Bob Kittle: ‘I have no interest in returning to the U-T’
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Politics & Media Mashup: your weekend news aggregator leads off with an exclusive Q & A with Bob Kittle and includes links to some of the week’s best stories about local, state and national politics as well as social and traditional media.
Most of you are familiar with Bob Kittle, the former editorial page editor at U-T San Diego who was best known for his conservative views and aggressive voice. For years, Kittle was the face of the paper, the architect of its toughest editorials. He was let go in 2009 in a round of layoffs. He ran news operations at KUSI for a year and now is writing a book. You will be shocked to learn he still has a few things to say. In a Rostra exclusive, Kittle weighs in on the new U-T, the Mayor’s race, the Chargers search for a new stadium and more:
- Do you miss the paper? By that, I mean your job as editorial page editor?
“No, I don’t miss the paper. After almost 40 years in journalism, starting as a paid reporter for the student daily at West Virginia University and including a three-year stint as White House correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and 23 years as an editorialist at The San Diego Union-Tribune, I’ve moved on to new challenges.
“I’m writing a book that satisfies my life-long interest in history. The working title is “Franciscan Frontiersmen: How Three Adventurers Charted the West.” This is a work of nonfiction that will chronicle the rugged lives of three friars who accompanied Junipero Serra in colonizing California for Spain. The trio — Juan Crespi, Francisco Garces and Pedro Font — were the intrepid explorers who crossed deserts and hostile Indian territory to carve out a new realm of the Spanish empire in the mid-eighteenth century. All three kept journals of their exhaustive travels in an unknown land, which makes it possible to reconstruct their extraordinarily adventurous lives.”
- Have the U-T’s new owners contacted you about returning? If they did, would you return?
“As I said, I have moved on from daily journalism. I have no interest in returning to the U-T. Nor do I expect Doug Manchester to ask me to come back. Although Manchester and I agreed on some important issues, such as the need to relocate San Diego’s airport to MCAS Miramar, we also disagreed on some fundamental issues. On the editorial page, for example, I supported gay marriage and opposed Manchester’s Navy Broadway project because I think the site should be reserved for a public park, transforming San Diego’s bayfront into the most spectacular urban setting on the West Coast.”
- The U-T’s editorial page used to help set the agenda in and around San Diego. The page softened under the paper’s previous owner, Platinum Equity. What do you think the page will be like under the direction of the new ownership — Doug Manchester and John Lynch?
“The editorial page turned to mush under Platinum-Equity, and the influence the page once exerted was squandered. Manchester and Lynch have a big challenge in restoring a respected editorial page. In many ways, what happens on the editorial page will be the test of whether Manchester uses the paper for the benefit of San Diego or whether he uses it for the benefit of his own personal interests. Although much of the San Diego establishment has already concluded that Manchester’s ownership of the paper is a disaster, I’m willing to wait and see what he does before passing judgment.”
- Where do you think the paper is headed – up, down, same?
“Manchester paid much more for the paper than it was worth as a purely business proposition. This greatly increases pressure on the paper to generate healthy profits. Sorry to say, I don’t think the U-T can do that over the long term amid the general decline of the newspaper industry. The fundamental problem is that advertisers are increasingly spending their dollars on electronic media and targeted vehicles rather than on newspapers. That’s not going to change.”
- Manchester and Lynch have made some questionable decisions since buying the paper. What have they done that you have liked? What haven’t you liked?
“I’ll comment on only one thing: The paper is no longer The San Diego Union-Tribune, but rather the U-T San Diego. You can’t find the words “Union-Tribune” in the paper anymore. When Jeff Gatewood came to San Diego from the Gold Rush country in 1868 and founded the newspaper, he named it “The San Diego Union” to emphasize his support for the Union cause in the Civil War, which was still fresh in people’s minds. This bit of San Diego’s history is lost when the newspaper’s name is trivialized to “U-T San Diego.” Making matters worse, some readers have started calling the paper “the UT” (rhymes with mutt). Can you imagine the Wall Street Journal scrapping its venerable name and changing it to the W-S-J New York?”
- Did you agree with the decision by executive editor Jeff Light to close comments on Manchester’s Christmas Day column? Why or why not?
“It’s dismaying any time an editor compromises sound journalistic standards to placate a volatile publisher. It is never good when a newspaper tries to stifle its critics.”
- Do you read San Diego Rostra?
- What two candidates get out of June’s mayoral primary in San Diego?
“Making predictions about an election that is six months away is a fool’s game. But my instincts tell me that Carl DeMaio and Bob Filner will emerge for the November run-off. DeMaio will finish ahead of the two other Republicans, Bonnie Dumanis and Nathan Fletcher, because DeMaio is the champion of the pension reform measure that will be on the same June ballot. Filner makes the run-off simply by virtue of being the only prominent Democrat in the race. But please don’t bet the rent money that I’m going to be proven right.”
- Who do yo think will be San Diego’s next mayor?
“Carl DeMaio, principally because he is the undisputed hawk on pension reform, and San Diego voters are more than eager to put an end to the bloated pensions at City Hall. But, again, don’t bet the rent money.”
- What will the City Council look like after November?
“Without going into specific races, there is a real chance that Republicans will win a majority on the City Council for the first time in decades. This would give tremendous impetus to the drive to cut pension costs, outsource some city services to save taxpayers money and get San Diego’s fiscal house in order without raising taxes.”
- Who has impressed you on the City Council? Why?
“Democrat Tony Young and Republican Kevin Faulconer are among the best City Council members San Diego has had in the last quarter century. Both are intelligent, pragmatic, hard-working and committed to improving San Diego. I hope they remain in elective politics for a long time to come. San Diego needs them.”
- Will the Chargers stay or go? Will there be a new stadium built for the team in San Diego?
“Gov. Brown’s successful assault on redevelopment agencies makes it almost impossible to build a new stadium for the Chargers. Period. End of issue.”
- Who makes it out of the GOP presidential primary?
“Despite all of the political pundits declaring that the results in Iowa were “inconclusive,” I think Romney now has a clear path to the nomination.”
- Does he beat Obama? Why?
“Americans have to be given a reason to reject an incumbent president. So, President Obama goes into the race with a decided advantage. But if the Republican contender, whether it’s Romney or someone else, can persuade voters that he can get the economy moving again, then Obama becomes a one-termer. The jobless recovery is the potential reason voters need to reject Obama.”
Darren Pudgil, Mayor Jerry Sanders Communications Director, convinced the Mayor and his top aides to introduce Sanders at his final State of the City to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, a semi-autobiographical song the Detroit rapper wrote about overcoming adversity. Brilliant idea! So this video dedication goes out to Darren:
Some of the week’s best stories about politics and media: