Doug Manchester plans to hang on to the U-T's Mission Valley headquarters
  • Doug Manchester plans to hang on to the U-T's Mission Valley headquarters
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Both the U-T and the Los Angeles Times announced today that they are joining forces. The Times' parent, Tribune Publishing, will pay $85 million for the U-T. This does not include the U-T's Mission Valley headquarters.

Real estate magnate Doug Manchester bought the U-T for a reported $110 million in 2011 and purchased the North County Times later for $12 million, later adding a group of San Diego County weeklies. He then got entitlements so he could develop land on the U-T site.

Manchester bought the paper from Beverly Hills–based Platinum Equity, which paid the longtime owners, the Copley family, around $50 million for it, but then pumped more capital into it.

(Matt Potter, who alerted me to this story, and I have used the $50 million figure. NiemanLab, which reports on the media, uses $35 million for the price Platinum paid Copley. A onetime Copley top executive has told me that $50 million is too low.)

Tribune Publishing will assume a U-T pension obligation that has grown from $50 million to about $111 million, according to Nieman (these obligations aren't immediately owed, but are paid as employees retire). Also, presumably, there will be payouts as employees are laid off.

Both companies agree that there will be consolidation savings. For example, the Times might print the U-T, and a lot of editorial content would be shared by both papers. Jeff Light, president and editor of the U-T, said, "Without a doubt, there will be some savings — which, unfortunately, is another way of saying there will be layoffs."

A big question is the direction of the editorial page and the news pages. It was arch-conservative under the Copleys, and the editorial slant often showed up in news stories. In many respects, the slant of Manchester became the laughingstock of San Diego. Editorials were placed on page one. Some were embarrassingly bumptious and bumpkinish.

For example, at one point, there was a front-page piece declaring that Barack Obama was one of the handful of the worst presidents in American history, and George W. Bush was one of the handful of the best. The paper under Manchester and John Lynch (who has not been in evidence for the past year) was an unabashed cheerleader for business and the military. Bad news about either didn't often make it into the paper.

Some media critics have wondered if the U-T has been pointing its editorial aerial in the wrong direction. San Diego County is still Republican, but only slightly. The city is actually Democratic. The Times, which was once arch-conservative, has been liberal for more than 50 years. The Times says the U-T will have its own brand and its own identity, but since the Times publisher will head both papers, it might be economical for the U-T to alter its slant at least somewhat.

The combination of the Times and the U-T will dominate Southern California. The Times' parent, Tribune Publishing, has been through a long and agonizing bankruptcy. The Orange County Register, whose parent also went through bankruptcy, is not part of the deal, but some wonder if it will be at some point. It has been taken over by a publisher who thought he could enlarge the editorial staff and the paper and prosper. He hired a raft of reporters and then didn't prosper. The Register is back in layoff mode, as both the Times and the U-T have been for some time.

Light claims the U-T is one of the more profitable newspapers in the nation, but some wonder if it is really doing that well. It lost a bundle on a television venture and its circulation has been dropping. Since it is privately held, it's hard to know. Companies can manufacture profits with phony bookkeeping. Even if the Tribune Publishing deal goes through, the parent may not report U-T figures or they may be combined with Times figures.

Real estate magnate Malin Burnham was trying to put together a group to buy the U-T and make it into a nonprofit, but it couldn't come up with sufficient funds, according to NiemanLab.

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Comments

dwbat May 7, 2015 @ 6:50 p.m.

The U-T couldn't get much worse than it is, so this might be a good development.

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Don Bauder May 7, 2015 @ 7:24 p.m.

dwbat: The Times always had relatively high standards, but it has suffered financially as print media everywhere in the U.S. have. I suspect those standards have gone down as the staff has shrunk.

The last owner of the U-T, Papa Doug, knew nothing about journalism. So there could be improvement. But one wonders how much the editorial product will improve if employment is cut even further. (Layoffs, however, could be heaviest on the sales and production, or printing, side.) Best, Don Bauder

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MichaelValentine May 7, 2015 @ 7:16 p.m.

