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Copley once had a pristine balance sheet, because Helen Copley and her selected board members had an aversion to debt. The younger management was contemptuous of this prudence and finally persuaded her to take on debt to buy Ohio and Illinois papers beginning in the mid-1990s. It sold those papers to GateHouse last year, but the ailing chain did not assume Copley debt. Copley claimed it sold the papers because of tax obligations from the death of Helen Copley, although many insiders doubt that explanation. The question is whether Copley paid off its debt after it sold the papers to GateHouse. The company did not respond to a query.

In a speech on June 2, Singleton said that 19 of the 50 largest U.S. newspapers are losing money, and the number will grow. Some experts predict that a couple of dailies will fail within two years; some will cut out certain of their editions, such as Mondays and Tuesdays. The companies have to shell out money to service debt while revenues decline but must spend money to be competitive online. To slash expenses, there have been massive industrywide layoffs. Employees who had nothing to do with the dubious decision-making are left holding the bag, and their heads are inside that bag.

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Don Bauder July 4, 2008 @ 8:44 a.m.

Response to post #13: Craigslist has walloped newspapers, including the U-T. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 July 3, 2008 @ 2:51 a.m.

Response to post #6:

RE your comment: "Some say that optimists believe that this is the best of all possible worlds. Pessimists fear that's so."

Yup, no one really cares anymore, and even you appear to have given up on any kind of an optimistic future for your readers.

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Don Bauder July 3, 2008 @ 6:58 a.m.

Response to post #8: Nope. I haven't given up on optimistic futures. I do believe the United States is in for a long period of sub-par economic performance. But economics isn't everything. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 July 2, 2008 @ 12:23 p.m.

It’s no wonder, our Fourth Estate is now Newspapers, TV and Internet, and today all these “news” sources thrive on tabloid journalism so much that people don’t even bother thinking about how to make the right things happen to stop themselves from continuing to go over the cliff anymore.

With tabloid journalism demanded by the infamous Murdoch who is the world emperor of slime news, Zell of L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune and David Copley print news in America has crashed and burned to the point where it is now threatening American Democracy.

As a sidebar, this all ties in with the failure of our education systems throughout America (Ex: U-T “School’s out (of cash) Budget --- cuts force districts to cancel summer classes” this morning). Corrupt federal, state and local politicians, both republican and democrat are guilty of this threat to American Democracy and the American family.

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Don Bauder July 2, 2008 @ 12:28 p.m.

Response to post #1: I read the Wall Street Journal every day and I don't see much change since Murdoch took over. The publication still chases private sector crooks; I feared he would soft-pedal that emphasis. The Journal still gives bad news as well as good news; that's critical. Murdoch said that the Fox TV business news channel would emphasize positive news, so I have never watched it, and never will. I want balanced news -- good and bad. I think some of the Internet websites are good. Best, Don Bauder

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JohnnyVegas July 2, 2008 @ 12:34 p.m.

Don, did GateHouse pay all cash ($382 Million) for the Copley papers? Or was it a stock swap????

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Anon92107 July 2, 2008 @ 12:50 p.m.

Response to post #2:

Actually, after the hideous 24/7 tabloid news coverage by Fox, MSNBC and CNN during the primaries this year I don't watch any of them anymore.

Yes, The Reader is one of the best of the best, but you are also one of the few to go after corruption and greed that is destroying the social, political and economic fabric of San Diego, but the saddest news is that it appears that NORC prevails. Almost all the news is for entertainment, not for thinking anymore, another testimony to the failure of our education system destroyed by the corrupt U-T political establishment.

So I translate your comment: "One reason for optimism is that the pessimists are wrong half the time, just as the optimists are" to mean there is nothing to be optimistic about anymore.

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Don Bauder July 2, 2008 @ 3:21 p.m.

Response to post #3: The terms were never announced, but I have it on the q.t. that Copley got cash. Gatehouse was so leveraged that it didn't have the cash, but Fortress, the big hedge fund/private equity group forwarded the money. It controls a big chunk of Gatehouse. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 2, 2008 @ 3:22 p.m.

Response to post #4: Some say that optimists believe that this is the best of all possible worlds. Pessimists fear that's so. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams July 2, 2008 @ 8:39 p.m.

Don,

In this story and others, you've used the term "kinky" to describe various deals.

I'm familiar with the standard definitions:

(from dictionary.com)

  1. full of kinks; closely twisted: a kinky wire.
  2. (of hair) closely or tightly curled.
  3. Slang. marked by unconventional sexual preferences or behavior, as fetishism, sadomasochism, or the like.

