Fans of the movie Citizen Kane will remember the “declaration of principles” read by publisher Charles Foster Kane, played by Orson Welles, to his prep-school buddy, Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten), right after they take over the young Kane’s first newspaper. “I will provide the people of this city with a daily paper that will tell all the news honestly. I will also provide them with a fighting and tireless champion of their rights as citizens and as human beings.” Later in the film, after Leland begins writing a bad review of Kane’s opera-singing wife but passes out drunk over the typewriter, the power-mad Kane completes it as Leland intended, then fires his old friend with a fat severance payment. Leland returns the check, shredded, along with the original statement of principles.
There’s a bit of that same flavor to Union-Tribune editor Jeff Light’s statement of “editorial page principles” for the U-T. “The Union-Tribune will be independent of any political party and will be devoted to a constructive, pragmatic approach to issues,” says the draft, featured on Light’s Facebook page. “We believe that communities and their institutions must live within their means, be honest, transparent and accountable, and embrace the maxim that the noblest motive is the public good.”
That was July 1. On July 12, the U-T ran a distinctly nontransparent story announcing that the paper and its owner, Platinum Equity, operated by Beverly Hills billionaire Tom Gores, had retained New York’s Evercore Partners to “help the company explore alternatives for its future.” The U-T went on to say that “the exploration could range from new acquisitions to partnerships to divestiture. The announcement marks the beginning of the exploratory process, and no decisions about the future have been made.”