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Tom Blair, longtime columnist in San Diego, has been laid off by the UT. He has told friends by email of the layoff. Blair assisted Neil Morgan at the former Tribune, then moved to become three-dot columnist at the Union. After the merger of the Union and Tribune, he did his column at the Union-Tribune. Toward the end, he also was an anchor at a morning show at KUSI-TV. This annoyed some in Union-Tribune management, and there was a disagreement that has never been fully explained. Blair abruptly left to become editor-in-chief of San Diego Magazine, where he also had a three-dot column. Then recently, he moved to the Union-Tribune, now named the UT. The reasons for the layoff have not been explained. Blair appeared frequently on radio and TV.

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Comments

Visduh April 26, 2012 @ 3:55 p.m.

Surprising, but nothing should surprise us when we are looking at the UT. Blair had a following of readers and usually a paper will keep those columnists through tough times and through some disagreements. But this guy had just recently come back from all those years editing San Diego Magazine. I wonder what he will do next. Are there any real opportunities for him now?

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Don Bauder April 26, 2012 @ 7:48 p.m.

Tom must be in his 60s now. He has done radio and TV and is telegenic. I think he could retire if he wanted to, but my guess is that he will pursue something else in the media. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell April 26, 2012 @ 7:10 p.m.

I hate to see Blair leave. They should get rid of Bell. Her column is awful.

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Don Bauder April 26, 2012 @ 10:29 p.m.

Blair has flair. Bell is a poor writer and the content is terribly puffy. But readers may want that. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston April 27, 2012 @ 1:35 a.m.

I have heard that last week, Blair was told that he column was going to be cut back to a once a week thing, with an occasional 2nd column, emphasis on occasional. Apparently that didn't go over too well. Supposedly though, he and Jeff Light have been talking for a couple of days and there is a chance he may go back, albeit with a lesser amount of weekly columns than before. I believe Blair graduated from SDSU in 1971, so that would make him somewhere around 64/65 or so?

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Visduh April 27, 2012 @ 7:48 a.m.

Yep, just a young guy at mid-career.

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Don Bauder April 27, 2012 @ 9:19 a.m.

I do think Tom is in his 60s, perhaps mid-60s. If the UT wanted him out, it could have said he was retiring, if Tom went along with such verbiage. (He may not have if he has intentions of remaining in the media, and I suspect he does.) I wonder if the UT under Manchester will handle this matter as abysmally as the U-T under Copley bungled the firing of Neil Morgan. I think it is possible that Tom and the UT will work something out, but Tom did tell friends he had been laid off. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 27, 2012 @ 9:10 a.m.

The story that Blair's column was to be cut back severely has been stated on another blog, Rostra. I don't know when it appeared; it was sent to me this morning. If the rumor was making the rounds last week, I missed it. I first heard of it yesterday afternoon, confirmed it, and then posted it. It is possible that Tom told friends via email that he has been laid off, but the UT editor is having second thoughts. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 27, 2012 @ 1:59 p.m.

BLAIR CONFIRMS: HE GOT THE AX MONDAY. I spoke with Tom Blair today (April 27). "I was fired on Monday without a lot of explanation," he says. He was told "The Tom Blair Era at the UT is over," he says. "I left the next day." Blair refuses to talk about it, but I personally suspect that the order came down from the top. Through the years, Blair has written a number of items about new majority owner Papa Doug Manchester, and not all were flattering. My guess is that Tom began to get a bit nervous the day Papa Doug announced he was buying the paper, although Tom won't confirm that. Blair already has several media-related offers. He is hearing from many San Diegans: "I am getting a great response; wonderful things have been sent to me," he says.

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gekko April 27, 2012 @ 8:19 p.m.

Don,

I'm sure the new ownership didn't like Blair. With John Lynch as second in command the UT seems to be beefing up the sports section. They now have three sports columnists. I'm sure this is due to Lynch being a sports guy. The next guy out could be Sports Editor Jay Posner, who in the past wrote many articles critical of the sports talk shows and their hosts. Remember that John Lynch owned one of the sports stations. Posner is a good sportswriter, but his past feud with the sports stations could end up costing him his job, like Tom Blair.

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aardvark April 27, 2012 @ 8:35 p.m.

Lynch is beefing up the sports section? I hope that might be true at some point, but I haven't seen that evidence as of yet. I hope he does a better job with Dougie's U-T than he did with his radio stations.

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Don Bauder May 1, 2012 @ 9:33 a.m.

Yes, Lynch has a very spotty record with radio stations. As to beefing up the sports section: it would help if the Padres would beef up the team. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 28, 2012 @ 8:46 a.m.

Yes, the big emphasis is on sports. Lynch announced when taking over that the UT's coverage of sports would be biased; anybody covering the Chargers stadium issue would have to lead cheers for it, and denounce those against it. You will notice that sports stories are constantly on page one. This is the mentality you can expect. I think you are right on Posner: he wrote a good column on sports media and bruised some people. He should be job-hunting. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 April 29, 2012 @ 6:24 p.m.

You will notice that sports stories are constantly on page one. This is the mentality you can expect.

Remember Poppa Manchester ran that HUGE op-ed piece on the stadium expansion downtown on PAGE ONE back in January??? Have never seen anything like that in a major daily in my life.

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Don Bauder May 1, 2012 @ 9:43 a.m.

Well, the U-T under Copley had very biased coverage of both the football stadium remake and the new ballpark. A couple of examples: the grand jury report on all the ballpark risks, which finally came out the day before the vote, was chopped up and buried by U-T. At another point, a study by some sports consultant (always biased for owners) was splashed on page one on a critical day. Reporters covering these matters would check with Herb Klein, editor of Copley Newspapers, who was the chief flack and lobbyist for both deals. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 27, 2012 @ 8:29 p.m.

