Hall to Lynch: ‘Oh no you didn’t!’

Tony ManolatosTony Manolatos 25 Comments


These are not easy times for the people who remain at The San Diego Union-Tribune.

They know as much as we do about the newspaper’s new ownership, hotelier Doug Manchester and former local radio executive John Lynch, and their plans for a product that is a shell of what it used to be.

The smart money says Manchester is interested in the land more than the paper. He develops hotels – nice ones – and the paper sits in hotel happy Mission Valley just off Hotel Circle.

Clearly, though, the most interesting detail to emerge from last week’s announcement: the plans Lynch said he has for the paper – and the response it drew from one of the paper’s best reporters.


Lynch, who will become the paper’s president and CEO,  told the Voice of San Diego he wanted the paper to be an advocate for a new Chargers stadium “and call out those who don’t as obstructionists.”

That quickly raised eyebrows and even turned a few stomachs. It is risky for a paper – not just an editorial page – to champion a controversial project like a new stadium for the Chargers.

I do respect Lynch for highlighting his bias. Too many papers claim to be unbiased while doing very little to uphold that principle at times. Lynch also said he wanted the paper to be pro-business and reporters to become stars.

The next morning, with criticism on blogs and Twitter starting to pile up, the paper’s primary reporter covering the stadium saga, Matt Hall, weighed in.

“As the journalist in the Union-Tribune newsroom who most covers the Chargers stadium issue and who has had that beat for several years, I invite anyone who has questions or comments about my coverage to let me know what they think,” Hall wrote on this site and again yesterday on the newpaper’s site. “I trust I’ve built up enough of a reputation in San Diego in my dozen-plus years here for readers and residents alike to know that my coverage is fair, full, balanced and unbiased, and that I’m open to criticism, constructive or otherwise. I expect to continue covering Chargers business issues in just such a fashion, as I begin to work for a third owner. To give me feedback, you can call me at 619-293-1335, email me at matthew.hall@uniontrib.com or find me on Twitter @SDuncovered. Thanks for reading this note. And: Onward!”

Lynch had barely made his controversial comments and Hall was saying, “Oh no you didn’t!”

You have to respect Hall. Maybe he will be Lynch’s first star, or maybe this is the beginning of the end for the two.

I worked with Matt during my four years at the Union-Tribune and we have stayed in touch since I left in 2009. He cares about journalism, he works hard every day and he strives to make a difference. He is an old-school shoe leather newsman who also has become one of the most prolific local reporters on Twitter.

“Of all the people I follow on Twitter, I enjoy Matt Hall the most,” someone in San Diego’s political scene recently told me.

I worked at four daily newspapers in three states. No one ever told me to write a story a certain way. Yet it was very clear where the higher-ups stood.

You’re kidding yourself if you think Manchester and Lynch aren’t going to influence most of their reporters directly or indirectly. Lynch’s comments may already influence the way some reporters cover certain stories.

Not so for Hall, evidently. Good for him. I hope it works out.

You can follow Tony Manolatos on Twitter or LinkedIn Click here to view his business profile.


Comments 25

  1. Tony, I concur with your comment about your own experience as a reporter: “No one ever told me to write a story a certain way, Yet it was very clear where the higher-ups stood.”

    You can’t tell me that a reporter who is desperately trying to hold on to his or her job won’t ease off the gas where one of the UT ownership’s sacred cows is concerned. If there’s an obvious story involving criminality by the owners, that’s one thing. If it’s a matter of shading, why piss off the boss unnecessarily?

    When I was a radio talk show producer, I can say without hesitation that I never, ever booked a talk show guest solely because he or she was an advertiser despite our sales execs trying to pressure me to do it.

    However, if I needed a particular type of expert to comment on a topic, I would absolutely offer the opportunity first to an advertiser, as long as they were completely qualified to talk about the topic in a knowledgeable way.

    The influence might be subtle, but it’s there. You don’t have to be compromised ethically as a reporter for your decision making process to be affected.