Do people really pay a buck and a half for a newspaper weekday edition?

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Don Bauder May 7, 2015 @ 7:40 p.m.

MichaelValentine: The people who pay that kind of money are not bargaining enough. At least at the U-T, if you threaten to cancel, or do cancel, it will be offered much cheaper to you. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 7, 2015 @ 7:38 p.m.

Laura Egendorf: There may be some moderation in the editorial slant, and less editorializing in reportage. Look at it this way: Manchester used the paper to propagandize for his projects and his fanatical interests, such as the Chargers. The Times will not have that objective. It will have one major interest: keeping the paper solvent financially. So naturally, there will be fewer attempts at proselytizing. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh May 7, 2015 @ 8:16 p.m.

Don, it's been quite a while since you've reported on the ABC circulation reports of the U-T. When might we expect to see the next round? The last reports had the circulation dropping at a rate that I called catastrophic. If that is still true and continuing, why would anyone give Dougo a cent for the paper? Can it be profitable in the short run when its circulation plummets?

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Don Bauder May 7, 2015 @ 8:49 p.m.

Visduh: The Times reported today that U-T Sunday circulation in the most recent quarter was 271,564 on Sundays, and on the other days, varied from 169,484 to 222,479. Quite weak.

Actually, circulation figures don't mean much anymore. A paper sold for one penny counts as paid circulation. And, more importantly, you can bargain yourself a good deal. I heard about one person who realized he was paying $40 a month. He called to cancel. He was offered the paper for $20 a month. He turned it down. Then the price was $10, and finally $1. This may be apocryphal, but it tells why circulation numbers are not worth much now.

The last time I reported U-T circulation it was down, so even slashing prices surrpetitiously isn't working. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh May 7, 2015 @ 9:06 p.m.

Your comments illustrate my point, which is that without subscribers and a revenue stream from them, what sort of paper can they produce? And if the circulation side of the operation suffers, what can it be worth as an on-going enterprise?

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 6:09 a.m.

Visduh: Yes, circulation is not profitable per se, but it can lead to advertising, which is what is profitable. That's why the U-T will slash circulation payments if one is persistent. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 7, 2015 @ 9:04 p.m.

VOICES FROM THE INSIDE. I have talked with some U-Ters. Of course, they are scared. Who wouldn't be, when the president/editor says there will be layoffs? The Times has always looked down on the U-T, just as L.A. has looked down on San Diego. Times staffers in L.A. would love to come to San Diego as editors, and will bring their arrogance with them, fear U-T staffers.

Another point: U-T staffers wonder why the Times paid $85 million without getting real estate. What is it getting for that money? Goodwill? It will cull the staff it gets. One rumor is that the headquarters building will be carved into 20 luxury apartments by Manchester. The building that houses the presses (which are old) could be torn down, particularly if the Times prints the U-T.

In San Diego, there has always been antagonism toward L.A. Will the Times lose San Diego circulation, just as the U-T lost North County circulation after it bought the North County Times and folded it into the rest of the paper. The paper will concentrate on digital more than it does now, but most newspapers have not figured out how to make digital profitable. Will the U-T become the San Diego edition of the L.A. Times? Could be.

The U-T is now violating state labor laws rampantly, I am told. Employees seldom get the overtime they are due. State law says if you work more than 40 hours, you should be paid, unless you are a supervisor. A disgruntled employee who gets laid off could take the paper to court. And plenty of employees are unhappy: I am told that people have not had raises for seven years.

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dwbat May 7, 2015 @ 9:52 p.m.

Didn't the LA TIMES want to launch a San Diego edition years ago? My memory could be wrong, but it seems they decided they just couldn't compete with the Copley monopoly, so dropped the idea.

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danfogel May 7, 2015 @ 10:42 p.m.

There was a San Diego County edition of the LAT. It started sometime in the 70's as I recall. II was reading it when I was in school down there. It was shut down not to long after the San Diego Union and the Tribune were merged, maybe 6 months or so.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 8:07 a.m.

danfogel: One time, while the Times was still trying to gobble up market shares in San Diego, Otis Chandler, boss of the Times, was at a luncheon with Helen Copley. He referred to her as "the lady who is edging me out of San Diego."

