The Starting Line – Rumors of LA Times Koch Bros – Manchester Deal Rise and Fall with the Sun

by on March 13, 2013 · 2 comments

in Columns, Government, Media, Politics, The Starting Line

la times cover operaBy Doug Porter

Los Angelenos were caught up yesterday in successive waves of speculation that the regions’ dominant daily newspaper was about to be purchased by billionaire brothers/conservative activists Charles and David Koch. Alt paper LA Weekly broke the story, followed by echoes from the Hollywood Reporter, Reuters and even Forbes.

The Weekly story claimed multiple sources in reporting that the Koch brothers were contemplating purchasing “either the Tribune Co. newspaper group, which includes the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun or the entire Tribune Co., which includes more than 20 stations like WGN and KTLA Channel 5.”

An unnamed member of the LA Times editorial board was credited with adding that the Kochs were actually acting as financiers for a bid by UT-San Diego publisher Doug Manchester. The embellishments appearing in various reports and comments about San Diego’s media mogul were nearly as ridiculous as the local daily’s self promotional efforts.

Did you know that 80% of the UT-SD is now advertising? (They wish) That Manchester bought the paper in 2009 (actually, it was 2011, thank you) and “promptly turned it into a propaganda organ for San Diego development” (it’s a work in progress)?

It’s on the internet, so it must be true.

By the end of the day the Koch publicity machine had responded with a non-denial denial:

As an entrepreneurial company with 60,000 employees around the world, we are constantly exploring profitable opportunities in many industries and sectors. So, it is natural that our name would come up in connection with this rumor. We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions referenced in today’s news stories, but it is our long-standing policy not to comment on deals or rumors of deals we may or may not be exploring. “

And Manchester’s mouthpiece quoted ‘Papa Doug’ himself this morning:

“We have no partnership with Koch Industries or with the Koch brothers, and we don’t anticipate any such arrangement,’’ Manchestersaid in a statement. “If we were to become involved in the sale of the Tribune Co. or any other media assets, we would be glad to comment at the appropriate time.

“We are extremely pleased with the results we have been able to achieve so far in San Diego. We have grown revenues and profit — while significantly upgrading our print and digital products and starting a state-of-the-art news and talk television station. We are looking forward to opportunities to employ our cross-media strategy in other markets.”

Which I’m interpreting as: “Good idea, why didn’t we think of this?”

(Speaking of embellishments, I can’t help but wonder if the lack of a claim about increasing circulation in Manchester’s statement is a coincidence.)

Meanwhile, the rumor mills continue unabated, like a distracted waiter with an oversized pepper grinder ruining a Caesar salad at a faux fine dining restaurant. My favorite take of the day on the latest LA Times speculation was in Forbes:

L.A. Weekly pegs the price of the Tribune newspaper group at about $600 million. By my calculations, that’s a little more than Charles and David pull in dividends from Koch Industries each year — after reinvesting 90% of the profits back in the business. So no question they can swing it. But after a career of successfully investing in businesses that make money, I am not sure Charles Koch wants into this one.

Judge in Tourism Case Smacks Down SD Reader ‘Exclusive’

Well, he looks like he might be a Republican, right?

Well, he looks like he might be a Republican, right?

Promoting reportage online is a sad fact of life for all of us in the world of journalism. I do it for SD Free Press, Voice of San Diego does it, UT-San Diego does it; even broadcast media plays the game.  But sometimes you just need to give it a rest.

For a week now, the San Diego Reader has been pumping a story alleging connections and implying collusion between Superior Court Judge Timothy B. Taylor, who granted a motion that some have interpreted as favorable to downtown tourism interests, and “several of the major players arrayed against the Democratic San Diego mayor.”

Those major players include Councilman Todd Gloria, Evan Hotels’ top dog Bill Evans, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and political consultant Jennifer Tierney.

Anybody that reads this column knows that I’m drinking the Filner Kool-aid when it comes to the tourism battle. Mayor Bob’s got it right, IMO. And I’m a big believer when it comes to stories about moneyed interests colluding with and against politicians. Why wouldn’t they? It’s only natural, even when it’s wrongheaded.

The Reader story ends with: “We left a message with Taylor’s court to talk to the judge this morning. This afternoon an aide said that the judge was not immediately available for comment.”

Well the judge has responded, releasing a statement that pretty much makes the Reader look…wrong?…silly?…paranoid? I checked this morning and they’re still promoting the story without even a peep about the response, which, reading between the lines, is a pretty pissed off comeback.

To make a long story short (and you can view the judge’s response here), the Reader certainly seems to have stretched the boundaries of truth, making assumptions that cast doubt on even the parts of the reportage that the judge didn’t challenge.

