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It’s Official: U-T San Diego Is Buying North County Times

Dean Nelson, the director of Point Loma Nazarene University's journalism program, talks to KPBS about the U-T San Diego owner's purchase of The North County Times.

GUESTS:

Doug Manchester, Owner, U-T San Diego

Kent Davy, Editor, North County Times

Dean Nelson, Director, Point Loma Nazarene University's journalism program

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The Owner of the U-T San Diego buys the North County Times.

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Lee Enterprises' Announcement

Lee Enterprises' Announcement

Lee Enterprises' announcement that it well sell The North County Times.

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John Lynch's Letter

John Lynch's Letter

U-T San Diego CEO John Lynch's letter announcing the purchase of The North County Times.

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The owners of U-T San Diego announced today that they are purchasing the North County Times.

The ownership of U-T San Diego announced today the purchase of the North County Times, paving the way for San Diego County's only two major daily newspapers to be owned by the same company.

U-T San Diego CEO John Lynch said the company that owns the 144-year-old U-T has reached an agreement to buy the North County Times and its sister publication in southwest Riverside County, The Californian.

Hotelier and real estate developer Doug "Papa Doug" Manchester teamed up with Lynch to buy U-T San Diego from Beverly Hills-based private equity firm Platinum Equity late last year. The publication's name has been changed -- it was previously The San Diego Union-Tribune -- and a webcast television component has been added.

"We intend to super serve each and every market in which we enter," Manchester said in a statement. "Since San Diego is our home, this is a logical acquisition."

Manchester, speaking on "KPBS Midday Edition," said no final decisions have been made about the eventual form of the North County Times or the future of its employees.

"This has just been announced and we'll not even take over the paper until October," Manchester said. "We're in the process of analyzing all of that and, obviously, we want to in fact have the very best reporting for the North County area, so therefore, we will have the opportunity to retain the very best."

The North County Times' editor, Kent Davy, told KPBS that no one there knows what will happen, so employees are concerned.

"Uncertainty always breeds fear," Davy said, adding that "this is not the worst day in my life."

Dean Nelson, a journalism professor at Point Loma Nazarene University called the purchase a smart business decision and signals a commitment to local journalism. The question is how well that commitment is carried out, given a lack of competition, he said.

"When you have one owner of a very, very dominant voice, you do lose a little accountability for the kind of journalism that could be happening in a community," Nelson said. "I hope that is not what happens, but it is conceivable."

U-T San Diego under the reign of Manchester and Lynch has been criticized for a sharp tilt to the right side of the political spectrum on its editorial pages.

North County Times reporter Brandon Lowrey posted updates to Twitter during a staff meeting with Manchester and Lynch Tuesday afternoon.

Lowrey tweeted Lynch said "he wants all NCT staffers to interview to keep their positions."

"He said he wants to keep all of the 'winners,'" Lowrey wrote. "Interviews will start Monday with UT HR, Lynch says."

Lowrey also said Manchester told staff he would "control editorials in his own way."

"Except he wants us to be 'positive' in writing news, and to write nice stories about business owners, Manchester said," Lowrey wrote.

The North County Times and The Californian have been owned by publicly traded Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises since 2002. The editions have an average daily circulation rate of 75,606 and 80,789 on Sunday for the six months ending March 31, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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