August 17, 2010 front page of
The San Diego Union-Tribune
|Editor||Jeff Light (Editor, Vice President), Mike Hodges (President & COO)|
|Founded||1868 (as The San Diego Union)|
|Headquarters||350 Camino de la Reina
San Diego, California, U.S.
U-T San Diego is a daily newspaper published in San Diego, California. It was renamed in 2012 from The San Diego Union-Tribune, a 1992 merger between San Diego Union and San Diego Evening Tribune. The San Diego Sun merged with the Evening Tribune in 1939. In 2012, the competitor North County Times newspaper was merged into U-T San Diego.
In addition, the San Diego Union purchased the San Diego Daily Bee in 1888, and a for a brief time the combined paper was named the San Diego Union and Daily Bee.
Both the Union and the Tribune were acquired by Copley Press in 1928 and were merged on February 2, 1992. The merged newspaper was sold to the private investment group Platinum Equity of Beverly Hills on March 18, 2009.
In November 2011, Platinum Equity sold the paper to MLIM Holdings, a company led by Doug Manchester, a San Diego real estate developer and "an outspoken supporter of conservative causes." The purchase price was reportedly in excess of $110 million. Manchester built two landmark downtown hotels, the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel and the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina. His group also owns the Grand Del Mar luxury resort in San Diego.
On January 3, 2012, the paper announced that it will now use the name U-T San Diego "on all of our media products and communications"; the paper's website (formerly SignOnSanDiego.com) will now use the name UTSanDiego.com. The official announcement explained the change as being intended to "unify our print and digital products under a single brand with a clear and consistent expectation of quality."
U-T San Diego bought the North County Times in 2012. On October 15, 2012, the North County Times ceased publication and became the U-T North County Times, which was an edition of the U-T with some North County-specific content. Six months later the U-T North County Times name was dropped and the paper became a North County edition of the U-T.
In November 2013 the paper bought eight more local weeklies in the San Diego area, which are continuing publication under their own names.
On August 17, 2010, the Union-Tribune changed its design to improve "clarity, legibility, and ease of use". Changes include being printed on thinner, 100 percent recycled paper, moving the comics to the back of the business section, and abbreviating the title "The San Diego Union-Tribune" on the front page to "U-T San Diego".
Under the Copleys' ownership the paper had a reliably conservative editorial position, endorsing almost exclusively Republicans for elective office, and sometimes refusing to interview or cover Democratic candidates. Under Platinum Equity the paper's editorial position "skewed closer to the middle" and showcased multiple viewpoints.
When Manchester and business partner John Lynch took ownership in 2011, they were open about their desire to use the newspaper to "promote their agenda of downtown development and politically conservative causes", with Lynch stating on KPBS radio that he and Manchester "wanted to be cheerleaders for all that is good in San Diego." Lynch expanded on this position in 2012, saying “We make no apologies. We are doing what a newspaper ought to do, which is to take positions. We are very consistent — pro-conservative, pro-business, pro-military — and we are trying to make a newspaper that gets people excited about this city and its future.”
This open promotion of certain viewpoints has resulted in criticism from journalism professors and other newspaper editors, who worry that negative news about topics such as the military and business might not be covered. Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University, argued, "Now if you're saying we're going to be the cheerleaders of the military, why would you report on this guy that's taking bribes?... Where's the cheerleading there?" a reference to the Union-Tribune's Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal. A New York Times writer added, "There is a growing worry that the falling value and failing business models of many American newspapers could lead to a situation where moneyed interests buy papers and use them to prosecute a political and commercial agenda. That future appears to have arrived in San Diego."
Lynch says, "We totally respect the journalistic integrity of our paper and there is a clear line of demarcation between our editorials and our news. Our editor, Jeff Light, calls the shots." However, in November 2011 Lynch told the sports editor that the sports pages should advocate for a new football stadium; when a longtime sportswriter wrote skeptically about the idea, he was fired.
In January 2012, two months after Manchester bought the U-T, the paper featured a front -page proposal for downtown redevelopment, to include a downtown football stadium and an expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. Both properties are adjacent to hotels that Manchester owns.
In September 2012, Investigative Newsource reporter Brooke Williams obtained articles that claimed Lynch "threatened" Port Commissioner Scott Peters, who was running for Congress, "with a newspaper campaign to dismantle the Unified Port of San Diego." In e-mails obtained by Williams, Lynch was quoted as indicating that if the Dole Food Company obtained a long term contract, that the Port's independence governance would be questioned in editorial coverage. Williams said the effort showed "the extent to which the newspaper's new owners will go to push their vision for a football stadium on the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal,"
During the 2012 mayoral election the owners of the U-T donated to Republican City Council Member Carl DeMaio's campaign, and the newspaper ran several prominent editorials favoring DeMaio. Those endorsements were wrapped around the front section of the newspaper on a separate page, "as though they were even more important" than the front page.
In October 2012, a poll was taken by the U-T asking respondents to choose between DeMaio and Democratic Congressman Bob Filner in the mayoral election to be held in November. A rival news outlet noted that "Employees of a newspaper, television / radio station, marketing / public opinion research company or the city of San Diego—or who live with someone employed in one of those fields" were excluded from the poll results, which showed the Republican leading the Democrat, 46% to 36%. Reporter Kelly Davis of SDCityBeat.com wrote: "Common sense dictates that those votes [by city employees or those living with them] would swing in Filner's favor due to DeMaio's long-running feud with city-employee unions." But U-T assignment editor Michael Smolens replied that "city employees were excluded to avoid political entanglements" in other parts of the ballot as well as in the mayor's race.