The Times San Diego edition had some good reporters, but not enough of them to cover the whole metro area. It was neither fish nor fowl. I believe it attacked another market (Ventura?) and got chased out, too. It invaded Orange County and the Register did what the U-T did -- beefed up. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan May 7, 2015 @ 11:16 p.m.

Dwbat, are you some sort of millennial that you don't remember? There was a brief golden period between 1978 and 1992 when the Los Angeles Times published a daily home-delivered San Diego County edition. At its height, there were only 60,000 subscribers. Just ten months after the morning San Diego Union merged with the evening Tribune, the LAT shuttered its San Diego enterprise, leaving reporter Tony Perry behind as the liaison. Some of those San Diego County edition writers continue today -- Patrick McDonnell writes from Beirut and Syria, Chris Kraul from South America, John Glionna from the interior West, photographer Don Bartletti continues to document migrants coming to America.

If savvy new LAT publisher Austin Beutner will save the best of the U-T -- editor Jeff Light, writers Jeff McDonald, Maureen Magee, columnist Logan Jenkins, maybe others -- in combination with his Times staff, I personally will be happy as a clam and praying for their success. The Times is a great newspaper, but finances will be the hard part, since newspaper advertising is devastatingly diminished. But I am happy to hear about this positive change and I'm also hopeful. San Diego readers will be the winners.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 8:12 a.m.

monaghan: One point to ponder: if the Times and U-T will run much of the same copy, what will current San Diego buyers of the LA Times do? In fact, will the Times still sell its San Diego edition? Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan May 8, 2015 @ 11:52 a.m.

You are just trying to make me worry. If there is a God, She will not further punish local long-time LAT subscribers by taking away their daily newspaper which includes news of Los Angeles, an interesting pace-setting place. We hope for a melding of staffs and a general journalistic improvement of what has been the Union-Tribune without depriving us of LAT cartoonists, writers' and columnists' voices.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 3:49 p.m.

monaghan: I can understand your wanting all these things, but as one of our savviest commenters, you also understand that with print media on the financial skids, readers can't get everything they want.

Even in the fat days, the U-T had problems. In the business section, we would drop some financial agate (maybe trim some stock listings, drop some commodities, etc.) and then wait for the calls to flood in. Sometimes we would get 500 complaints, as I recall, although that sounds high.

The same was true of comics. If the newspaper dropped a strip or two, the screams would flood in. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 8, 2015 @ 12:21 p.m.

A millennial? Well, I'm not quite a thousand years old yet! ;-) Feels like it sometimes, though.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 3:54 p.m.

dwbat: The population cohort called millennials were born between 1980 and the early 2000s, roughly. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 8, 2015 @ 5:46 p.m.

Yes, I know what "millennials" are. I was just trying to be funny. Sure is hard here; nobody ever gets my humor.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 7:53 p.m.

dwbat: I know your statement was a joke but it gave me a chance to define millennials. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan May 9, 2015 @ 9:52 p.m.

Defining "millennial" is a good thing. Like "red state/blue state," which I never could keep straight, "millennial" was never clear either, even though widely used. I never could describe what any of the generational jargon really meant: "boomers," "Gen X," "millennials." Then the other day I read that millennials are people between the ages of 18 and 35, which fits Don's description. As for dwbat, I was hoping you were old enough to remember the past and were not a heedless whippersnapper, aka millennial. Also, I think your photographic conflations are very funny.

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dwbat May 10, 2015 @ 5:24 a.m.

I'm a senior on SS/Medicare! So definitely not a whippersnapper.

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Don Bauder May 11, 2015 @ 12:59 p.m.

dwbat: I have always wondered about the derivation of the word "whippersnapper." Does anybody know? It should be easy to look up. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 11, 2015 @ 12:55 p.m.

monaghan: Gen X and Y, millennials, boomers, etc. are generalizations that, of course, oversimplify demographic factors. They have a little in common with your horoscope -- is there really a difference between Geminis and Cancers?

