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Papa Doug Manchester And John Lynch Talk About Making The U-T A Cheerleader For San Diego

December 15, 2011 3:20 p.m.

Guests

Doug Manchester, publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune

John Lynch, CEO of the San Diego Union-Tribune

Related Story: Manchester And Lynch Discuss Plans For The U-T

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, it's Thursday, December 15th. Our top story on Midday Edition, the new owner of the San Diego Union Tribune, Doug Manchester says the newspaper should be a cheerleader for the City of San Diego. This sentiment is applauded by some but has struck a cord of uneasiness in certain sections of the media and the public. Mr. Manchester has been kind enough to join us today to tell us just about his goals for the UT. Doug Manchester is a well-known developer, a hotel owner and financial mover and shaker in San Diego. He owns the Manchester Hyatt, the downtown Marriott Hotel and marina, and the grant Del Mar resort. Mr. Manchester, welcome to the show.

MANCHESTER: Well, thank you very much. I'd like to correct one thing. I no longer own those properties on the waterfront. But I did develop them, and very proud of the fact we created a wonderful opportunity for people to come live, work, and pray in the inner core of San Diego, including the Convention Center. But we sold those properties

CAVANAUGH: Well, I stand corrected them. Thank you very much. I want to welcome our second guest here, John lynch is the new CEO of the San Diego Union Tribune. And welcome to you, Mr. Lynch

LYNCH: Thank you so much

CAVANAUGH: Mr. Manchester, why did you decide to buy the Union Tribune?

MANCHESTER: Are, first of all, John and I believe that in local ownership of a paper, and we believe that all papers throughout the country when given the opportunity to be a cheerleader for their communities and point out what's good and right for the community instead of possibly taking the negative bent, and to have the opportunity to really spur on the ability that grow and prosper.

CAVANAUGH: Now, would you tell us how much you paid for it? Is that public knowledge?

MANCHESTER: It's been reported approximately at 110 million

CAVANAUGH: Now, it sounds like you want to make some changes in this paper. What do you think was wrong with the UT the way it reported news and information in San Diego?

MANCHESTER: Well, first of all, I don't -- we're just a weekend in the ownership. And they've done a phenomenal job. When you talk about a newspaper, and we have an incredible team at the UT, that you get a paper at 5:30 in the morning, and it's, like, producing an entire product overnight, every day. 365 days a year. So we're proud of what we have and the team we've assembled. From that standpoint, we don't want to change anything. What we want to do is move totally integrated into the digital era of news reporting, both digitally and news print. We think there's always going to be a need for newsprint. But we also think there's an ever-increasing need for the digital component of it. And we don't really want to change. What we want to do is to allow us to be as the old army saying is, are to be the best we can be. And that's -- we have incredible talent at the UT. And John and I are committed to helping them do their job as best as they can.

CAVANAUGH: There was some speculation that you -- one of the reasons for purchasing UT was the valuable real estate the building sits on in mission valley. Was that one of the reasons?

MANCHESTER: Well, I've made it very, very clear that we did not buy the newspaper for the property. But we do believe that the property is valuable. And we would like to, once again, going into the fully integrated aspect of it, to implement it into a news media center -- just a newspaper.

CAVANAUGH: What would be in the news media center?

MANCHESTER: Well, possibly everything that you have here at the KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: A radio station? A TV station?

MANCHESTER: Possibly.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, I see. Big plans, huh Mr., lynch?

LYNCH: We do. I think there's been a tremendous disruption of traditional media. And out of disruption yields opportunity. And so we have to meet the needs of the listening and viewing public and reading public. Will and we happen to own one of the most visited sights in San Diego, in sign on San Diego, and they were operation the newspaper and sign on almost independently. So our biggest goal is to merge them together to offer an integrated product. And clearly it will be multimedia.

CAVANAUGH: Now, one of the comments that you've made, and you made it here again about the idea of the UT being a cheerleader for the city, has gotten a lot of press. Let's put it that way. So Mr. Manchester, what do you mean by that?

MANCHESTER: Well, I mean the fact that we live in the greatest country in the world, and I believe sincerely that we live in America's finest city. And I think that there are such great leaders within the city, in the biotech and in the -- certainly Jacobs, who created Qualcomm, and to be able to look at those people and to be able to in fact allow other people to come in and feel good with doing business in San Diego. There are a lot of people that have moved out of California for a lot of different reasons. And what we want to do is to create an atmosphere where it's business-friendly, and it is an opportunity that, as an example, to promote the wings of freedom on the waterfront, or promote a new sports -- Chargers stadium, and to keep the Chargers here in San Diego, and the like.

CAVANAUGH: But how? How do you that within the paper?

LYNCH: Well, I think it's -- go back in history, and jack Murphy was one of the most important figures in the history of San Diego in terms of bricking the Chargers here, bringing the Padres here, and developing Qualcomm stadium. It's the vision thing. You have to create a vision for your city, and then be able to lead, and to plot out that vision in the paper. I think there has been a bit of a void during this economic malaise where nobody is step think out or holding people accountable fair lack of leadership. So we want to contribute to the dialogue and allow there to be dialogue to get the city moving. There are a lot of people hurting right now. Historic ties of unemployment in San Diego and in California. It's not a good economic atmosphere for business. We think we can make a difference there and absolutely keep our journalistic integrity

CAVANAUGH: Now, what you determine to be good products for San Diego, will we see that on the editorial pains or are we going to be seeing that in the body of the newspaper?

MANCHESTER: I don't think that you can -- you're never going to be able to control the news, more do you want to control the news. Of the journalists have to report the story. But we will in fact speak out editorially, and we're hopeful that when the people -- when our journalists do report the news that they can in fact report it in the most positive light possible. That's -- and it's not always possible to report news, in in fact there's a lot of negative aspects to that news. But there's certainly ways in which you can report the news. And we're hopeful they do. We certainly are not going to control that. We're hopeful that they will in fact -- that there'll be an atmosphere where they will be allowed to express that.

