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Following a disappointing 2013, John Lynch, chief executive officer of the Union-Tribune, has lost management of day-to-day operations at the Union-Tribune. Mike Hodges, president and chief operating officer, will take on these duties, he said in a memo to employees today (February 6). "Beginning today, Papa Doug has assigned our vice chairman and CEO, John Lynch, to focus on our [mergers and acquisitions] and bringing these deals to fruition. Papa Doug has assigned me to run our day-to-day operations. Starting today, all divisions with U-T San Diego will report up through me."

Then came the confession, which many observers of the company suspected: "While we had a strong year in a number of areas, we did not meet our financial goals in 2013," admitted Hodges. "Accordingly there will be a restructure of our senior management team. Details will be forthcoming." Some employees are concerned that the topside shakeup will lead to some downside slashes.

Then Hodges listed a number of initiatives, as the accompanying memo notes:

Team-
I want to share some important information about our company with you.

Throughout 2014, we plan to continue to expand our media portfolio in San Diego and beyond. Beginning today, Papa Doug has assigned our Vice Chairman and CEO, John Lynch, to focus on our M&A work and bringing these deals to fruition.

Papa Doug has assigned me to run our day to day operations. Starting today, all divisions within U-T San Diego will report up through me.

While we had a strong year in a number of areas, we did not meet our financial goals in 2013. Accordingly, there will be a restructure in our senior management team. Details will be forthcoming.

A LOOK AHEAD
In 2014, we will continue to enhance our multi-media products and services, while upholding the highest standards of journalistic quality and integrity. We have a game plan I am confident will continue to help us grow and diversify our business. Some of the key new initiatives are as follows:

  • - U-T Certified Real Estate – A unique program matching real estate and mortgage professionals with our subscribers
  • - Partnership marketing with local major brands - Sony, SDGE, eset, Harrah’s, etc.
  • - Launch of U-T Digital Services – Offering advertisers one stop shopping for all digital products
  • - A major marketing campaign to reinforce our U-T brand and grow our audience
  • - Growth and expansion of our U-T Community Press

These are just a few of the many initiatives the company will take on this year.

One of the major themes from the most recent employee survey revolved around your desire to be better informed as to company happenings. Our ownership and management team is committed to better communication and making sure everyone who works here understands our vision, strategy, opportunities and challenges. We will be organizing a series of town halls starting in Q1.

I look forward to introducing all of you to changes that are important to me in how we operate, work together and most importantly succeed. We work for the top media company in San Diego and we should all be very proud. Let our expertise, integrity, enthusiasm and hard work carry us to ultimate success in 2014.
Mike

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Comments

Anon92107 Feb. 7, 2014 @ 3:42 a.m.

More proof that U-T tabloid journalism is not working. And Hodges' subservience to a tyrant who anoints himself "Papa" Doug is just as bad a joke as Breen's deranged rant cartoons. They keep proving that they are an insult to the intelligence of San Diegans, but their voter recommendations do give us a list of recommendations to vote against. They never learn that you can't insult all the people all the time.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 6:27 a.m.

Anon92107: Right from the get-go, Manchester/Lynch told the San Diego audience that the paper would not be credible. First, they instructed reporters to be cheerleaders for business and the military. Then, Lynch declared that anybody writing about a Chargers stadium must be in favor of it. This was the same as saying: "We are a propaganda rag. Don't look for the truth here."

Then came the embarrassingly puerile front page editorials, the slanting of news copy in favor of DeMaio, the one-sided coverage of Filner, in which the paper was obviously manipulated by Goldsmith. And on and on. The paper got, and continues to get, what it deserves. Best, Don Bauder

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anniej Feb. 7, 2014 @ 3:49 a.m.

Perhaps another concern Mr. Hodges might have addressed is the need to return to factual news, without the political bias. REAL NEWS, that matters!!!!!!!!, not regurgitation of the same old political banter.

We San Diegans like to make up our own minds, and are intelligent enough to do so!

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 6:34 a.m.

anniej: Good point. During the Copley reign, in which I worked, the paper had a Republican slant, massaged Pete Wilson, hyped Nixon, protected the La Jolla/Rancho Santa Fe Beautiful People, etc. But that was when Republicans overwhelmingly dominated the county. That is no longer true: the city is now Democrat and the county split 50-50.

The Tea Party line is not going over in San Diego, particularly when it is presented in such an amateur way. The paper never seems to consider the demographic changes that have taken place in San Diego County. Best, Don Bauder

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Matt101 Feb. 10, 2014 @ 4:20 p.m.

They're not going to abandon the far-right slant of the U-T. Hodges is replacing Lynch for business reasons only, because under Lynch the U-T is losing more money than even someone as wealthy as Papa Doug is willing to lose.