But many economic characteristics fit well into those generalizations -- for example, the financial burden for the nation as the baby boomers retire. That is real (and to be honest, it is scary.) Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 11, 2015 @ 12:57 p.m.

monaghan: Dwbat obviously has knowledge that only comes with age. But I don't know how old he is. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 6:12 a.m.

dwbat: Yes, that was back in the 1980s. The Times hired a fairly large staff (but it wasn't anywhere near as large as the U-T's) and really thought it would garner a huge market share. It didn't, and the paper pulled the plug. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 8, 2015 @ 6:48 a.m.

I guess my memory banks are still working pretty well. I was living in LA at that time (occasionally writing book reviews for the LA TIMES). The Sunday TIMES was thick as a brick in those days, and you almost got a hernia carrying it home from the news rack!

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monaghan May 8, 2015 @ 11:58 a.m.

I am reassured you DO remember perfectly: the Sunday Los Angeles Times was so big and ad-heavy the house shook when it was thrown against the front door. (In those olden days, I asked to have it thrown on the front porch, not in the driveway under the car.)

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 3:58 p.m.

monaghan: It is amazing to me that we get through the Sunday New York Times fairly rapidly. Forty years ago, we would finish one Sunday edition just in time to pick up a new Sunday edition. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh May 8, 2015 @ 5:03 p.m.

If you want a publication that lasts all week, and comes every week, take The Economist, which calls itself a "newspaper", but which is in fact a news/opinion magazine. That such a publication still exists amazes me, and despite the Brit usage and style, is magnificently informative.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 7:55 p.m.

Visduh: Agreed. The Economist is a very good publication. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 11:59 a.m.

dwbat: There was a cartoon in the New Yorker about a guy taking the Sunday Times in his apartment. His back was stooped. The grimace on his face was classic. He was carrying a burden. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh May 8, 2015 @ 5:12 p.m.

Don, you raise a very pertinent issue, that of loss of circulation in any sort of combination. It appeared, based on audited circulation figures, that after Dougie bought up the North County Times, just about none of its subscribers converted to UT subscribers. I don't know what No County neighbors are doing for news today, but for many, many of them it no longer involves a printed newspaper. And it wasn't as if the NCT was an exemplary piece of journalism; rather it was a sort of small city daily out in the 'burbs that didn't work very hard or report very carefully on local matters. But for as long as it was published, folks subscribed and read it. Then it was abruptly cancelled, replaced by Dougie's Mill, and the subscribers just didn't renew. Could that happen with the UT in this new move? It very well could.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 8:02 p.m.

Visduh: There is no question that the U-T lost North County readers by the bushel after it bought the North County Times. Those readers, more affluent than readers in most areas of the county, constituted a juicy market, and the U-T couldn't hold on to it. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan May 9, 2015 @ 10:45 p.m.

There is no analogy between Manchester's extinction of the North County Times and the Los Angeles Times'/Tribune Co. purchase of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The former was a strong-arm snuffing of an adequate local paper. We now can hope for an editorial "morning in San Diego" for our exhausted metropolitan daily.

Why wouldn't a quality new San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper succeed? A paper shorn of its ridiculous fuddy-duddyness, its ultra-conservative editorial stranglehold, its imported right-wing scribes from the Koch Brothers stable? With the LA Times as a standard, we'll get a well-staffed paper with a strong publisher who believes in the importance of the Fourth Estate to the community, someone whose editor encourages investigative reporting and actually prints without cutting good stories to ribbons.

Your NCT example is testament to people's desire to have a decent local paper: when it goes away, why would they pick up a rag? In San Diego henceforth, people will have an infinitely better Union-Tribune to read every day.

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Don Bauder May 10, 2015 @ 10:11 p.m.

monaghan: I know a number of people who believe the LA Times will bring high standards to the U-T. It could happen. But the Times and its parent have financial troubles of their own. How much money will they put in San Diego? Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 11, 2015 @ 9:32 a.m.

monaghan: I couldn't have said it better!