Are, for example, the ballpork bands partiucularly kinky, since they put our youngsters in debt-bondage? Did John Moores (only hypothetically speaking here) dress up in leather and latex to convince the City Council to give him our money? Was Jack McGrory there in his facial-mask, prince albert piercings, and cuffs, led around in chains by Susan Golding smirking in an ill-fitting dominatrix costume?

Is that kinky business?

Perhaps it's just dull, full-bellied balding men in business suits conspiring over filet mignon at Mortons while robbing us blind.

Don, are you the author of this term in the business reporting world? Do you think we can propogate it and see it appear in a national financial broadcast before the election? It's so versatile when it comes to describing our national business climate.

Do you tell your friends at parties that you write about the ongoings at kinky businesses?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Best,

Fred

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Don Bauder July 3, 2008 @ 6:56 a.m.

Response to post #7: I'm not used to having my words parsed so thoroughly. When I use "kinky" for a business deal, I am usually referring to a basic business fraud: a deal, concealed in contrived complexity, marked by massive debt, in which somebody is screwing the others, and perhaps also the public (pro sports stadiiums). Zell's Tribune deal is clearly kinky. Best, Don Bauder

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JohnnyVegas July 3, 2008 @ 12:32 p.m.

When I use "kinky" for a business deal, I am usually referring to a basic business fraud: a deal, concealed in contrived complexity, marked by massive debt, in which somebody is screwing the others, and perhaps also the public (pro sports stadiiums).

Believe it or not, this "kinky" business fraud is what started the financial downfall of the US in the late 70's and thru the 80's with "junk bonds" and their money backers-deregulated savings and loans.

The premise of junk bonds was simple-credit worthy companies with bad credit but good assets and balance sheet, but the real world application of buying ANY company with assets and a strong balance sheet through LEVEAGE (100% borrowed money) of taxpayer backed savings and loan "bonds".

We can thank that idiot Michael Milken for a large portion of the downfall of America-and to think that guy only did 2 years of a 10 year sentence.........Thank federal judge Kimba Woods for that sham.

When you look at it, the hedge funds and private equity firms of today are doing today pretty much the exact same thing Milken was doing 25 years ago........

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Don Bauder July 4, 2008 @ 8:30 a.m.

Response to post #11: Milken started with a big lie: he proclaimed that a portfolio of junk bonds does as well over time as a portfolio of investment grade bonds. That has never been true. But greed overcame reason. Today, governments, corporations, and individuals are living a similar lie on debt: the assumption is that leverage is good -- the more the merrier. Another such fraudulent misconception is the idea that deliberately complex derivatives -- again, contrived complexity -- do not have to be regulated. Admittedly, regulation would be incompetent, but it would be better than today's laissez faire, which could destroy us. Best, Don Bauder

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Ponzi July 3, 2008 @ 4:49 p.m.

The freefall that the San Diego Union Tribune has been in lately is very evident. This last Sunday's classified section for jobs was less than 3 pages. The news stories are gussied up reprints of local press releases or just copies off the AP or Reuters service. There are no more good investigative stories.

It's as if the paper is just dying before our eyes. Then they raise the news rack price to 75 cents? I guess they really want to stick it to people having breakfast alone, because that's the only people picking up the paper. It's not for job hunters... there's no jobs in the paper anymore (at least that paper).

Today the big metro story is about a candy store in Boulevard that "might close." Glad I'm being kept abreast of the market.

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JohnnyVegas July 3, 2008 @ 8:41 p.m.

The daily papers should refocus with online content and advertising.....it is the future, and at this point in time everyone knows it.

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Don Bauder July 4, 2008 @ 8:42 a.m.

Response to post #12: There are many reasons for the U-T's collapse. The main ones are affecting other metro dailies: demographics (the young don't read) and technology (too late with too little news). The U-T has made other localized errors, such as not keeping up with changing demographics in San Diego, failing to improve the online edition, permitting hate-sated editorial writers and reporters to smear Mike Aguirre endlessly, permitting reporters to slant the news constantly on anything Donna Frye says, on the stadium giveaways, etc. Constant cozying up to the real estate development industry and its puppets in local government hurts credibility. Burl Stiff's laudatory columns on David Copley's profligate ways hardly help when the paper is raising its price and lowering its quality, paring its payroll, and fighting former employees' attempts to get unemployment compensation. I am afraid that only new management will save that company, but I am also afraid that there are few potential buyers out there. Best, Don Bauder

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Dannyboy July 4, 2008 @ 11:57 a.m.

Hey lets buy that paper and call the new one "Page 17". Because that is where most newspapers put the news if at all. Only this one will put the entertainment on page 17. Any takers? lol

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Don Bauder July 4, 2008 @ 1:39 p.m.

