Mercy Baron 9:30 p.m., July 29
Watchdog Institute Puzzles Union-Tribune Staffers
On Friday, June 26, U-T editor Karin Winner sent an enigmatic message to the staff. Her very close friend Lorie Hearn, who heads the investigative team (and was formerly the number two person on the staff), is leaving to form the Watchdog Institute. It plans to raise money from local donors and local and national foundations. Its investigative output will go into the U-T, and Hearn's four-person team will work with U-T staffers. Hearn is negotiating to have the institute affiliated with San Diego State's journalism program. I can't imagine SDSU has money to throw into the pot, but it could be a filter for money from elsewhere. Hearn leaves July 24. She calls Watchdog "a work in progress." It is not yet listed on the Internal Revenue Service or California Secretary of State websites. Staffers wonder whether this is a creative way for the new owner, Platinum Equity, to pare the payroll. It might be a tax maneuver for certain donors.