By Doug Porter
News organizations relying on dead tree products (print) have been taking a lot of body blows over the last decade. The continual decline of ad revenues since the second quarter of 2006 is so depressing for publishers that the Newspaper Association of America simply stopped reporting quarterly figures last month.
Information released this week by publicly traded companies like Gannett, publisher of USA Today, indicates ad sales are continuing to decline by 5-6% annually. That totals up to a probable decline of $1.18 billion in lost sales for the industry in 2013.
Some publishing companies are making up for the loss in revenue with increased subscription revenues. Others have morphed into multi-platform businesses. And still others, like our city’s UT-San Diego, are dabbling in faux news, a term acknowledging the role played by the homonymously-named TV network news operation plying the airwaves with Barely True News.
“Slow news day? Make something up!” appears to be the operating philosophy at their Mission Valley headquarters these days.
Reporter Trent Seibert, plucked from the ashes of the Koch-funded Texas Watchdog, is setting the bar for this new style of reporting. In today’s Fish Wrap he resurrects the heady days when San Diego’s “sex” scandal gave new life to the organization’s sagging readership by suggesting an equivalency between a downtown drifter with a long criminal record arrested for groping women on the street in the Gaslamp Quarter and the charges against ex-mayor Bob Filner.
Here’s the lede:
A man accused of groping three women in the Gaslamp Quarter at the height of former Mayor Bob Filner’s sexual harassment scandal will appear in court Wednesday to face three misdemeanor charges of sexual battery.
You can say a passenger on a jet leaving Lindbergh field and a man jumping off a bridge in Balboa Park are both flying and be truthful in Seibert’s world.
And, oh yeah, there’s this further down in the story:
On the day of his arrest, around 2:25 p.m., two women reported to police that an apparently transient man grabbed their rear ends. About 10 minutes later, a federal officer saw a man grab a woman’s buttocks and chased the man down.
Lopez has a long criminal history, including vandalism and weapons charges and a burglary conviction that landed him a 16-month prison sentence. He was on parole during the Gaslamp incident, which allowed him to be incarcerated immediately.
The original headline in yesterday’s on-line version included the words “Filner-Era Groper”. It’s been toned down a bit, no doubt due to merciless mocking on various social media platforms. If you think I’m hyping this up, watch this hilarious video posted at UT-TV featuring Seibert trying his best not to smirk as he “reports.”
Yes, I know. I put the word ‘Filner’ in my headline today. The difference is that I’m a columnist commenting on a real event. i.e., UT-Faux News™, a nickname I think has real potential for staying power.
ObamaScare: The Sky is Falling!
Honest, it is! Just read the front page of the UT-San Diego today, featuring yet another example of Faux news. No doubt Manchester’s minions were thrilled to see the front page with the all caps headline:
THOUSANDS IN COUNTY ALERTED THAT HEALTH INSURANCE WILL EXPIRE
Scared yet? It’s followed by the sub-head:
Shift into new policies may mean price jump
The story starts off by telling us the Barack Obama lied to us about the Affordable Health Care Act. San Diegans’ health insurance is about to be terminated thanks to the Kenyan in the White House, and if you want insurance, it’ll probably cost you. Big time.
Nine paragraphs down in the reporting we learn the truth:
Mia Campitelli of Blue Shield added that policies are not simply canceled. Policyholders are notified that their current plan will expire, and they will be automatically enrolled in a new plan that complies with the Affordable Care Act, if they take no further action.
As has happened in conservative news organizations around the country, UT-Faux News reporter Paul Sisson digs hard until he finds a La Jolla based ‘self-employed biotechnology consultant with a doctorate in neuroscience’ who complains about the prospect of increased premiums.
While I know about 7% of the insured population will see increased premiums next year, I also know that much of the reporting on Obamacare horror stories has been poorly researched or simply just fabricated.
Even people on employer plans are seeing their policies “cancelled”.
Why? Because those policies fail to meet a new, higher standard for health care.
The vast majority of people facing this situation will see a reduction in premiums, a lowering of deductibles and co-pays, enhanced preventative coverage and the elimination of draconian corporate policies that often left them high and dry when they needed coverage the most.
