The Starting Line – Desperate Days at the UT-San Diego: Will the Tag ‘Mayberry by the Sea’ Stick?

by on September 10, 2012 · 7 comments

in Columns, Editor's Picks, Government, Politics, The Starting Line

The malaise of the local media scene took a turn for the worse over the weekend as Publisher “Papa Doug” Manchester and his sidekick John Lynch took a hard right hand turn and drove the local daily newspaper off the cliff of delusional insanity.

Today we’ll bring you up to date with the latest developments in what is quickly becoming a national embarrassment for San Diego, share some local reactions to his latest jaw-dropping moves and contemplate the underlying causes of the Mission Valley media mogul’s machinations.

We joked about it on Friday as the UT-San Diego unveiled the web-only Seeing Red, a collection of the latest right-thinking news and views from the UT-San Diego and beyond.  To be truthful, I saw it as just another vehicle for that organization to target/placate a segment of its audience, i.e., those folks who feel that the local daily hasn’t been right-wing enough.

A “one stop shop” for (GOP) candidates

Then the news broke via SD City Beat that Manchester and Lynch were hosting local Republicans tomorrow evening (Tuesday, Sept. 11th) for an ‘educational gathering’. From the Washington DC-based Politico:

 Now here’s some news from the nexus of politics and media: The “anti-big government, anti-tax, and anti-gay marriage” San Diego Union-Tribune is hosting a media-training event for state Republican candidates, including lessons in “how to get noticed by the press, how to craft a press release” and — wait for it — how to get the endorsement of the largest paper in the city, the San Diego Union-Tribune.

 Via the Los Angeles Times’ PolitiCal blog:

 The Republican Party of San Diego County sent out the invite to the event, which will be held on Tuesday night at the paper’s headquarters (business attire requested). County GOP chairman Tony Krvaric will also be on hand for the festivities

The invite promises a tour of the paper’s newsroom and television studio, a chance to meet the  company’s chief executive and the paper’s editor and a chance to learn more about the paper, which is referred to as “a one-stop shop for candidates.”

 We’ll give credit to Don Bauder over the SD Reader for suggesting the “Mayberry by the Sea” as an apt description of our current situation, while noting that San Diego Magazine also used the term back in 2004 to describe the Mayoral race where Donna Frye (Aunt Bea) “lost” the election to Gomer Pyle (Dick Murphy).

UPDATE: Kelly Davis over at City Beat is now reporting that Democrats have been invited on a different (Thurs) night. And they won’t get to tour the facilities with Roger Hedgecock. Word is that the turn out will be very light for their cut-rate tour.

The sky is falling…

The final exhibit in making our case for the delusional insanity sweeping through Mission Valley is Sunday’s editorial in the SD-UT, apparently inspired by a trip to the movies to view the film 2016: Obama’s America which sees to make the conservative case that the current President is one of “them”.  And right thinking Americans should know what that means:

 … the U-T sees $8- to $10-a-gallon gasoline in 2016. With virtually no coal industry, due to regulations, cap-and-trade, and with oil drilling limited, a 40-50 percent increase in your monthly SDG&E bill…

 …With regard to taxes, we predict many Californians will be paying 60 to 70 percent of their income. But 65 percent of Californians will pay no tax at all. Outrageous? In the movie “2016,” one of Obama’s mentors is quoted as saying, “Taxing at 100 percent is acceptable if the government provides all services.”…

 California, with its crippling tax rates and over-regulation, will lead the nation with more than 12 percent unemployment. Businesses will continue to flee the state…

 …We predict Israel will be attacked by the surrounding Arab terror states as the U.S. retreats from Israel’s defense…

 …with Obamacare, if you are over 65 a ride to Mexico will become commonplace, as there will be rationed care in the U.S. Death panels [ed-emphasis ours]and other rationing plans will limit care…

 …As Obama’s war on God and life continues, we predict an effort to have late-term abortions paid for by taxpayers…

 …We even predict an effort to get “In God we Trust” removed from U.S. symbols, including our money…

 …The year 2016 with Obama is frightening, but many will embrace the “misery for all, when being on the dole is comfortable for them!”

 A tsunami of reader reaction to UT-SD’s Obama editorial

 Reader reaction to this editorial in the comments section of UT-San Diego was overwhelmingly against (8 to 1, as of last night) the position staked out by the editorial board.  We’ll share some those comments:

 Anders Wright Did you guys really publish this in a daily newspaper? How do you live with yourselves? Seriously, how do you look in the mirror in the morning and call yourselves journalists? This is just shameful.

 Michelle Larson-Sadler I believe in freedom of speech. I am not a Democrat. However, this editorial is treason and just wrong that an American newspaper would publish such a piece as fear-mongering and slanderous as this.