Response to post #17: I don't know what the U-T would cost. Valuations of papers have been dropping very sharply for several years. Remember when David Copley was considered a billionaire and was in the Forbes 400? That was several years ago. I remember writing a column that his ranking would disappear. It did -- the next year. Would the U-T cost $200 million? $500 million? There are many variables. There is excellent real estate in La Jolla. The Mission Valley building wouldn't be worth quite so much if the buyer chose not to use the presses (say, would have the paper printed elsewhere). Profits are down very, very sharply now but this company made a lot of money in years past. If that money hasn't been dissipated, there should be good reserves. The company has dumped its losers such as Casa del Zorro and the Illinois/Ohio papers, which were losing money modestly when they were sold last year. Best, Don Bauder

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HellcatCopley July 9, 2008 @ 3:45 p.m.

Speaking of the Olympics, remember four years ago when newsdoll Karin Winner decided to blow a buncha bucks to send reporters to Australia? Everyone in the UT (except la Winner and the lucky few travelers) were shaking their heads. It was well understood the organization that this was a unvarnished junket and would do zero to boost the paper's circulation and prestige. Speaking of a lack of prestige, around the same time, head page designer Robert York subbed for Winner at one of the quarterly management round-ups. When asked why the UT did not get a Pulitzer nod for its coverage of the local fires York screeched (yes, screeched) "Because the Pulitzer judges got it WRONG!" I think the clown honestly thought the room would erupt in wild cheers, hilarity and foot stomping. Instead the group responded with a sad and unsurprised silence.

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Don Bauder July 9, 2008 @ 5:16 p.m.

Response to post #19: If the Olympics profligacy was four years ago, I was gone by then. I do remember, however, that the U-T published rush-rush Olympics street editions at least once during my 30-year tenure there. I have been told on good authority that they wound up in the garbage. There wasn't much of a market. The Olympics are suitable for electronic media, but not ink and paper. The Olympics deserve coverage in a newspaper, of course, but shouldn't be an economic drain. As to the quarterly meetings, I used to go to the first half hour and get some of the statistics. Then I would get out of there. I was too busy to spend half a day on those silly gatherings. Best, Don Bauder

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Scoop July 9, 2008 @ 10:52 p.m.

It's a sad state of affairs for journalism in America. While we are fortunate to have some electronic choices that provide thorough, balanced reporting, they cannot replace the value of newspapers in this country. I am young and I still need the tactile connection and cannot imagine the loss of full-scale, in-depth articles.

As for the Union-Tribune, aside from the changes in news appetites, changing demographics and recession-plagued advertisers, the editorial bent of the paper might be toward the top of the list of maladies.

Losing the LA Times San Diego edition, a good competitor to the Union-Tribune (possibly keeping it more honest, or rather balanced), may well have contributed to what appears to be the Union-Tribune's slow, agonizing death. Without a competitor, the newspaper became drunk with abusive power and has lost so much credibility that I decided to cancel my long-term subscripition for a better option...the LA Times, which now has a better mix of Southland news and far better California, national and world coverage.

There are many fine reporters still at the Union-Tribune, but the editorial culture is a cancer that has not only affected the editorial pages, but the news department, which by standards of sound journalism, should be separate.

The eighth largest City in America without a major daily? I hope to never see that day. Let's hope for a strong buyer to come in and make some sweeping changes (starting with Bob Kittle) and deliver a paper worth reading again. Sign me up when that day comes!

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Don Bauder July 10, 2008 @ 6:22 a.m.

Response to post #21: The Union-Tribune's biased editorial/reportorial slant and its economic woes are closely related. The employees are afraid of more job cuts, which are certainly coming. Even though a reporter may be good, and an editor may be good, they want to keep their jobs. And the way to do that is to twist the news to conform to management's and ownership's predilections. Don't ask the tough questions of someone beloved of management (generally, the establishment). Present any negative news with a sugar pill. With someone hated by management, do the reverse: twist everything to the negative. That's how to keep your job. This is why it is so often hard to distinguish the so-called news pages from the editorial pages. Best, Don Bauder

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JohnnyVegas July 10, 2008 @ 11:57 a.m.

Losing the LA Times San Diego edition, a good competitor to the Union-Tribune (possibly keeping it more honest, or rather balanced), may well have contributed to what appears to be the Union-Tribune's slow, agonizing death.

I agree totally, losing the LA Times San Diego office was devestating (especially to me because I am such a big fan of the Times), and the poster is 100% correct, without competition the Union/Tribune did not have the focus it should have, and that lack of focus contributed to the downward spiral.

The internet is of course the biggest factor.

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Don Bauder July 10, 2008 @ 3:23 p.m.

Response to post #23: Actually, when the Union and the Evening Tribune merged in the early 1990s, a competitive spirit went away, worsening the new product, the Union-Tribune. Competition from the LA Times was also a positive for the community and for the SD-based papers. Best, Don Bauder

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