San Diego media baron promotes conservative causes

Oct 21, 2012, 10:46 PM

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) – The new media barons of America’s eighth-largest city are upfront about wanting to use their newspaper to promote their agenda of downtown development and politically conservative causes _ and they are making their points in a brash, bare-knuckle style.

Douglas Manchester and his partner John Lynch gave their 143-year-old newspaper a new slogan _ “The World’s Greatest Country & America’s Finest City” _ ran a front-page editorial that declared their plan to reshape the city’s downtown waterfront their highest priority, and forecast doom if President Barack Obama wins re-election.

Manchester, who became wealthy building hotels during the dawn of San Diego’s downtown renaissance and insists on being called “Papa Doug,” bought The San Diego Union-Tribune last year and its most serious competitor, the North County Times, this month. As he and Lynch eye expansion to Los Angeles and other major cities, they are frank about seeking to use their new platforms to advance their agenda _ and they think they can make a profit while they’re at it.

Lynch calls the editorial viewpoint pro-family, pro-military and pro-America.

“We think our country is on the edge of real, real danger, and you have to stand up, and that was a huge part of why we bought this,” said Lynch, vice chairman and chief executive officer of U-T San Diego, the newspaper’s new name.

The editorial page named Obama the worst U.S. president and predicted a second term will result in “Arab terror states” attacking Israel, “death panels” rationing health care, income tax rates between 60 and 70 percent for many Californians and an attempt to get taxpayers to pay for late-term abortions. It warned of an effort to erase “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency.

Manchester, 70, is likened to a smaller market version of Rupert Murdoch and earlier moguls like William Randolph Hearst and Robert McCormick who used newspapers to wield influence. The unusually strong editorial tone stands out in an era when many newspapers are owned by corporations.

“Hard to believe UT could go further to the right and for the developers but now it is owned by the developers!” Ron Belanger, a 70-year-old retired Navy aviator, wrote on a Facebook page for critics of the new owners called “Bring the L.A. Times back to San Diego.”

“It’s a strong voice for a minority viewpoint in the media,” countered Josef Horowitz, a 67-year-old retired college administrator who renewed his subscription in March, having canceled it under previous owners because he felt the editorials were mealy-mouthed and too liberal.

Lynch said Editor Jeff Light has complete control of news coverage and that neither he nor Manchester, as chairman and publisher, meddle.

“Aside from the activist stance of the owners, I am someone who is scrupulously concerned with fairness,” Light said.

Lynch, a former radio station owner with a linebacker’s build at age 65, speaks bluntly. He recently wrote Scott Peters, a Port of San Diego commissioner and Democratic nominee for Congress, demanding to know his position on a shipping contract to unload bananas that could complicate the publisher’s plans for the downtown waterfront redevelopment. He wanted an exit clause.

“Otherwise this will become a major issue in the campaigns and the UT will be forced to lead a campaign to disband the PORT,” he wrote.

The email correspondence, dated in early August and released after a public records request by KPBS/I-Newsource, came as Peters wages a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray, a Republican endorsed by the newspaper.

In May, Lynch lashed out when the city warned of a fine for hanging a promotional banner outside its offices. He agreed to take it down while seeking approval for a large video screen atop the five-story building.

“If it weren’t for the digital sign pending approval, I would instruct our folks to run a piece on how this is so reflective of this city being anti-business,” Lynch wrote a city councilman’s aide, according to an email published by the San Diego Reader.

Lynch said his missive about the sign was intended as a joke and questions why other news organizations haven’t taken a harder look at the port.

Dean Nelson, director of Point Loma Nazarene University’s journalism program, said he hasn’t seen blatant examples of editorial views seeping into news coverage and is skeptical how much newspaper editorials shape public policy. The question that will be watched most closely in the beleaguered U.S. newspaper industry, he said, is whether the business succeeds.

Tim McGuire, a journalism professor at Arizona State University, said San Diego is at the forefront of what he predicts will be a major trend of wealthy people buying newspapers to feed their egos and push for their agendas.

“People are going to buy and treat newspapers like sports teams,” he said. “It’s a toy, it’s fun to have, and it gives you great power.”