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Don Bauder May 11, 2015 @ 1:03 p.m.

dwbat: Monaghan has a knack for summing up recondite matters pithily. Best, Don Bauder

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Time_on_my_hands May 7, 2015 @ 9:34 p.m.

A bad day for Dinesh D'Souza. No more free (or discounted) movie advertisements.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 6:13 a.m.

Time_on_my_hands: Yes, he won't get that free advertising. But he has other problems more pressing. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 May 8, 2015 @ 4:55 a.m.

Don, at least one more question needs to be investigated, who is going to buy the LA Times from Tribune Publishing?

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 6:16 a.m.

Anon92107: I agree that this is a good question. I don't think Tribune will sell the Times soon, but it's a possibility. I have never looked at Tribune Publishing's financial disclosures. I don't know if it breaks out Times results separately. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 6:27 a.m.

Paul Regis: Manchester is keeping the Mission Valley building. That means the paper will be printed elsewhere, and production workers will go. (But maybe new management will ditch the print edition and go all-digital. I doubt that will happen soon, though.) Ad sales will be combined and lots of the U-T salespeople will go. Ditto administration -- accounting, etc. My guess is the editorial/news layoffs won't be heavy initially, but then a bunch of writers/editors will go. Management will bring down Times staffers for key slots, just as Light brought down Orange County people (he had been at the Register.)

Your suppositions on who gets the axe could be accurate. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 8, 2015 @ 7:39 a.m.

The same thing happened with the TIMES some years back. Accounting and admin went to Tribune HQ in Chicago, and paychecks came from Chicago, not LA. The posh executive offices at the top of the TIMES building are empty.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 8:15 a.m.

dwbat: There were layoff on the reporting side, too -- lots of them. Best, Don Bauder

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Duhbya May 8, 2015 @ 10:18 a.m.

One of the most feared and ubiquitous curse words of the 21st millennium: layoffs.

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dwbat May 8, 2015 @ 11:40 a.m.

At least they didn't use that other mean word, downsizing!

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monaghan May 8, 2015 @ 12:01 p.m.

Don't forget "off-shoring." (Oppose the fast-track Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.)

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 8:06 p.m.

monaghan: There is a lot of opposition to that trade bill. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 4:01 p.m.

dwbat: I think of "downsizing" as a euphemism for "head-chopping." Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 8, 2015 @ 5:54 p.m.

That's exactly what it is. That was my point.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 8:08 p.m.

dwbat: Companies planning layoffs will say that they will be handed by attrition. (Supposedly, the ones laid off will be those who would retire anyway, etc.) Most of the time this attrition claim is a lie. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 12:01 p.m.

Duhbya: At least, most garroted newspaper people aren't victims of offshoring. Best, Don Bauder

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spudboy May 8, 2015 @ 8:43 a.m.

The LA Times San Diego edition. Hmmmm deja vu all over again.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 12:03 p.m.

spudboy: The Times says the U-T will keep its own identity and brand. Wonder how long that will last. Best, Don Bauder

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AlexClarke May 8, 2015 @ 3:07 p.m.

About 10 minutes after the ink dries on the 'deal'

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 4:06 p.m.

AlexClarke: The L.A. Times will make its downsizing decisions based on the bottom line. For example, some say the new U-T will come out in favor of the Chargers moving to Los Angeles. That would be stupid from an economic point of view.

Similarly, people ask if the U-T will now turn liberal. I doubt it. I suspect it will become moderate politically, which is the intelligent thing to do from the standpoint of profits. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 11, 2015 @ 1:08 p.m.

monaghan: A middle of the road approach would be most profitable. Demographics change. The U-T didn't keep up with that change in San Diego County. Best, Don Bauder

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Time_on_my_hands May 8, 2015 @ 9:32 a.m.

So does Steven Greenhut continue to get his page A2 column in the "news" section? I always thought he should be on the opinion pages.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 12:04 p.m.

Time_on_my_hands: I don't now what they will do with syndicated columnists. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 8, 2015 @ 9:44 a.m.

None

Pay a deposit to lock in the your carpet, tile and paint colors now!