  2. I’ve worked with literally hundreds of reporters in my 30-plus years as a reporter and editor at some of Southern California’s largest daily newspapers, including 11 years as an assistant metro editor the Union-Tribune. I’ve also had the pleasure to work with Matt Hall. I can tell anyone unequivocally that Matt is one of the finest reporters and writers working in journalism today. His ethics are beyond reproach. More important, he is a genuinely decent human being. The only negative thing I can say about Matt is he’s a damn Celtics fan, but even when the Lakers were making a comeback to win Game 7 of the 2010 Finals against Boston, he refused to talk trash about my Purple and Gold. Any suggestion that Matt Hall might slant the news to please a boss couldn’t be more off base. He’d quit before that would happen.

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    Thanks for comments, Gayle & David!

    Will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will Lynch back down, or will we start seeing Nick Canepa, etc. calling out obstructionists?

    Who would be the first to be called out – the average San Diego taxpayer and Union-Tribune subscriber?

  4. When I launched sandiegonewsroom.org in 2008 it was none other than Matthew T. Hall who immediately jumped to conclusions about my motivation. He posted his in-depth analysis on one of the U-T numerous flops: America’s Finest Blog. Without calling anyone, without reading any articles or editorials on our site, he immediately concluded that SDNR was solely intended to bring about the end of City Attorney Mike Aguirre. Aguirre has never been the subject of one article or editorial on our site–ever. If I’d have wanted to bring down Aguirre I’d have run against him myself. I’ve really heard enough of about Doug Manchester’s motivations for buying the U-T. What were Buzz Woolley’s motivations for DONATING millions of dollars to build the Voice??? Unlike Doug, Buzz will never POSSIBLY see any of that money again. “Objectivity” is an ideal. The only reality is “disclosure.” And here is some disclosure for you: The reason for the Voice, SD Rostra, SDNN and SDNR is the same –the Union-Tribune is a terrible newspaper.

  5. David O.: Beat L.A.! And seriously thanks for your kind words.

    David K.: As I recall, that was not an “in-depth analysis” but rather a simple and short blog post. Don’t recall if or how it involved Aguirre, and this is the first I’ve heard of your criticism. I wish you had let me know the day of the post. If you have a link, please provide it so everyone can read it and see for themselves.

    My recollection is that I felt it important to note for the readers of our political blog that (I forget the timing) the then- or former general counsel for the Republican Party of San Diego had launched a news site with (again, I believe) nary a mention of the position. And our political blog, which was then called All In Favor, was awarded best political blog by the San Diego Press Club two years running, in 2009 and 2010, thanks to Craig Gustafson and I.

  6. Matt, It was not in-depth analysis (my sarcasm). It was premature and dismissive of my efforts to fill the gap in your paper’s news coverage. We have lasted longer than SDNN, and gained all their former media partners. My bias? I took a volunteer legal position formerly filled by other distinguished members of the Bar (partners at Latham and Seltzer Caplan). You didn’t report that I volunteered for Sharon Whitehurst Payne (a Democrat). You never reported that I was chairman of the Regional Water Board–and thus biased to keeping your ocean clean? I’d like to see your other efforts to uncover the political leanings of people in the local News? Did you write about Marti Emerald running for city council while she was reporting news for Channel 10? It was selective and thus reflective of your own bias. This was before twitter. And all my previous efforts to communicate with anyone at the U-T have been fruitless–you reach out only when you want to or need to.

  7. Dave: Thanks for posting the link. Among other things, it shows that I did call you and I did read the site, despite your assertions otherwise. Appreciate your criticism, but I stand by the post. In an election year and during one of the more divisive times in recent city history, the post pointed out a connection that deserved to be made while also making no assumptions about your motivation. If you’d like to talk further about this, give me a call. I’m at 619-293-1335. Cheers.

  8. I read Matt’s item on San Diego Newroom and it looks perfectly fine to me. That a news publisher is an official in a political party is of great interest. It would have been best for David to disclose his partisan role up-front. If a Democratic party official had done the same thing, the GOP would be crying out for coverage.

    In addition, a search of San Diego Newsroom shows 43 articles that mentioned Aguirre, in minor and major roles.

  9. Matt, You didn’t speak to me before posting, nor did you speak to anyone else about our site. You didn’t notice that nothing on our site mentioned Aguirre. You didn’t READ the very non-partisan pieces about state and local government authored by John W. Witt and my own. You picked one simple fact and used it to dismiss SDNR. Your work was sloppy and incomplete.

