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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.