Hodges' job is to slow the financial bleeding, not to change the ideological approach.

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Don Bauder Feb. 10, 2014 @ 9:14 p.m.

Matt101: But eliminating the Tea Party bias, the puerile editorials, the front page editorials, the touting of such people as Dinesh D'Souza COULD help circulation and therefore both the top and bottom lines. In short, good, honest journalism could help that paper financially. However, the owner's purpose is to propagandize for his downtown development plans...even after, possibly, he kills the print edition and goes wholly or mainly online. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill Feb. 7, 2014 @ 7:28 a.m.

The "Papa" moniker cracks me up. Who in the world has other people (other than his kids) call him "papa"? Maybe it's OK for a pizza chain mogul but for an business mogul "Papa" sounds like a mob name or a batman villain or a vicious Haitian dictator.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 9:34 a.m.

ImJustABill: It was Doug Manchester himself who several years ago insisted on being called Papa Doug. Supposedly, the rationale was to set him apart from his son, but he could have insisted the son be called Doug Jr. The groom in the wedding in late December was Papa Doug Manchester. Sounds a little gauche. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill Feb. 7, 2014 @ 1:52 p.m.

"Papa" almost seems like a semi-official title - I guess maybe we have a "Strong Papa" form of government?

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 3:06 p.m.

ImJustABill: Astute observation. From now on, all items distributed by city government will be on Paparus.

"Ooompa. Oompa. Oompapa. My Pa's better than your Papa."

It saddens me, because Papageno in Mozart's Magic Flute is one of the most delightful characters in all opera. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill Feb. 7, 2014 @ 6:15 p.m.

Sorry, I know about as much about opera as you know about movies, hehe.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 7:23 p.m.

ImJustABill: I have a dream. Papa Doug Manchester attended a Magic Flute. The only thing Papageno has wanted in life is a spouse so that the two can raise many children. Toward the end, Papageno discovers that spouse-to-be, named Papagena.

Papageno sings "Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Papagena!" Papagena sings, "Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Papageno!"

And that, folks, is how Douglas Manchester made the decision to call himself Papa Doug. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill Feb. 7, 2014 @ 10:35 p.m.

As long as he doesn't want everyone to sing "Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa Doug".

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Don Bauder Feb. 8, 2014 @ 6:52 a.m.

ImJustABill: Why? Can't you sing? (Neither can I.) Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Feb. 7, 2014 @ 8:55 a.m.

So the employees want to be better informed of company happenings, huh? That's true just about everywhere. Few organizations really deliver in that area, because when the planning is done the planners think they need to keep their intentions under wrap, at least for a time. But usually the time never comes, and the changes come out of the blue to smack the employees. That of course keeps rumormongers going strong, and keeps even well-run operations in a state of turmoil.

Oh, they always pledge better communication, and for a while you see it, as long as it involves only inconsequential things. But when the big moves are plotted, secrecy is again the order of the day. For me, the result is than whenever I hear of "improved communications" or "transparency" (that term is a bete noir for me) I just tune it out or conclude that things will get worse. Hodges may be sincere, but he's not talking for Dougie.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 9:39 a.m.

Visduh: You are right on every count. Publicly held corporations almost always say in their annual reports that their employees are their most important assets. Then they send all their jobs overseas and do everything possible to squash the labor unions.

As I have said many times, corporations actually did cater to several constituencies in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s: employees, communities, vendors, shareholders. Beginning in the 1980s, shareholders became the only constituency....especially the inside shareholders. This is at the heart of capitalism's slow self-destruction. Best, Don Bauder

2

arky Feb. 8, 2014 @ 9:51 a.m.

Don, I plea again for you to renounce your citizenship! Go find a socialist paradise and live a happy life. Quit being the hypocrite who enjoys all the positives of a free market capitalist society, yet lives to bad mouth.

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Don Bauder Feb. 8, 2014 @ 12:50 p.m.

arky: I have no interest in being a socialist. It has already been proved that socialism doesn't work. I just think capitalism is destroying itself. It is being overrun by its own greed. And for that, I am sad. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell Feb. 7, 2014 @ 9:56 a.m.

The odds are against the paper's recovery. About the only advertiser left from 30 or 40 years ago is Big 5 Sports, which continues to run multi-page ads. The porno movie houses used to place large ads in the paper but they were put out of business by video. Tire dealers used to take out huge ads in the sports section every week. Tire advertising is now on-line. Banks used to take out large ads advertising CD rates. That business disappeared. The Thrifty Ads are gone, replaced by Craigslist. The used car ads are gone, replaced by Craigslist. Most of the Department Stores that purchased huge ads each week have gone out of business. The grocery store chains are being squeezed by Walmart and cut back on advertising. I just don't see any hope for the paper. The paper could not make a profit even if all the employees worked for free.