    Your blog post was simply a defensive reaction to new media, not out of the interest of the city electorate. if you had the city in mind you would have done a better job.

    I have no interest in speaking with you over the phone, but let me know if you’d ever like to meet in person.

  10. I was NOT General Counsel of the party when I launched SDNR. This is something you could have confirmed with telephone calls to the party or to me. But, despite this GLARING ERROR in the one SINGLE FACT YOU SELECTED TO DISCREDIT SDNR, you “stand by” it.

  11. Bradley,

    I was not a GOP official when I launched SDNR. Please help me find the disclosure of the past political activities of founders of any other local or national news organization.

    Can you help me find all the coverage of Marti Emerald’s council candidacy while she was reporting for Chanel 10? When I spoke with a local media member about the absence of any outrage, he was clear–they cover for each other.

    SDNR is new media–perfect target for the old media.


  12. David,

    I read SDNR daily and appreciate the information you provide. That being said, I find your justification that you weren’t CURRENTLY a GOP official when launching SDNR to be somewhat disingenuous. If Michael Steele were to start a media endeavor, wouldn’t it be relevant to know that he was the FORMER Chair of the RNC?

  13. Alger,

    I’ve never tried to hide the fact that I was past officer, albeit not one with any control of the GOP. My beef is with Mr. Hall’s knee jerk dismissal of what I’ve worked hard to create, one lacking sufficient due diligence. I’ve never made a penny bringing news to this town, but I do it because the paper sucks.

    Hearing a U-T reporter, the same one who poo-poo’ed my site without doing any homework, cry out to defend his own “objectivity” is not OK.

    Where is any scrutiny put on the left (in the media) about it’s own political leanings. Go down the list of MAJOR NEWS commentators (Russert, Greenfield, etc.) who have worked in Democrat offices… where is the disclosure?

    Evan McLaughlin wrote for the Voice before going to work for the unions. Not a sound. Marti Emerald’s simultaneous campaign/reporting? Not a peep.

    There is a double-standard when a conservative gets in the media, whether as the owner or otherwise. Papa Doug, the Kinger, the conservative catches flack that the left does NOT.


  14. David, we didn’t need Matt Hall to tell us SDNR was going to grind axes on behalf of the Republican Party. It was quite apparent from the articles themselves.

  15. David,
    If you indeed were not a GOP official when Matt’s story was published, that’s indeed an error that should be corrected. When did you leave that post? And if Matt tried to reach you but you declined to talk with him, you may have contributed to that error.

    Alger is right, however, that the link should still be mentioned, since you had only recently vacated that post. I don’t say this to attack San Diego Newsroom, but because I think that as has been said, transparency is the new objectivity. Let your biases and beliefs be known, and in light of those, people will have more information to judge your journalistic professionalism in what you cover as a journalist.

    Marti Emerald’s actions don’t make yours any better or worse, each should be judged on its own merits. But of course if she was reporting while running for council, that’s a no-no.

    Finally, you haven’t addressed your own incorrect statement about your site never having written about Aguirre.

  16. David,

    This is not a right or left thing. While I admire your work and your site I don’t think Matt Hall is biased one way or the other. I suspect he has to fight for his impartiality every day on the job. He has learned how to deal with it over the years. He reminds me of Phil Lavelle who preceded him and probably taught him a thing or two.

    We all know there are editorial biases in every media organization, and always will be. These biases are probably subtly administered when dealing with a reporter like Hall who has earned his credibility stripes and guards them jealously, as he is doing now with you.

    You are right, there is a lot of what you complain about in this town but I think in this case you are fighting the wrong man. Give him a call.


  17. David, it’s time to move on. You’ve obviously been harboring a lot of deep-seated feelings about this for some time. I’m a conservative Republican and a fan of SD News Room. But, a brief article on the friggin’ UT blog from over three years ago?! Regardless of how you believed you were treated by Hall at the time, why not call and tell him in a timely manner? Nothing gains you more respect and maybe even different treatment in the future than strongly stating your feelings about unfairness when the incident takes place.

