondence with Ms. Lurie. At that time she confirmed that I had taken down the story that day in a WhatsApp text. The removal of the story was verified by me in a subsequent email and via WhatsApp on the same day. There has been no prior discussion with Ms. Lurie or any other Journal staff refusing the article. The story was never rejected by the Journal.

The first draft submitted to Los Angeles Magazine six months ago was a 5,000-word story. The article then went through several rounds of edits, revisions, research and fact-checking before being published more concisely on March 12.

Finally, I responded to two recent requests for comment, one from Nick Welsh of the Independent and the second from Jerry Roberts’ Newsmakers in which I stated as above that Mr Wagner had been contacted as well as others. The two reporters instead said that I declined to comment, which I did not. They have not, to my knowledge, corrected the file.

Despite LA Magazine’s characterization of the story as “theatrical” and the work of “an outsider”, it should be noted that in the past six years or so I have written seven cover stories for the Santa Barbara Independent in close collaboration with its editor. -in-Chief and at least twenty other stories and reviews. Working closely with the editor of the Montecito Journal, I wrote about 15 covers, numerous other stories and columns, as well as the development and launch of the Morning Mojo e-newsletter and served as its chief. Additionally, I wrote two covers for the Santa Barbara Sentinel and two covers for Inside San Ynez.

Until less than a year ago, I had lived on the East Side of Santa Barbara for almost a decade. My children attended Santa Barbara High School, my daughter played football and lacrosse, and my sons attended Santa Barbara City College. I have mentored and taught several times at UCSB in environmental science and film and media.

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