You can count me among those who oppose Obamacare, as the pollsters are wont to do. I (along with about 12% of the population) think it doesn’t go far enough.
You can also count me among those whose policies will be cancelled. Pre-Obamacare I’d be screwed as a cancer survivor. Instead I’m “forced” to choose what level of deductibles and co-pays vs. premiums are best for my family’s budget. Either way I already know we’re paying less.
Remember the Last Time the Sky Was Falling?
As our former Mayor scrapped with the big hotels (over protections for tax payers) earlier this year, San Diegans were treated to a litany of “news coverage” warning us of the consequences of failing to fully fund the Tourism Authority.
You remember: jobs would be lost, it would be a disaster for the local economy and citizens everywhere would be impacted as tax revenues fell.
George Mullin is up with an op-ed at Voice of San Diego exploring those claims. And guess what? Those industry “experts” oft quoted in the Daily Fish Wrap and it’s “me too” TV news cohorts were full of **it.
The Tourism Authority’s budget has been slashed to $5 million (from $30 million) and staffing cut to 48 (from 100). These cutbacks, coupled with the cancellation of spring and summer ad campaigns, were said to portend a summer tourism catastrophe. Let’s investigate:
Tourism Authority, July Report (latest published): “The visitor industry saw decent growth in volume and spending in May 2013. Total visitor volume was more than 2.6 million, up almost 4 percent, and total visitor spending rose 7.5 percent to $683 million for the month.”
U-T San Diego, Aug. 27: “More than 2.4 million Southern Californians are expected to travel over Labor Day weekend, and San Diego will be their top target … If that holds, it would be a jump of 6 percent over the number of travelers in 2012.”
U-T San Diego, Sept. 3: “San Diego … moved up a notch in a national ranking of top meeting destinations … as the fifth most active city.”
KPBS, Oct. 16: “City’s general fund balance sheet for the fiscal year ended June 30 … hotel room tax revenue rose the most, 7.2 percent to $83.9 million.”
Lo and behold, no catastrophe.
Equinox Center Report Says ‘Ditch the Plastic Bags, San Diego’
Last month the City Council’s Rules and Economic Development Committee gave the green light for city staff to develop an ordinance to ban the use of plastic bags at grocery and retail stores.
This is a big deal.
Although more than 80 cities in California have taken this step, San Diego’s size would be mostly likely be the tipping point for the State. Representatives for the plastics industry have successfully fended off attempts to enact statewide measures banning disposable bags by claiming potential job losses.
A new report from San Diego’s Equinox Center will provide the committee with an analysis of the environmental and economic impacts of plastic bag bans based on data from other cities. The report indicates “the City of San Diego stands to save tens of thousands of dollars annually and improve the environment by enacting a ban on single-use plastic bags.”
Among the findings:
- Roughly 95 percent of the 500 million single-use plastic bags used annually in the city of San Diego end up in a landfill.
- Plastic bag ban (PBB) ordinances have been successfully implemented in 85 California municipalities.
- The City of San Diego spends about $160,000 per year to clean up plastic bag litter.
- A PBB policy in San Diego could achieve an 86 percent reduction of single-use bags, amounting to an annual decrease of 348 million single-use bags annually when enacted.
- The City of San Diego would likely see a decrease in solid waste and greenhouse gas emissions from a PBB.
- Plastics have been reported to negatively impact hundreds of species of animals, including birds, fish, turtles, and marine mammals. 80 percent of marine debris originates from land sources, 60-80 percent of which are plastics.
- San Jose and San Francisco have reported “no sustained negative impact to retailers” after enacting bans on plastic bags. Retailers may experience some short-term increase in baggage costs, which should be mitigated over time as consumers transition to reusable bags. (h/t Tony Manolatos)
On This Day: 1929 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged starting the stock-market crash that began the Great Depression. 1962 – Steveland Morris Judkins, later known as Little Stevie Wonder, at the age of 12 recorded his first single. The song was “Thank you for Loving Me All the Way.”1973 – President Richard M. Nixon agreed to turn over the subpoenaed tapes concerning the Watergate affair.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@