  18. Post
  19. Thanks for the positive & negative feedback. It’s true, the less you say, the more you’re heard:

    1. Double-standard?

    2. The Voice? Or any other local news source which has been crucified with continuing allegations of bias the way we have?

    Bradley, our site previously “aggregated” content (fair use summaries) but we didn’t create any original content (articles or editorials) about Aguirre while he was in office. This establishes the premise of Hall’s blog post was incorrect.

    Matt Hall has certainly done better work than his silly post belittling something I built out of inspiration to fill the void of meaningful content left by his paper. And he quoted one inflammatory sentence in a detailed letter to the editor I submitted to the U-T, one which flew over the heads of everyone who works at the U-T.
    I owed him a call? I was probably busy taking calls from my day jobs.

    I moved here in 2001. I have pruned back the breadth of the mayor’s veto power, approved the Carlsbad desalination plant, killed the south bay power plant, added 243 acres to Mission Trails park, overrode 4 local congressmen to build the border sewage plant, cleaned up the bay and, to earn a living, helped hundreds of business create tens of thousands of jobs (including a few jobs in the dying field of journalism at SDNR).

    I’ll keep doing what I do.

  20. Bradley Fikes posted this comment on the CityBeat article (which is linked above from Tony’s last comment)…

    “You incorrectly labeled SD Rostra as a ‘conservative blog’, which it has a vigorous Libertarian contingent, including moi. I and other Rostrafarians have written about the violation of traditional journalistic standards by Lynch. You waited days to write in CityBeat what was said first on Rostra. How about some credit where it’s due?”

  21. Bradley, our site previously “aggregated” content (fair use summaries) but we didn’t create any original content (articles or editorials) about Aguirre while he was in office. This establishes the premise of Hall’s blog post was incorrect.

    False. You published an entire article in October, 2008, (not a “fair use” summary linked elsewhere to the real article), that compared Aguirre to Eliot Spitzer.

    Contrary to what you say, this article was published by SDNR while Aguirre was in office.

    As for your claims of approving projects like the Carlsbad desalination plant, those are nonsense. I cover the Carlsbad project for the North County Times. Numerous state agencies have jurisdiction, and courts have had their say as well. Unless you control all those agencies and the courts, your claim is bogus. The same goes for your other claims.

    Your point about reporters predominantly being left-leaning, and being chummy with and going to work for leftist organizations is valid. I’ve been writing against left-wing journalism bias for years. But when you make easily disprovable and grandiose claims such as those I’ve mentioned here, you lose credibility.

    I certainly want to see more conservative (and Libertarian) news organizations to balance out the left-wing bias, but they need to get their facts right.

  22. Bradley,

    For everyone’s sake I’d like to wind up this debate about my site and my own efforts. If you can’t find my role in the projects and subject matter I identified, you didn’t look very closely. The CDP wouldn’t be under construction today without my participation in one such approval process. Feel free to contact me directly and I can explain my role in each–to my legal limits.

    The point was the enormous degree of SACRIFICE I have made to bring a news site onto the scene, while I engage in other significant matters. I didn’t deserve to be belittled/ dismissed by a reporter/competitor on the day the site was launched. My minimal volunteer efforts at the GOP are the least of my contributions to this region.

    Thanks for the agreement/support about a double-standard. I have not seen any similar treatment of left-leaning news.

    As I build the resources of SDNR, I can devote more time, build our coverage, and maintain the accuracy of our reporting. Happy Thanksgiving.


  23. David: when you’re in a hole, stop digging – unless you intend importing drugs from TJ through that tunnel to nowhere you seem determined to dig for yourself. Happy turkey day.

  24. David,
    I don’t doubt your hard work, but to say that you “approved” the Carlsbad desalination plant ignores the hard work of the many others who labored on this project, such as Bud Lewis.

    If you’re going to be a credible news source, you must be rigorous with your facts. I say this in a constructive spirit — a local conservative news site is a good venture, and badly needed — but it has to put facts first. And its founder should set the example.

    But for now, I’ll get back into the holiday spirit and stop the political-journalism talk,

    There’s a Thanksgiving dinner at the Escondido Salvation Army I’m covering. To you, and to everyone, Happy Thanksgiving!

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