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 11:05 a.m.

Burwell: I don't get to see the print edition, but I skim the online edition every day. I will take your word for it that the U-T has lost all those categories of advertising. I was there from 1973 to 2003 and I always thought the ad salespersons took the advertising for granted. They thought it was a right -- a privilege -- the company had. Initially, the U-T laughed off Craigslist as an invention by some young kid in a garage. Much of this should have been foreseen.

On the editorial side, the company was not aware that young people were not reading, and also unaware of the damage that the Internet would do.

It's worth retelling a story I have told before. In the late 1980s or early 1990s, I wrote a column about publicly held newspapers, and how they had a problem: research showed that young people were not reading. Copley was not mentioned because it was not publicly held. The general manager blew his stack and wrote to Helen and David Copley, screaming that the TV and radio stations would use my column to sell advertising. He went on to say that I was anti-Copley, anti-business, etc. If he had had any brains -- and he didn't -- he would have come to me and asked to see that Wall Street research, and taken it to heart. It was management like that which led to the Copley demise. It's probably even worse now. Best, Don Bauder

1

Matt101 Feb. 10, 2014 @ 4:18 p.m.

A friend who still works at a major newspaper (not the U-T) would agree with your assessment of ad sales at her paper. The big papers used to act as if the businesses who advertised should be honored to be associated with the newspaper.

0

Don Bauder Feb. 10, 2014 @ 9:19 p.m.

Matt101: Since metro daily newspapers began to crater about eight years ago, one would think this arrogance would be evanescing by now. Best, Don Bauder

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ayeis Feb. 11, 2014 @ 11:06 a.m.

Question: why then would the "general manager" blow his stack if they saw things only as an honor? Why would they even care about TV or radio? Just so you know most print advertising in all forms, including this product, is less than what it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. Radio and TV have the same problems with DVR, 100s of channels, Pandora,.Iheart, etc. The answer is digital and a friend who works at the UT tells me they have over 3.2 million unique users a month on their U-T sandiego website. Highest of all local media and third to only Google and Yahoo. Sounds like they have a good plan for the future while still taking care of the baby boomers with disposable income, ready to buy and who are still reading the paper, at least for the next 20 years.

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Don Bauder Feb. 11, 2014 @ 3:15 p.m.

ayeis: If the U-T has such a good plan, why does it admit that its results are disappointing, and blame general economic conditions and problems in the newspaper business? And why does it cut out the 401(k) match and farm its chief executive out to work on mergers and acquisitions, appointing another executive to handle day-to-day supervision? Records show circulation is doing poorly. Tell us more about this great plan. Best, Don Bauder

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ayeis Feb. 13, 2014 @ 10:52 a.m.

So you think moving from print to digital is going to happen without issues from a major print product? One year of "disappointing results" would be a blessing given the 360 degrees that their company needs to take. My friend told me that the new executive in charge has a huge digital backround and not radio as the others, so that makes a lot of sense. Again my point is that they seem to be moving in another direction and it takes time and management is going to do what it must to get it done. I also heard from my friend, my source, that when they had the Equity Company they cut salaries up to 19% while things were changing and then made it up when goals were reached. Circulation has been falling for years, readership is still over 600K a day according to Scarborough, the nationwide monitor, and that is what really matters.. Perhaps you should research those facts. Does the Reader have the same eyeballs as 10, 20, 30 years ago, it certainly is a lot smaller, and what happened to all those black "Employment" product boxes they had across the county? Again, not sure why you don't understand the plan I have been informed of...GO TO DIGITAL and with 3.2 million UNIQUE USERS the inital progress seems to be working according to my friend whom I trust to give me the facts and really knows more than people who get open letters sent to them.

0

lucasoconnor Feb. 7, 2014 @ 10:07 a.m.

Sounds like selling subscriber information to third parties is central to the new plan. That should do wonders for circulation.

1

Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 11:07 a.m.

lucasoconnor: I suspect that but can't verify it. Certainly, just about everybody else is selling customer information. Best, Don Bauder

0

Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 12:02 p.m.

Response to Facebook comment by David Lundin: Yes, that statement about journalistic integrity is a rib-tickler. Sadly, Mike Hodges is instructing the news reporters to continue doing what they are doing. It's a death wish. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 12:04 p.m.

Response to Facebook comment by Bruce Cunningham: You are right. Hodges is a marketing guy. It's not surprising that his initiatives are in that direction. As you say, the U-T should focus on journalism. It won't. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 12:07 p.m.