A mention of a hearing involving WalMart by Judge Tower in an earlier account suggested he’d ‘tossed’ an action involving a proposed location in Logan Heights. The judge notes that in fact he’d denied a motion by the mega-retailer to dismiss the case.

The Reader’s ‘connections’ between the jurist and signers of his nominating petition are dissolved when the letter discloses that several dozen judges hired the same political consultant as a means of collecting signatures in a ‘blind’ fashion.

Judge Tower: “The undersigned has no relationship with the individuals named in the article, and has never met or spoken with any of them.”

Hey Reader! Even if you don’t agree or dispute the Judge’s response, at least you can acknowledge it.

Pushback on the SDPD Jaywalking Crackdown

every-corner-is-crosswalk-328x500Making streets more pedestrian friendly has (finally!) caught on in San Diego. Much of the energy around this movement is centered with Great Streets San Diego, whose goal is simply to put more pedestrians on the city’s by-ways.

Focusing on the four principles of design, architecture, blending uses and density, Great Streets believes they can foster livable, lively, vital urban spaces that help trigger economic growth.

Their latest newsletter takes the San Diego Police department to task for a targeted crackdown of pedestrians on the street last week. They quote SDPD Lt. Steve Hutchinson on KPBS, saying the 328 tickets handed to jaywalkers in the sweep was “teach pedestrians the rules of the road”. He went on to tell the radio audience that there have been 13 accidents in which pedestrians were hit by cars. 6 were fatal.  Lt. Hutchinson said that “the pedestrian was at fault in 10 of the accidents”.

Wait a minute! says Great Streets:

The SDPD holds an archaic and dangerous mindset that blames the pedestrian. It is an outdated attitude that is a throw-back to the 1960’s. The targeting of pedestrians is misguided. So who should take the blame? 

They go on to point out, citing a stretch of El Cajon Boulevard as an example, that the design of many streets creates an unsafe environment for would-be pedestrians. Are people really supposed to walk many blocks (without crosswalks) before being allowed to cross the street?

The article (Do read it because I don’t have room for a lot of the good stuff!) concludes:

So blame the street or engineer for blatant design negligence. Blame the drivers. Blame the police. Blame the politicians. But for goodness sake, don’t blame the injured pedestrian who has the right to expect a safe street and public realm, and who has every right to use it just as much as, if not more so, than any other user.

IRS Employees Speak Out on the Sequester

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image12768554The IRS San Diego chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) will gather outside the Federal Building downtown on Thursday to express their opposition to the deep spending cuts and mandated furloughs resulting from the sequestration budget deal.

The union is leading advocacy efforts to cancel sequestration around the country. Federal agencies, with few exceptions, will implement deep cuts to their budgets through the end of September. These cuts will impact citizens everywhere as federal agencies, including the IRS, will be forced to furlough federal employees for many days.

The IRS is already under severe funding reductions and is down 5,000 employees from just two years ago. It’s all part of the Tea Party-types no more taxes deal, which usually includes disparaging public employees whenever possible.

I can’t express much admiration for some of the policies and practices of the US tax collection agency when it comes to political intimidation and privacy concerns. (Yes, I know, they’re people following orders.)

But I think utilizing the natural reluctance people have to talk smack to the IRS to protest the sequestration is a good idea. Somebody’s got to stand up for public employees.

The ‘Stop the Sequester’ rally will be held on Thursday, March 14th, starting at 11:30 am out in front of the San Diego Federal Building, 880 Front Street.

220px-Dark_Side_of_the_MoonOn This Day: 1925 – A law in Tennessee prohibited the teaching of evolution. 1973 – Pink Floyd released “Dark Side of the Moon”. 2002 – Fox aired “Celebrity Boxing.” Tonya Harding beat Paula Jones, Danny Banaduce beat Barry Williams and Todd Bridges defeated Vanilla Ice. (Bet you didn’t remember that cultural low light!)

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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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avatar Andy Cohen March 13, 2013 at 11:01 am

Ya know, I may be naive or something, but I didn’t interpret Judge Taylor’s ruling for an expedited hearing as any great victory for the TMD interests. He wants to get it over with and not drag it out. Seems like a very reasonable reaction to me. It really shouldn’t take a whole lot of time to make a ruling in the case, and he also needed to allow Filner to obtain counsel.

Honestly, there’s no reason to drag this thing out for several months. Get the hearing done, make a decision, and let the city move on.

avatar John Anderson March 13, 2013 at 1:45 pm

These jaywalking crackdowns – plural because this is the first and there are more to come – are outrageous. 328 tickets in less than 24 hours! And if concentrated in downtown, as insinuated, likely to ticket a higher percentage of tourists than other parts of town and also ineffective in deter locals from walking / jaywalking.

Thank you for pointing this issue out and the link to the Great Streets post.

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