Bob Kittle: ‘I have no interest in returning to the U-T’

Tony ManolatosTony Manolatos 9 Comments

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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?
“Of course. Rostra is part of the new media that are giving voice to people who had few opportunities to air their views before the Internet age. To paraphrase Mao, let a thousand voices be heard.”


  • 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.”

Lose Yourself


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:



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Tony Manolatos is a communications strategist. You can follow him on Twitter or LinkedInYou can hear Tony talk politics and media with KOGO’s LaDona Harvey every Friday at 3:50 p.m. on AM 600 and FM 95.7.

Comments 9

  1. Well, we heard Bob Kittle talk about us … We heard ol’ Bob put us down … We hope Bob Kittle will remember … The UT don’t need him ’round anyhow.

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  3. Tony, while I will eventually go to some of the mayoral debates, I decided not to attend or watch this one. For now, I’m content to follow the various media accounts. And the drinking game scared me 😉

    The major new element in the race is Manchester and Lynch’s purchase of UT San Diego, and that effect will take some time to clarify. Who will they support? Here’s how I see it shaping up.

    I predict the UT/Manchester/Lynch will endorse Fletcher because he’s more accommodating on the proposed Chargers stadium, their top priority at present.

    DeMaio has firmly ruled out a city subsidy for the project, while Fletcher appears to have left the door open. And Fletcher’s 2010 vote to lift the redevelopment agency cap, even though the RAs have since been abolished, indicates he has no objection to using public money for the project.

    DeMaio’s labor union foes are playing up his history of support by Manchester, whom they also disdain.. However, the disagreement over the stadium proposal could be a deal-breaker for any DeMaio endorsement. If he wants the UT’s backing, DeMaio will have to cave.

    Ironically, the labor unions would love a new Chargers stadium just as much as Manchester — they’re interested in the union jobs the construction could create. So there’s the making of a grand compromise — the unions get their jobs and the plutocrats get the Chargers stadium. The only losers are the taxpayers. At least that’s been the history, but San Diego’s bleak fiscal shape means the game may not work this time.

    Speaking of unions, Bob Filner will be under pressure to support a Chargers stadium if the unions get their jobs. Watch the statements of Filner and DeMaio to see if they start to “evolve” on this issue.

  4. Kittle says “Manchester and Lynch have a big challenge in restoring a respected editorial page.” He flatters himself. There are outlets which are widely respected whether or not one agrees with them. Kittle’s ed page was never that, and it never really tried to be. It just didn’t have that much interest in challenging itself.

    To remind us, Kittle says “Manchester paid much more for the paper than it was worth as a purely business proposition” then incuriously concludes “This greatly increases pressure on the paper to generate healthy profits.”

    Sort of. If the UT greases skids for a Manchester development deal once every five years or so, that more than makes up for any weakness it might have “as a purely business proposition”. I think that’s the business model Manchester has in mind.

    Unrelatedly, B. Fikes provides reasonable speculation why the UT might endorse Fletcher. I’d add one more reason.

    Fletcher, DeMaio, and Dumanis are each acceptable enough to Manchester/Lynch. Manchester has business ambitions beyond San Diego, meanwhile. If he’s to establish a relationship with a San Diego mayor, why not one who has political prospects beyond that position? Can you see DeMaio or Dumanis succeeding on the state or national stage? No, me neither. Point: Fletcher.

  5. RE: Manchester and Kittle…these two have never been the best of friends and are not on each other’s Christmas card list. Kittle has no interest in returning to the UT, and Manchester has no interest in Kittle returning to the UT.

    RE: Manchester and mayoral candidates…Pete Wilson and Doug go back a long way…that can only help Nathan.

  6. Bob Kittle did a marvelous job moderating the Mayoral Debate for Fairbanks Republican Women yesterday…the oversold room had an opportunity to see cear contrasts between the 3 Republican candidates, because of Bob’s guidance….
    …if were placing bets, I predict UT will endorse Carl because of pension reform….

  7. Don’t make that bet, Linda. Kittle is NOT the U-T.

    And the U-T’s clearly stated primary interest is “visions” for downtown San Diego — massive spending at taxpayer expense. See today’s U-T FRONT page, as well as the opinion section. All else — INCLUDING pension reform — is of secondary importance to Manchester et al.

    DeMaio is probably the least friendly candidate to this giveaway, with Bob FILNER in second place on this issue.

    MY bet is that the U-T will endorse Fletcher, or perhaps Dumanis — firm allies of the San Diego Downtown Business Subsidy Association.

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