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The publication Nieman Journalism Lab, in a Ken Doctor article published yesterday (April 2), says that Southern California could be the epicenter of big changes in the newspaper industry.

One reason, says Doctor, is that "In San Diego, word on the business street, now rebounding among a number of daily publishers around the country, is that the ownership of the San Diego Union-Tribune, now renamed U-T San Diego, wants out. That's right: Rumor has it that flamboyant owner Papa Doug Manchester ... wants to sell. His sometimes [chief executive officer] John Lynch has been assigned the task of finding a buyer, that rumor says. Lynch has previously talked publicly about wanting to buy more papers."

When another executive was named to handle day-to-day leadership at the U-T, Lynch, while retaining the chief executive title, was said to be working on an acquisition. That could have been taken two ways — and was by some people.

Given the excitement and uncertainty at the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register, and some other papers, Southern California could be the big news in the news business, says Doctor.

(Full disclosure: I was one of the persons interviewed by Doctor and said it was possible that Manchester wants to sell. I have said that before on my blog.)

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Comments

JustWondering April 3, 2014 @ 11:38 a.m.

While I realize it's a mere pittance to "Papa" Doug...why did he build his car museum at 350 just recently, going through all the extra hassles when he was busted by the city, just to dispose of it a year later? More eccentric as he ages, or just another sign of a fellow who wants to called Papa Doug?

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Don Bauder April 3, 2014 @ 12:08 p.m.

JustWondering: The car museum experience is a puzzle. Much of what Manchester does is a puzzle. It is age? He's always been that way, I understand.

In my judgment, there are very good reasons Manchester might want to sell the U-T: the losses, the face he is losing around town as he is being laughed at, etc. But there are reasons he might be trying to expand by acquisition: a desire to build an empire of assets that can be bought cheaply, for example. Best, Don Bauder

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Matt101 April 3, 2014 @ 4:12 p.m.

I agree, it's possible that he's going to sell, but who knows. There are old Manchester stories about things he's bought and then sold shortly thereafter. When you have that kind of money, anything you might lose on the "churn" from buying and selling is, as JustWondering says, a mere pittance.

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Don Bauder April 3, 2014 @ 5:56 p.m.

Matt101: Ah, the enigmatic Papa Doug. There are rational reasons why he would want to sell the U-T (if he can find a buyer) and put the whole humiliating experience behind him. But there are reasons why he may push ahead, trying to expand in the business. There was once a rumor that Koch brothers money was behind him in his efforts to buy papers. If true, that could be the deal maker. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 April 3, 2014 @ 2:44 p.m.

Don, do we have any people like Ben Franklin around today to restore American Democracy for We The People instead of the Oligarchy/Plutocracy that SCOTUS sold us out to?

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Don Bauder April 3, 2014 @ 2:54 p.m.

Anon92107: There is no longer any doubt: the U.S. is a plutocracy. I had thought Citizens United was the worst SCOTUS decision ever, but this one tops it. We not only have a plutocracy, which makes certain that the superrich run the country, but a plutonomy, or an economy run for and by the rich. As the saying is, "A rising tide lifts all yachts." It should be the new motto of SCOTUS. Best, Don Bauder

None

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Anon92107 April 3, 2014 @ 3:30 p.m.

In other words, the American Dream for freedom, equality and opportunities for all is dead thanks to SCOTUS and the congressional republicans who have overthrown American Democracy.

Nothing has really changed since oligarchs in Ancient Greece kept overthrowing the first democracies, we still fail to find a better way to avoid self-destruction of the human race in spite of sacrifices by millions of heroes and patriots who gave their lives for America.

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Don Bauder April 3, 2014 @ 3:50 p.m.

Anon92107: Look around the world and see how many countries are run by oligarchies. And then look at history: same pattern. The U.S. was run by Robber Barons in the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century -- some would say for longer than that.

Upheavals around the world, including in the U.S., led to a lengthy (but volatile) period when certain oligarchies lost power. Today in the U.S., modern-day Robber Barons (corporations, Wall Street, the upper 1%) have the Supreme Court majority, much of Congress, many state legislatures, and much of the media in their pockets.

This will inexorably lead to another upheaval, but I don't see it coming soon. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 3, 2014 @ 6 p.m.

U-T EDITORIAL APPLAUDS COURT'S DECISION. Hardly surprisingly, the U-T's editorial page yesterday (April 2) lauded the Supreme Court's decision. The headline: "Supreme Court rightly says yes to more free speech."

That's what Papa Doug like about owning a newspaper. He has a bullhorn to blurt his extreme right-wing views. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 6, 2014 @ 1:02 p.m.