These columnists develop a following as do some comic strips and other features. More than a few subscribers continue to shell out for the few features or personalities they value. Mess with them, and the subscribers leave, and NEVER RETURN. What to Dougie and Johnnie not grasp in that? The days when a paper could keep its male readers on the strength or lack thereof of the sports section are gone. Trash talk radio fills that niche--to the brim. A paper now needs reader loyalty like never before. So, howcom the UT keeps getting rid of the popular features?

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SurfPuppy619 April 27, 2012 @ 9:56 p.m.

These columnists develop a following as do some comic strips and other features. More than a few subscribers continue to shell out for the few features or personalities they value. Mess with them, and the subscribers leave, and NEVER RETURN.

I agree 100%, but the dorks running business these days only look for the next weeks profit, not the long haul and building, or maintaining, a business.

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Don Bauder April 28, 2012 @ 8:52 a.m.

So true, SurfPup. The fact that corporate America and Wall Street cannot think beyond the next quarter is one factor ruining capitalism. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 28, 2012 @ 8:50 a.m.

Yours are perceptive comments. I believe that the firing of Tom Blair, a very popular columnist, reflected the personal bias of at least one person at the top. There have been other changes that clearly reflect such predilections. This will be reflected in the paper's numbers -- and longevity -- at some point. Best, Don Bauder

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gekko April 28, 2012 @ 6:25 p.m.

Don,

Blair's column was average. Diane Bell's columns are the worst thing in the paper. Logan Jenkins' column is a waste of space. At least they are not paid as much as Burl Stiff was. Posner must not be sleeping well at nights. Supposedly, Lee Hacksaw Hamilton had something to do with the firing of former tv radio sportwriter Fritz Quindt. Posner obviously did not pay attention.

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Don Bauder April 28, 2012 @ 9:45 p.m.

I agree that Bell's columns are bad. If I were a high school journalism teacher and she turned her columns into me, I would give her an F. Hers are poorly written, prolix and disjointed, with almost no substance. But Blair's writing has snap. So does Logan Jenkins's writing. Ditto Posner's. I agree that Posner should worry. Best, Don Bauder

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gekko April 29, 2012 @ 9:26 a.m.

Don,

Did Tom Blair's original departure from the UT have something to do with the appointment of Karin Winner?

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Don Bauder April 29, 2012 @ 10:25 a.m.

No. My understanding -- without Blair's confirmation -- is that when then-Editor Gerald Warren found out that Tom was one of the anchors on the KUSI-TV morning show, he considered it a conflict of interest. Of course, it was not. Had Copley management been intelligent, it would have encouraged writers to appear as often as possible in broadcast media. Warren went to La Jolla and got top management's agreement. I don't know whether Tom quit the U-T immediately over that decision, but I am quite sure he was very unhappy. Quickly, he became editor of San Diego Magazine and left the U-T. Diane Bell was eventually named to replace him; she was a good friend of Winner's. Incidentally, I was also on that KUSI-TV show for a brief while, although I only made a 3-minute appearance about 3 times a week. I left because I was also doing the evening show on KUSI, and those gigs, combined with 10 hours at the U-T, were a strain on my health. My cardiologist essentially told me that if I continued I would be dead. The point is that if it was a conflict of interest for Tom, it would have been for me, too, even though I had a small role in the show. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh April 30, 2012 @ 7:56 a.m.

I disagree that Logan Jenkins column is lacking value. Here in No County, about the only other news source we have is the NCT. In many ways it does a better job than the UT here, as it should, but it has its weaknesses. Jenkins has revealed some major issues over the years. Does he pull his punches? Does he tone it down to keep from making people into outright enemies? I'd have to say so. But most columnists have to do a certain amount of that to survive. He writes pretty darned well, and he should, possessing a PhD in English.

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Don Bauder April 30, 2012 @ 8:42 a.m.

I think Logan Jenkins writes a very good column. Yes, he tones it down. But I believe that comes from pressure from the top. The management of the company -- Copley, Platinum Equity, Manchester -- has always preferred dull and puffy writing, particularly when the subject is the local establishment. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell April 29, 2012 @ 8:56 p.m.

When Karin Winner fired Neil Morgan, she told him "it was time to cut the chain." After Neil hired attorney Milt Silverman to represent him, it was time to cut the check.

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Don Bauder April 30, 2012 @ 6:34 a.m.

That is what happened. Morgan's firing was handled abysmally. He got a hair of the dog -- a big one in the money he walked off with. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell April 29, 2012 @ 8:57 p.m.

Blair disclosed in his April 1st column that San Diego was the sugar daddy capital of the world. Blair’s revelation must have roiled polite society and caused an uproar that has yet to subside. The sugar daddy column may have humiliated Papa because he dates young women so he castrated Blair from the U-T payroll. Papa Doug is not a man to be trifled with. His enmity is not to be taken lightly. This is all speculation nobody knows for sure

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Don Bauder April 30, 2012 @ 6:37 a.m.

I didn't see that April 1 sugar daddy column so I can't comment. Blair didn't mention it to me when we talked. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 30, 2012 @ 12:12 p.m.

Thanks for sending. I doubt strongly that this column had anything to do with Blair's firing, despite the predilections of the new owner. I think past columns specifically critical of Manchester may have doomed him. Best, Don Bauder

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tomjohnston April 30, 2012 @ 4:39 p.m.

Yeah, I doubt it also. It's a pretty benign, if not downright mundane piece.

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