North County newspaper owner threatens war on competitor

July 23, 2015

The president of News Media Corp., which owns the Paso Robles Press and Atascadero News, left a voicemail for an employee-turned-competitor in North County, chastising him for entering the local news market and threatening to go to war with him. [Paso Robles Daily News]

On June 18, John Tompkins called Scott Brennan, the owner of online publications Paso Robles Daily News and Atascadero Daily News. Both publications posted audio of the voicemail Tompkins left.

“I for some reason have just woke up and finally looked at what you’re doing against us in Paso Robles, now Atascadero,” Tompkins said. “You want to go to war with us, we’ll go to war.”

Tompkins also threatened to go after Brennan personally and to do it in San Luis Obispo County.

“You’ve got my attention now, and so I’ll be coming after you, and personally,” Tompkins said. “I am sorry it came to this. It shouldn’t have to. But you know, frankly, this is a direct assault on us, and so, I look forward to meeting you on the field, and I’ll be probably moving out there, sending our people out there, and they will be so involved that you likely will be overwhelmed.”

Tompkins said in the voicemail it was tolerable that Brennan had operated a phone book business. But, the News Media Corp. president said Brennan was getting into his knickers by becoming a news competitor.

“We’ve tolerated your phone book presence, stuff like that for a while,” Tompkins said. “I like you. You’re a good man. You’ve done a good job in the phone book business, but this is now you’re getting into our knickers.”

Brennan worked for News Media Corp. from 1995 to 2006. He then stated a marketing company, Access Publishing.

In 2012, Brennan founded the Paso Robles Daily News. He launched the Atascadero Daily News two months ago.

Tompkins reportedly founded News Media Corp. in 1975. The company owns more than 70 newspapers across the United States, most of which are published in small cities or towns.

In response to the threat, Brennan said Tompkins is “an out-of-state bully” who is trying to stifle independent news rather than competing with it.

“He called me to threaten our business and my family’s livelihood, and I find that despicable,” Brennan said. “We are not going to be bullied by some corporation from Chicago that thinks they have a monopoly on the news media in North San Luis Obispo County.”

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I have a different point of view than so many of you that I feel like I have come to know over the past few years. I’m one of those that rarely posts, but regularly reads Cal Coast News.

I knew the original Reddick family that ran the Paso Robles Daily Press. Over the years as it evolved and merged with the Country News, (anyway if memory serves me right I think it did). It became more of a community news publication. As time went on, it changed from a daily to a bi-weekly. I still enjoy reading local community news stories, and appreciate their support of many local community non-profits, fundraisers and events.

I was surprised when I first stumbled across the Paso Robles Daily News. I actually thought it WAS the Paso Robles Press, and only upon closer reading I realized it wasn’t. It was like one of those websites that preys on a misspelling on Google. I was disappointed as I saw the obvious intention to garner readers based on the Paso Robles Press’s name recognition. After reading a few supposed “news” articles, I realized they were actually “editorials” promoting the editor’s marketing clients.

Over time, I found out, that if you have them design your website, you get a “free”article written about you announcing your new website, new location, new product line, etc. The “free” article isn’t really news, it is a skillfully written advertising piece designed to trigger keywords on google to help their client’s pages rank higher (This publication sells SEO – search engine optimization packages). Clever you see, as they can get paid to create relevant web content to drive keywords on Google, all in house. By positioning themselves as a popular website, with many incoming and outgoing links that change regularly, it raises their own page ranking, as well as those sites that they link to. It is a bit more complicated, but you get the idea.

My disappointment? At least when you see an article like this in print publications, it has a paid ad disclaimer. Articles on the Paso Robles Daily News site don’t. If you buy online advertising on their “news site”, you get a “free” article written about you. If you buy a web design package, SEO package, etc. , you get an article as well. My guess is, that if you use any of their other many services, you also get that coveted article.

As time has gone on, the site added more plug-in boxes with local newsfeeds collected from other sites, which makes it a little more relevant news- wise than it was when it first started. When they started, they just mostly re-directed news from the Trib.

I have no problem with a competing site. Competition makes everyone better. I just feel that the lack of ethics involved in capitalizing on someone else’s reputation by using a variation of the same name is a cheap shot, and presenting paid articles as news is disingenuous. It is my nature to want to root for the little guy, but that little guy needs to be honorable with his intentions.

I don’t know anyone who owns or works at the Paso Robles Press. I met the owner of the Paso Robles Daily News many years ago only briefly, and that was when it was mainly a phone book company. I really don’t know the parties involved. It made me sad when I saw so many posts here defending someone, who based on my observations, is the person in the wrong.

The fix is simple, the online publication should change its name, stand on its own merits, and not ride the coattails of another.


Wow you must not use the net much. You complain about linked articles to other news sites. You CLAIM that you read articles here? Have you noticed that CCN does the same. They have their own articles as well as links to other papers net etc.

Have you EVER read a paper?? They a LOT of times use articles from the Associated Press, Reuters etc.

Hey I can understand that they are your friends and you may be like John Tompkins and be afraid of competition and that is all fine and well but let’s keep it to the REALITY of how all this works and Paso Daily News is NO DIFFERENT than ANYONE else in news.


You think that “Paso Robles Daily News” is too similar to “Paso Robles Press”? Have you heard of the “New York Times”, “New York Post”, “New York Newsday”, “New York Daily News” and a other town that has more than one newspaper using the town’s name in their name?


They have a “promoted article” section, just like the New York Times and so many other online publications.

Downtown Bob

Can anyone verify this was not a certain supervision pulling some trick on the newspaper?


Yes, his own newspaper, the Paso Robles Press, today printed that John Tompkins does not deny leaving the message.


Hook, line and sinker…ya gotta love the 2nd….a war between papers. Hurst must be smiling somewhere!!!!

Nothing personal here…really, business is business and the Forth Estate is big business.


Let me tell you one thing pal…if you think you’re going to steal away my 60 readers you have another thing coming….BUAAAAAAAAHHHahahahahahahahahahaha snooze media.


This story is incomplete. It’s really more about preserving the rights of the use of a business’ name:


Are you going to believe this Tripe that they are infringing on his name? How about other papers that use a cities name? How about L.A. times? Or (now defunct) L.A. Herald Examiner? Or New York Times? Or New York Daily News?

As long as not completely same name WTF gives Mr. Tompkins exclusive rights to be only one to use a cities name in title of a publication? I would LOVE to hear that explanation!!!!


Thanks for this article. Mr Tompkins you should know that I just subscribed to Paso Robles Daily News because of your threats.


John Tompkins must not realize he is in the U.S? We are capitalist here Johnny. It is about competition Johnny. So either compete or if your gonna get ur knickers in a bunch, go back to mum in jolly ol England and she can listen to you whine like a little bit*h.


I check in w/PR Daily News on a daily basis–on FB, not their website. They’ve got over 10,000 “likes” so no wonder Mr. Tompkins is worried. He should be.


And the comments on Facebook have been 100% positive for PR Daily News. I don’t buy the old saying that any publicity is good publicity. Tompkins just earned himself a lot of bad publicity and probably lost a fair amount of business in the process.


I’m sure plenty of “successful” business owners with decades of experience make statements like this all the time in phone calls or face to face meetings with competitors, but leaving a message like this one is just plain stupid.


Only idiotic business people make statements like this.These days, people have small recorders and cell phones. You must always assume that you are being recorded. Leaving threatening messages on answering machines is just plain DUMB.


Only seems stupid until your read that Tompkins the a-hole is from Chicago. It really means nothing, it’s just the crude way they communicate. Similar to those hailing from New Jersey.