The Mill also had an editorial in full support of Stuck in the Rough and its plans to turn the Escondido Country Club golf course into nothing but tract homes and condos. The piece spoke of the owner's "right" to redevelop the property because it was no longer a profitable golf course. Sounded just like certain backcountry landowners here who proclaim that if property is "theirs" they have an absolute right to do whatever they want with it. Whether or not you think this Escondido controversy has the city in the right or wrong, the homeowners right or wrong, or Stuck right or wrong, that editorial sounded as if it was written by a 9th grader. Ever since Plymouth Rock there have been land use regulations in this nation, and in many areas they are absolute. Some areas are forever reserved to remain natural and undeveloped, and that's that. But the editorial board at the Mill doesn't know that? What about the folks who bought and built homes on that course because of the views and open space guarantees? The land use planning that went into the development? It was all a package deal in the 60's. If Dougie had HIS home on that course, his tune would be much different methinks.

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Don Bauder April 6, 2014 @ 6:20 p.m.

Visduh: I didn't see that editorial, but it is consistent with U-T opinion these days. This goes back to the Manchester/Lynch ukase that the paper would be a cheerleader for business, the military, and a subsidized football stadium. The editorial positions the paper takes are quite predictable, and the writing is, as you point out, often of high school quality. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 3, 2014 @ 8:10 p.m.

danfogel: Yes, that is a good article. For the court to claim that money doesn't sway votes is frighteningly disingenuous. Everyone in the majority in that dreadful decision knows that money has been swaying votes for a couple of centuries in the U.S. Best, Don Bauder

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mdtp333 April 4, 2014 @ 10:20 p.m.

Manchester purchased the UT not because he was some visionary looking to invest and provide quality journalism to the people of San Diego. He was more interested in the real estate that came with the company. The real estate/buildings that were acquired from the previous owner were and are more valuable than the paper itself. I'm sure that the acquisitions of the smaller dailies included some nice real estate as well. Using the papers as a mouth piece for his views and to promote his agenda was a by-product (or the cherry on top) to his interest in the real estate. Manchester also had proposal to develop/re-develop the Mission Valley property that the UT sits on. Not sure what happened to that proposal, but there were renderings of what the finished product would look like. It included apartments, business space among other things. As much damage as Manchester has done to the UT and journalism in San Diego, better hope that the Koch brothers don't make a run for it or the OC Register and LA Times- That would effectively kill quality journalism in America.

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Don Bauder April 5, 2014 @ 8:52 a.m.

mdtp333: I think Manchester had two motivations in buying the Union-Tribune: 1. Getting that real estate; 2. Having a propaganda vehicle to lead cheers for his downtown projects.

He was never interested in providing quality journalism, and doesn't really know what it is. When he and Lynch initially announced that the paper would be a cheerleader for business, the military, and a subsidized downtown football stadium, they were saying that the paper would be a propaganda rag.

He has already taken out entitlements to get ready to profit from the real estate. The market isn't right yet for that. Best, Don Bauder

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rshimizu12 April 6, 2014 @ 7:34 p.m.

I think it's odd that Manchester would sell the UT after only 2 years and making acquisitions of newspapers the past year or so. My only guess is that he is hoping sell UT and retain the land. The UT's circulation has continued to drop so perhaps he figures it's time to cut his losses and sell. The other factor to consider is that Manchester has not put much resources into the paper other than UTTV which is now a online web channel broadcast only.

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Don Bauder April 7, 2014 @ 12:24 p.m.

rshimizu12: Manchester selling the U-T is not a fait accompli. It is being discussed in various places, including the U-T newsroom. Those who think it might happen believe he is tired of the circulation and monetary losses, and the derision over the quality decline of the paper. He took a big financial hit on U-T TV.

The rumors escalated when it was announced that John Lynch would not be running the paper day to day. It was announced he would be working on an acquisition. But people wondered: an acquisition of another newspaper or an acquisition of the U-T? Either scenario is possible. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 8, 2014 @ 8:05 a.m.

If Dougo wanted anything like quality journalism, and a professionally-managed newspaper, he would NOT have put Lynch in charge. That guy has a stinky reputation around town that goes back decades. Taking Lynch out of the chain of command was a good move, regardless of the motivation.

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Don Bauder April 8, 2014 @ 10:19 a.m.

Visduh: Staff members were certainly happy when Lynch was no longer the day-to-day boss. Lynch's career in broadcasting has been pockmarked. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 8, 2014 @ 5:26 p.m.

Did you say "pockmarked" or "pockmarked at best." I'd vote the latter.

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Don Bauder April 8, 2014 @ 5:31 p.m.

Visduh: I concede that your description is closer to verisimilitude than mine. Best, Don Bauder

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