Manchester embraced the “Papa Doug” moniker after a Little League coach used it to distinguish him from a son, also named Doug. “Papa Doug” sold interests in two giant downtown hotels but still has major holdings in San Diego and is pursuing prospects, including a $1.3 billion hotel and office complex on the downtown waterfront.

Lynch said Manchester was unavailable for an interview. The pair are old friends and allies since they led a failed campaign to move San Diego’s airport out of downtown in the 1990s.

Manchester lives lavishly, spending $550,000 on his 65th birthday bash, Elizabeth Manchester said in court filings that ended their 43-year marriage in 2010. She claimed he had $57 million in the bank.

His $125,000 donation to support a 2008 ballot initiative to ban gay marriage in California drew protests _ a decision Lynch says his partner regrets.

“If you’re a Catholic, marriage is between a man and a woman,” Lynch said. “He had no idea there would be these kind of ramifications.”

Manchester invested in San Diego-area resident Dinesh D’Souza’s hit documentary, “2016: Obama’s America,” which portrays a gloomy future if the president is re-elected, according to Lynch.

Manchester bought the U-T from private equity firm Platinum Equity LLC for $110 million and picked up the North County Times from Lee Enterprises Inc. for $12 million. Last week, the Times’ print edition was folded into the U-T.

The U-T has spent $5 million on a television venture with a studio in the middle of the newsroom and 12 hours of daily cable programming that highlights Lynch’s radio background. The Sunday edition features more in-depth reports and military coverage.

Lynch said the privately held U-T is “significantly profitable” but declined to be specific about revenue or earnings. One test comes when the Audit Bureau of Circulations releases semiannual paid circulation figures Oct. 30.

Amid a brutal decline in the newspaper business, Manchester and Lynch hope to extend their San Diego empire to other major U.S. cities, eyeing adjacent markets like Los Angeles.

“We’re trying to do what we can to change the direction of this country,” Lynch said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Associated Press

Key players granted bail in Buffalo Billion corruption case

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge has granted bail to a prominent Buffalo developer and other businessmen serving prison time for a bid-rigging scheme related to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic redevelopment program. U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni signed an order Friday allowing developer Louis Ciminelli and three others to be released […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

DA: Late officer justified in accidental shooting death

ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania prosecutor has ruled that a late police sergeant was justified in using deadly force that resulted in the accidental shooting death of a jail guard during a hostage situation at a county courthouse last fall. Authorities said an inmate had been taken from the Blair County jail to the […]
10 hours ago
Sheletta Brundidg, left, her son Brandon, center, and NASCAR driver Brandon Brown gather Saturday, ...
Associated Press

Boy helps Brown put new spin on ‘Let’s go, Brandon’ chant

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) — Brandon Brown wanted a way to change the narrative behind the “Let’s go, Brandon” message after his first career NASCAR victory inadvertently fostered a chant that has been used to insult President Joe Biden. Brown found that new message thanks to the family of an 8-year-old boy with autism. Brandon […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

$2M bail set for man charged in ambush of Chicago officer

CHICAGO (AP) — Bail has been set at $2 million for a man who prosecutors say shot a Chicago police officer multiple times as the officer stepped off an elevator while responding to a domestic disturbance call. Jalen Vales, 27, of Chicago was charged Saturday with attempted murder and aggravated battery of a police officer […]
10 hours ago
Trout, approximately 12-months old, are checked of size at a trout farm in Seymour, Ind., Wednesday...
Associated Press

Despite potential, Midwestern farms struggle to market fish

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When drastic increases in food costs spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic left Andrew Caplinger struggling to find fresh catfish for his restaurants, he decided to try “an experimental” solution — growing his own. In the coming months, the Indianapolis restaurant chain Caplinger’s Fresh Catch Seafood will begin sourcing its second most popular […]
10 hours ago
Crime scene tape surrounds the area on New York's Upper East Side, Thursday, June 30, 2022, where p...
Associated Press

Stroller-pushing NYC mom’s alleged killer held without bail

NEW YORK (AP) — The ex-boyfriend of a New York City woman who was shot dead as she pushed their infant daughter in a stroller has been ordered jailed without bail, with prosecutors describing the killing as a “premeditated execution.” Isaac Argro, 22, appeared Saturday evening in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of second-degree murder […]
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
San Diego media baron promotes conservative causes