CAVANAUGH: One of the things that journalism -- journalists hold dear to their heart is the idea of objectivity, which really goes beyond negative or positive. It's basically just telling a story. If a journalist at the UT comes back with a story, and it's not exactly up beat, do you want them to spin it in a more positive light?

MANCHESTER: We can't control -- we don't want to spin anything. But we want to, in fact, cover stories that are also positive to the community.

LYNCH: I think what we're talking about is addition, not control. Addition. Pointing out good things that have occurred in the city, and just uplifting a little bit the whole tenor of the paper, of media in general, and again providing leadership, a forum in which we can discuss, Roundtables, etc, that the paper can lead. We have an enormous amount of people we reach, and I think we have an opportunity to move the city forward, and that's what we're committed to. Of that's why we bought the paper. We love this city. And it's very sad to see what's happened in the last 5, 10 years. And it needs to pick it up because it could still be and still is the greatest city in America.

CAVANAUGH: When you say you're sad to see what's happened in the last few years, do you mean the economic downturn or what do you mean?

LYNCH: Yes, are the economic downturn, the inability to get anything done. It's not just here in California. But particularly in California. And I think it's -- we have an opportunity in San Diego to turn the ship quicker than anyone else, because people still want to live here. And so I think with a little leadership and bringing people together, coalescing the community, that we can lead and improve things.

CAVANAUGH: Now, some of the responses we've got from our listeners and what other online publications have expressed a concern that the UT will now be a vehicle, Mr. Manchester, for your own projects and for your own conservative politics. Will it be? What do you say to that?

MANCHESTER: Well, I think that that is not true. We certainly, John and I both, believe that we will speak out on behalf of issues such as the Chargers stadium and maintaining the Chargers here in San Diego, as an example. But we're not going to -- this is not something that we're going to use for our own personal benefit

LYNCH: If I might, papa Doug doesn't need help to attain prosperity for anything else. And we didn't buy the paper for that reason. And in terms of our views as an example, there's a very diverse editorial board that's in place. And we zoo not touched that at all. We're going to leave it in place, and they will continue to produce their editorials, and at times, we will introduce ours. And I think ours is more about a vision of leadership in the economy, not social issues.

CAVANAUGH: Now, as I say, there's a great tradition in American journalism of objective reporting, and objective news. And I think a lot of papers in the United States have struggled toward that end. You know, they used to be owned by people who had strong editorial views who would mold the paper, you think of Hearst in the olden days. I'm wondering, what is your -- what do you think the role is of a newspaper in the United States today, Mr. Manchester?

MANCHESTER: Well, it's to report the news, first and foremost. But once again, I am hopeful that we will cover news stories, maybe equally or maybe even more so that are news-worthy that point out what's great about San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: And in that vein, the paper's new logo, the world's greatest country, and America's finest city, isn't that kind of small town boosterism? Isn't San Diego more sophisticated than that?

MANCHESTER: I think America's finest city served very, very well when Pete Wilson was mayor, and this we coined that phrase, and that's the reason why we've reinstituted it?

LYNCH: And being PC, and going the way the country has been anything, certainly doesn't seem to be working. So maybe someone needs to provide a little leadership and being positive, and lift up people. Because it's tough out there right now. It really is. And we really feel for so many of these people who are at this Christmas time, struggling. Of and we think if we can provide some leadership, and get the economy going again, next year, when we speak to you, the unemployment will be much lower and we will be in a much better position as a city.

CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, what can a newspaper do necessarily to –

LYNCH: Well, I liken it to the sports commission. We formed the sports commission out of greater San Diego sports 20 years ago, and our mission was to provide economic development through sports. And we can do the same thing in almost every are area of this community. Economic development needs to happen again so we can employ people. And we can provide and support projects and a vision for the city that moves with the -- I mean, we broke ground for the Chargers stadium, and we did it downtown, and there was an entertainment center around that. It helps everything. They'll put people to work immediately, and provide so much more than just a sports stadium.

MANCHESTER: Both John and I are proud to be Americans. That's the reason why the flag is prominently displayed on the front page. We're not a Berkeley where they don't fly the American flag for fear of offending somebody. I, in fact, am proud to fly the American flag on the mast head, effectively, of the San Diego UT. And we want to, in fact, do everything we possibly can do promote our great country and our great city.

CAVANAUGH: What other changes should readers look forward to in the coming weeks and months under your ownership of the Union Tribune?

MANCHESTER: Well, I think that we're going to, once again, I think there's going to be more of a fully integrated digital aspect of it on the sign on San Diego, and it may end up being San DiegoUT.com. And sort of have a cohesiveness of both the print and the media together. That you'll notice probably more prominently than some of the others. But we're going to cover the social scene a little bit more in depth than what was covered in the past. And we're certainly going to obviously cover the business sector and the sports sector a little bit more in depth than what we have.

LYNCH: We talked before. We had a meeting with our entire staff on Friday. And we really just said it's time -- they have gone through a very tough period of time where they cut the staff in half, very, very unsettling. It's time to turn the ship somewhat and start to look to the future and reach for some greater goals. And we challenge the staff to be greater, and really to provide a great newspaper. And I think through the integration of the media, we're going to be allowed to create a great paper. And we may be the 14th or 15th market in the country. We think we can present a newspaper product that is second to none.

CAVANAUGH: Well, we're out of time. It's been a pleasure. Even speaking with the new owner of the San Diego Union Tribune, Doug Manchester, and the UT's new CEO, John lynch. Thank you both thank you very much.

MANCHESTER: God bless and happy holidays

LYNCH: Thank you.