At the beginning of the last century, the most powerful man in San Diego was E.W. Scripps, a bearded newspaper king who ruled a big chunk of the nation’s journalism and print opinion from the isolated ranch he called Miramar. He and his older half-sister, Ellen Browning Scripps, who with their siblings made vast fortunes in the newspaper business, spread lots of money around the county, establishing what has become the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, among other local institutions. In addition, E.W. bought the San Diego Sun to battle the San Diego Union and Tribune and their owner John D. Spreckels with exposés and editorials ripping the sugar heir over his streetcar and water monopolies. More than a century later, the company E.W. founded is still around. Over the years it has closed down most of its newspapers and now runs an array of cable channels and television stations, including San Diego ABC affiliate KGTV. Scripps descendants in La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe continue to live off the considerable family fortune.
Now comes word that the company has shut down its once-proud Washington, D.C.–based Scripps Howard newswire and replaced it with something called DecodeDC, a recently acquired online operation that started life as a Kickstarter project. The Scripps bureau’s traditional wire business is being transferred to McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, according to a company statement. “Scripps will no longer offer syndication services and will close its wire service at the end of the year,” said a November 13 company news release. Of its successor, Scripps said, “Former National Public Radio reporter Andrea Seabrook founded DecodeDC as a podcast and a website.” Bureau chief Ellen Weiss is quoted as saying, “DecodeDC focuses on Washington’s dysfunction, corruption, and negligence of the issues that affect American citizens every day.” Seven staff positions are being eliminated and ten new ones created, including one for Seabrook, the release added. “They will produce DecodeDC content that will be featured as part of the local Scripps digital brands in 26 television and newspaper markets.”
The final DeCodeDC podcast under independent ownership, along with a brief written farewell by Seabrook, was posted online November 1. Reached this Monday by phone, Seabrook said that her first podcast under Scripps is running this week. As new hires come online, they will produce investigative reports for the news bureau, to be carried by McClatchy, as well as material tailored for individual Scripps-owned broadcast and newspaper outlets, she said. DeCodeDC’s digital efforts are expected to find their way onto the websites of the various links of the Scripps chain. A new national desk is also being set up, Seabrook added. Though Scripps bought KGTV from McGraw-Hill two years ago, the move has brought little apparent change to the San Diego TV station’s news coverage, widely believed to have inspired the Anchorman movie franchise and its principal character, a virtual dead ringer for onetime-KGTV newsman Harold Greene.