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What Do Paris Hilton and 944 Have in Common?

Ten San Diego print publications reviewed on Yelp.com, listed by number of reviews:

  1. San Diego Reader: 35 reviews, 2.5 stars. Comments: “I don’t really read it, but they have the best ads in town.” “Who has the time to read a 50 page feature?” “Generally blows past page 20 or so.”
  2. San Diego Union-Tribune: 19 reviews, 2 stars. Comments: “Decent paper for being from a larger city.” “REALLY right-winged.” “10 bucks a month ain’t too bad.” “My eye has no idea where to land.” “We get it solely for the Sports page.”
  3. San Diego CityBeat: 15 reviews, 4.5 stars. Comments: “This is what the Reader used to be.” “The editors have balls.” “The least annoying free paper.” “I missed the old days of SLAMM.”
  4. 944: 15 reviews, 2 stars. Comments: “Don’t compare 944 to a magazine and don’t compare Paris Hilton to a woman. But if you get in either one I bet you’d brag about it.”
  5. San Diego Magazine: 6 reviews, 2 stars. Comments: “Another thing I learned from this intrepid literary digest is that it’s HARD out there for an upper-class white dude.”
  6. Revolt in Style: 5 reviews, 1 star. Comments: “The first incarnation of this magazine was pretty cool…sad they were allowed to use the same name.” “XTREME SPORTS, HOT BABES, MMA, RAP-REGGAE-ROCK, BOOBIES!”
  7. Riviera Magazine: 4 reviews, 2.5 stars. Comments: “The photography is so artistic and creative.” “It is designed to reinforce the falsehood that money buys happiness…anyone can lease a Jaguar.”
  8. San Diego Social: 3 reviews, 4 stars. Comments: “Pretty solid design.” “Spelling issues aside, the writing for the most part is unreadable.… [However,] Robin Hatfield is a legitimate writer.”
  9. Espresso, San Diego’s Coffeehouse & Café Newspaper: 1 review, 5 stars. Comments: “The early-American, old school coffeehouse broadsheet style is fun. And the paper is immensely readable. At times…gives you important stories.”
  10. Pacific Magazine: 1 review, 3 stars. Comments: “It’s like Revolt…aimed at those living in Bird Rock or Crown Point. It’s PB’s answer to 944.”

— Matthew Lickona

We Manage News Good!

San Diego News Network (SDNN), an online news presenter, started in March of 2009. Founder Ron James got financial backing from venture capitalists Neil Senturia and his wife Barbara Bry, but James was quickly ousted (with a fat settlement). Within two months, Senturia had declared that the staff would be shrunk to two unless investors came aboard. Philanthropist Gary Jacobs plunked in money that grew to $1 million. Another philanthropist put in $750,000. Work resumed.

In the fall of last year, Senturia raised eyebrows by claiming the company had exceeded expectations and would expand to 40 markets. He raised $3.18 million. There were three outlets: in San Diego, Orange County, and southwest Riverside County. Orange closed down after only four months. Staffers smelled trouble: reporter Margo Schwab started at SDNN in the spring of 2009 at $25 a column but didn’t get her first check until December.

On May 18 of this year, Bry told potential advertisers that SDNN would put out a La Jolla/Del Mar print publication with the L.A. Times. The first edition for May 21 was 89 percent sold out, she boasted. Management touted a new beginning. But on May 28, Senturia suspended all agreements with freelancers, who provided the bulk of the copy, and asserted, “SDNN is in discussions with potential buyers.” The site is still up, shoveling out wire copy and backlogged stringer pieces, for the most part. It’s questionable how long the online site and print edition can hang on and if there are meaningful negotiations with potential buyers.

— Don Bauder

Medal Detectors

According to Lauren Reynolds of the Channel 10 News I-Team, wearing an unearned military medal is “a disgrace.” Perhaps she didn’t mean to editorialize, but in reporting on a local man, Thom Tullis of Solana Beach, who’s accused of posing as a retired Air Force colonel, Reynolds parroted the words of a local Army veteran, Matt Shillingburg. It seems that Shillingburg and other ex-military types are incensed that anyone might dare to display bogus medals and ribbons. Reynolds reported that Shillingburg (a retired Army captain), along with another local vet, retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert Elridge, met Tullis while making the rounds of what Reynolds terms San Diego’s “social elite.” (“Social elite” presumably means men and women with copious sums of money.) Tullis’s new acquaintances, however, are peeved — perhaps embarrassed — to find that Tullis’s brass may be more than a little tarnished. The purported poseur — shown smiling in a tuxedo in a photograph in 10’s online story of May 20–21 — has incurred the wrath of not only Shillingburg but also Mary Schantag, who maintains a website that lists the names of 3700 people she says are “frauds and impersonators.”

Channel 10 reported that self-appointed medal-tester Schantag, under the aegis of a group called the POW Network, operates an online compendium, the “Wall of Shame,” which has “exposed thousands of phony heroes.” Schantag, said Channel 10, used the Freedom of Information Act to net Tullis’s discharge papers, which allegedly show that Tullis — rather than the recipient of the Air Force’s highest honor, the Air Force Cross — was a lowly sergeant who worked in supply and had acquired no honors whatsoever.

To their credit, however, Reynolds and Channel 10 did go to considerable lengths to reach Tullis for his account of the matter, which he transmitted by email. Tullis’s explanation — derided by Schantag as well as the possibly duped partygoers — was that the accusations were, in his words, “part of a vendetta” against him, launched presumably by an unnamed Rancho Santa Fe real estate agent whom Tullis had accused of fraud. And the story also quoted Tullis, who claimed that his service records were classified, when he spoke of hunting Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora and hangin’ with Ollie North in Nicaragua. Whether or not Tullis’s dossier is filled with genuine, high-quality brass, the local FBI shop states that under a recently enacted statute — the Stolen Valor Act — those who pose in military mufti or likewise flash ersatz medals could go straight from Fantasyland to the slammer.

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