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Comments By Union-Tribune’s New Ownership Prompt Criticism

Comments published today attributed to the new owners of the San Diego Union-Tribune are sending chills down the spines of veteran journalists and long-time readers of the paper.

From the moment news broke that San Diego developer Doug Manchester bought the U-T, reporters and community leaders worried aloud whether he would use it as his mouthpiece. John Lynch, who will be the paper’s new president and CEO, told KPBS yesterday he wants the U-T to be a cheerleader for all things good in San Diego.

“If we have a major polluter in the bay, that’s not very good for San Diego," said Dean Nelson who directs the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University. "Are we going to talk about that? Or, if we have a politician like Duke Cunningham, are we not going to cover that because that’s not very good for San Diego? I am actually stunned to hear a person say this at the outset of his ownership.”

Lynch went a step further with voiceofsandiego.org. He told the online publication he wants the sports page to champion a new Chargers stadium, and that the paper should be pro-business. Nelson said if that policy is actually carried out, the paper will see its readership drop.

“The reason we have a newspaper is to tell us what’s going on, provide us some sort of accountability and inform the public not cheerleading," Nelson said. "Oh my gosh, cheerleading is the first thing we try to drill out of students.”

Nelson says, however, it won’t be hard finding young, hungry reporters to be cheerleaders for relatively little pay in this economy.

Manchester reportedly bought the paper for $110 million.

In the last several years, layoffs have forced many journalists to leave the U-T to work in public relations. If comments by the paper’s new ownership are to be believed, reporters may be doing PR as part of their job.

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