 Jason Stuart Ah, death panels. Good to see that particular boogeyman is still lurking around the dusty, abandoned neural pathways of the unthinking.

 Jauhn Hinkle Losing the city’s major newspaper in this manner is just sad, like losing a NFL or MBL franchise level sad. Few learned people ever turned to it’s opinion page for profound wisdom, it was a lot like visiting your crabby grandpa, predictably conservative, butSan Diego family nonetheless! Now the man in the chair is more like an unrecognizable late stages alzheimers patient. Are they thinking they couldn’t possibly lose any more readers that haven’t left already and this is shrewd strategy to bring in the AM radio crowd? Or are they just going to run it into the ground for the bankruptcy tax deduction? I feel bad for the photographers, reporters and accounts employees who may not share one iota of the UT’s ramblings but will soon fine themselves unemployed just the same. Shameful.

 Tiffany Fox I was employed as a writer for the Union-Tribune for five years a decade ago (back then I wrote as “Tiffany Lee-Youngren”). I am disgusted by what it’s become. There was a time I was proud to say I was a former employee. Now I avoid any mention of my past affiliation. The baseless fear-mongering in this editorial is indicative of an editorial board that will stop at nothing to advance its bizarre conservative agenda. Make no mistake: This newspaper does not have the best interests of San Diego at heart. What a sad state of affairs for our city.

Our fav… (and, no, we don’t know this person)

Arwen Undómiel  I think the owner of this paper needs to quick, give all he has to the poor, hand over the reigns of his paper to the San Diego Free Press and run away to India.

 Just a right wing whack job?

As easy as it might be to put these latest moves by publisher Manchester and his minions into the “just a right-wing whack job” box, I would suggest to you that it’s part of something much larger.

On a national political level, the Republicans have realized that things aren’t going very well for them. Post convention polling is showing a definite bounce for the Obama campaign, whereas the Romney/Ryan ticket came out of Tampa with no discernable increase in enthusiasm for their cause.  More to the point is the emerging reality that the GOP is failing to close the gap in potential Electoral College votes. Although it is certainly possible that the GOP could take the White House come November, particularly if Democrats fail to muster the party faithful to the polls, the number of potential paths to victory for the  Romney/Ryan ticket is less than it was a month ago.

Some on the right side of the fence have all but given up.

 John Hinderaker of Powerline thinks it is all those welfare queens in their Cadillacs:

 [T]his election should be a cakewalk for the Republicans. Why isn’t it? I am afraid the answer may be that the country is closer to the point of no return than most of us believed. With over 100 million Americans receiving federal welfare benefits, millions more going on Social Security disability, and many millions on top of that living on entitlement programs–not to mention enormous numbers of public employees–we may have gotten to the point where the government economy is more important, in the short term, than the real economy. My father, the least cynical of men, used to quote a political philosopher to the effect that democracy will work until people figure out they can vote themselves money. I fear that time may have come.

 For the Romney campaign, it’s time to pull out all the stops. He told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that there were some parts of “Obamacare” that he would keep, naming a couple of items that are polling well with voters. Later on his campaign walked that statement back, and now the party line is that the ‘marketplace’ will take care of those issues.  And then there’s this:

 Mitt Romney suggested Saturday in Virginia Beach that President Obama wants to remove God from coins…

 “I will not take God out of our platform,” the Republican nominee said after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. “I will not take God off our coins, and I will not take God out of my heart.” 

Bullies get scared when you stand up to them

The GOP finds itself in this position nationally because they’ve finally run up against a Democrat who is unwilling to play the martyr when faced with their attacks.  After four years of putting up with (for the most part) an ongoing campaign of slander, mis-information and acquiescence by the media for right wing propaganda, the Dems have started punching back. And this is causing panic/distress/upheaval in the right.

So Manchester’s moves should be viewed through this prism. He’s doubling down, hoping that this latest round of fear mongering will motivate partisans on the right side of the aisle.

This can also be viewed from an economic perspective. The sun is setting on the era of newsprint, and the changes at the UT-San Diego need to be considered in that context. Through media website Poynter.org, we learn that

 Newspaper Association of America advertising statistics, posted last week,show $798 million in print losses for the first half of 2012 compared to the same period a year ago. That is only slightly offset by a $32 million gain in digital. The ratio of losses to gains is 25 to 1.”

 If you discount the discounts, i.e., ads that are promotional in nature or likely sponsored by Manchester’s largess and the freebies (does anybody really think that the full page ads for 2016: Obama’s America are actually bringing in any cash?), UT San Diego finds itself facing a future of declining revenues. Like any drowning person, the “persona” of the paper is desperately flailing as it sinks.

 A cornered rat is a dangerous beast…

It’s easy just to laugh at the outrageousness of the lies and insinuations that the UT-San Diego is perpetrating.  But there are two reasons to be concerned.