Response to Facebook comment by Stephen Green: Correct: the emphasis on sports was a shrewd move -- one that could be expected from Lynch, who spent most of his career in sports radio. Similarly, the added emphasis on social media platforms was a good move. Sadly, those positives were offset by the unreliability of the journalistic product. Best, Don Bauder

0

Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 12:11 p.m.

Response to Facebook comment by Gustav Goetsch: Editorially, the U-T has never been far left, or even remotely near it. I don't know what newspaper you were reading. Your statement, however, tells me that you stand to the far, far right. That is your privilege, of course. You now have more company in Congress than you once did. Best, Don Bauder

2

Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 7:32 p.m.

Response to Facebook comment by Chris Brewster: Yes, the U-T would benefit from a moderate approach to political and social issues. I can't see it happening under current ownership. Best, Don Bauder

1

aardvark Feb. 7, 2014 @ 3:22 p.m.

Don: Yet the coverage in the sports pages is getting worse, not better. Of course, the entire paper is worse, not better.

0

Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 4:44 p.m.

aardvark: I skim the U-T online edition every day but spend very little time on sports.

Certainly, the loss of Tim Sullivan hurt the sports page. He was a scholar's sportswriter -- and no doubt still is, but, sadly in Louisville, Kentucky. He was fired because he wrote intelligently about subsidized stadiums. He didn't really oppose them, but told both sides of the issue. Upon arrival, Lynch said that anybody writing about a Chargers stadium had to lead cheers for it. Sullivan was doomed -- fired for being intelligent. Best, Don Bauder

1

HellcatCopley Feb. 7, 2014 @ 12:05 p.m.

The UT made some efforts at employee communication under the Copley regime. There were quarterly Managers’ Dialog meetings offsite, where managers with direct reports were updated as to developments in the company. The managers were expected to report down what news came from it – though whether this happened regularly is open to debate.

In theory, managers were free to pepper the higher ups with tough questions, and cards were distributed to ask anonymously. But for the most part the discussions were civil and subdued. The paper was making scads of money and no one was seriously questioning whether that would continue. The circulation and advertising departments were at least held accountable to quantifiable information, while editor Karin Winner would delight the audiences with slideshows of front pages that they presumably had already seen. On one memorable occasion, a newbie supervisor had the temerity to ask Winner what the newsroom could have done better in the previous quarter. A North County editor sitting at my table exclaimed, ashen faced, “But then we’d have to admit when we’ve missed stories!”

0

Don Bauder Feb. 7, 2014 @ 12:19 p.m.

HellcatCopley: Yes, those regular meetings were one of several reforms initiated by Human Resources head Bobbi Espinosa (I'm not sure I spelled either her first or last name correctly.) I only stayed for the first half hour of those meetings because I was busy. I just wanted to get the basic numbers. I remember being disappointed because the numbers were only compared with the company's goal. We didn't get the raw numbers as compared with previous years, at least in the things I was interested in.

I vividly remember one survey of non-top level management. We were asked if we felt the newspaper had good top management. Not a single person said yes. So the score was zero -- nada. At the meeting to discuss the results, we were all red-faced, and so, too, were the top editors. Best, Don Bauder

1

Don Bauder Feb. 8, 2014 @ 7:02 a.m.

Response to Facebook comment by Connie Gargrave Swanson: On the national level, Republicans are also split between the moderates and the Tea Partiers. The U-T is chasing the wrong market by aiming for the Tea Partiers in San Diego. This is one of the reasons for the disappointing year the company had in 2013, and probably in earlier years. The employees get punished by the ending of the 401(k) match. Best, Don Bauder

1

HellcatCopley Feb. 8, 2014 @ 7:37 a.m.

Don, Tea Partiers ... moderates ... or Daily Worker. At the end of the day it doesn't matter because the UT and its website are dull reads. When newspapers dominated the field, it could afford to be bland, but the internet demands that papers evolve or die. It's probably too late for the fossilized UT to resurrect itself into anything like interesting. There is nothing there you can't find anywhere else.

There's a parallel between Papa and Helen Copley: parvenu socialites trying to peddle the paper to the tasteful tastes of their La Jolla idols, while the tasteless bulk of the city continues to be bored by the whole thing.

1

Don Bauder Feb. 8, 2014 @ 1:08 p.m.

HellcatCopley: Very interesting analysis. I do know that readers, noting the absence of a copy desk, catch the multiple grammatical errors. So that, at least, can be interesting.

Actually, I am not sure that the current Tea Party U-T appeals all that much to the La Jolla Beautiful People. Yes, many are arch-conservative. But are they THAT conservative? Did they nod in agreement when G.W. Bush was named one of history's best presidents while Obama was one of the worst? Or did they chuckle?

Even the BPs might prefer a paper that is held in high esteem, whatever its politics, to one that is a joke. Best, Don Bauder

1

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