First, we need to remember that, no matter how rhetorical/ridiculous the argument, the underlying basis for all these attacks is racism. Look at it long enough and its pedigree becomes clear. Much of what is now assaulted by the right was once also part of the GOP’s agenda. Hell, Nixon’s Health Care program nearly four decades back was much more radical than anything Obama ever dreamed of getting passed by the Congress.

Secondly, this playing on the fears of Americans opens up the door for extra-legal activity by extremists. If you truly believe that you and your family are headed for Death Camps, then it’s a very short leap of logic to get to the point where violence becomes a viable option. And, excuse me for being paranoid here, but if the Republicans were willing to sabotage the economy for the last four years, what’s to keep them from taking the next step and openly rebelling against the United States of America should they lose the election to the Democrats come November?

On This Day: In 1913 – The Lincoln Highway opened. It was the first paved coast-to-coast highway in the U.S.  In 1963 – Twenty black students entered public schools in Alabama at the end of a standoff between federal authorities and Alabama governor George C. Wallace.  In 1964 – Rod Stewart recorded his first single “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”

 Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Escondido (Welk Resort 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive) 1pm –Sunset

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Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013 and 2014. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar thoughtfulbear September 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

When this last change of ownership came in, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that newspaper headline in “Citizen Kane,” you might remember it too – the one that screamed, in very large type, FRAUD AT POLLS!!

But after Sunday – especially after Sunday, and that first section to go, unread, into the oblivion of my recycling bin – even irascible and deeply flawed Charlie Kane is starting to look good. God help San Diego…

Reply

avatar Anna Daniels September 10, 2012 at 10:48 am

The U-T editorial board outsourced its last vestige of intelligence when a movie synopsis was served up as an editorial. The editorial board has become one stop shopping for paranoia, cynicism, delusions and brain drool.

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avatar judi September 10, 2012 at 11:23 am

I just read this on AOL news:
U-T San Diego publisher Doug Manchester is buying the North County Times and the daily Californian in southwest Riverside County, according to a report posted Monday in the San Diego Business Journal.

The Business Journal cited no sources, but Reo Carr, editor-in-chief of the weekly tabloid, told Patch: “We would not have published the story if we didn’t have solid confirmation that it was factual and correct. Our sources are confidential and did not want to be identified.”

But NBC San Diego reported Monday that U-T business writer Tanya Mannes had tweeted a statement from U-T CEO John Lynch: “At this time, U-T San Diego has NOT purchased The North County Times. U-T San Diego is continually evaluating investment opportunities to grow its media portfolio. Given the challenging economic conditions, The U-T does not comment on any transactions that are not complete.”

The Times itself is a product of a merger. The Oceanside Blade-Tribune and Escondido Times-Advocate combined operations in 1995. The 75,000-circulation newspaper is the second-largest daily in San Diego after the U-T. It is owned by Lee Enterprises, a public company based on Davenport, IA.

An early version of the Business Journal story said: “A news conference to announce the sale is scheduled for Tuesday.”

That news-conference reference was later removed from the Business Journal story, according to Jim Madaffer, publisher of several San Diego monthly newspapers, whose scoopsandiego.com site also noted the reported sale.

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avatar Doug Porter September 10, 2012 at 11:28 am

share the love? the San Diego Business Journal reported this morning that the UT-San Diego has made an agreement to buy the North County Times, and there will be a press conference on Tuesday to announce the sale.
UT-SD CEO John Lynch has denied that report.
From the North County Times:
“U-T San Diego is continually evaluating investment opportunities to grow its media portfolio. Given the challenging economic conditions, The U-T does not comment on any transactions that are not complete. At this time, U-T San Diego has not purchased The North County Times,” Lynch wrote in an email time-stamped 9:47 a.m. Monday.

By email, Lynch was asked in a follow-up question if he had a press conference relating to the reported sale scheduled for Tuesday. Lynch replied with one word: “No.”

Manchester, who goes by the name “Papa Doug,” has previously said he would like to buy the North County Times.

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avatar Andy Cohen September 10, 2012 at 11:51 am

San Diego officially no longer has a major legitimate news source. San Diegans are now completely left in the dark when it comes to honest reporting on the goings on in SD, around CA, and the country. The VOSD can only do so much with their limited resources, and they typically limit themselves to reporting on what happens within the City of San Diego itself. Perhaps the LA Times can be convinced to re-open their San Diego edition that they discontinued in the early 90’s? That seems to be our only hope.

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avatar Shelley Plumb September 10, 2012 at 11:33 pm

I hope the new U-T sinks … and sinks fast! Maybe then the LA Times would come back.

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avatar DanW September 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Death panels. Enough said.

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