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 12:06 p.m.

dwbat: I roamed that building for 30 years. I wouldn't want an apartment there, no matter how luxurious. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 8, 2015 @ 12:22 p.m.

You must know where all the bodies are buried.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 4:08 p.m.

dwbat: Many of those bodies are in La Jolla, where the headquarters of Copley Newspapers was located. Best, Don Bauder

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Writerly May 8, 2015 @ 12:53 p.m.

Don not only knows where they're buried, he knows they'll be floating past those million-dollar condos during the next flood.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 4:12 p.m.

Writerly: People who knew corporate secrets were laid to rest in a heavy sarcophagus that even the river couldn't disturb. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 8, 2015 @ 10:39 p.m.

Secrets like the CIA connection with Copley Press?

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Don Bauder May 9, 2015 @ 8 p.m.

dwbat: The Union and Tribune would send a photographer out to cover Vietnam protests. The photos or negatives would go right out to the back door to the FBI. I don't know how many on the staff knew about that, though. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 9, 2015 @ 10:31 p.m.

And Copley News Service was reportedly in total cahoots with the CIA.

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Don Bauder May 11, 2015 @ 1:13 p.m.

dwbat: Yes, Copley News Service was tied to the CIA, or so I have been told by reliable sources. So too, I suspect, were some in top management of the parent company, along with some on the fifth floor of the Mission Valley building who had a hand in fashioning the editorial product. Best, Don Bauder

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Matt101 May 8, 2015 @ 2:06 p.m.

Does anyone else remember that less than two years ago, Manchester and Lynch were bragging to anyone who would listen that they were astonishingly successful and had investors lined up behind them who were going to finance their purchase of the LA Times and/or the OC Register? I think they actually made a bid for the Register.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 4:17 p.m.

Matt101: They wanted to buy the Boston Globe, too. They screamed because the winning bidder supposedly offered less than they did. Do you remember that Platinum Equity was going to buy a string of ailing newspapers and have a chain of them? It appears that after they bought the U-T and realized the industry's problems, they abandoned the idea and sold the U-T. Best, Don Bauder

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AlexClarke May 8, 2015 @ 3:10 p.m.

The U-T has pensions? Wow with people like Manchester I am astounded. Most employers think that a person should work until they die and that a pension is something that should be taken away along with Social Security and Medicare.

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 4:18 p.m.

AlexClarke: The mentality you cite sounds more like Manchester. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 8:15 p.m.

Craig Marc Cottom-Shephard: I expect the U-T will moderate its views, but it won't be as liberal as the Times. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 8:18 p.m.

Jerry Hilburn: Yes, it never went out of business in all this turmoil. But the question remains: why did Tribune Publishing pay $85 million for it and not get any real estate? I am not sure that the name, the brand, the goodwill, and a staff that will be eviscerated is worth $85 million. Best, Don Bauder

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dwbat May 9, 2015 @ 5:14 p.m.

I can't understand that $85 mil valuation either. Seems like it's worth more like $25 mil or so. Is Manchester also throwing in his old "black book" of dates?

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Don Bauder May 9, 2015 @ 8:09 p.m.

dwbat: At some point, Tribune will have to release more information abourt the deal. We might get a clue on why the company paid so much, but I doubt it. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh May 9, 2015 @ 7:44 p.m.

Don, that's the matter that I've been mentioning. Why would anyone shell out all those millions for just another struggling newspaper? Dougo got his real estate; at the time of the sale, I recall that you figured the deal was all about bargain-basement prices for the land and building(s). I think you were right. At that point, the paper was worth absolutely nothing because it could not generate a profit.

If this struggling media company coughs up $85 million for the paper, it is either very mistaken, or very certain that papers will once again be profitable and provide readers to the advertisers. Let's hope that the optimists are correct. But I just don't see it going that way.

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Don Bauder May 9, 2015 @ 8:14 p.m.

Visduh If the world's electricity suddenly became in very short supply, wounding the internet grievously, daily metero newspapers might make a comeback. I think print media will sink, but slowly. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 8:21 p.m.

Mike Hosley: There might be improvement of the product. But San Diegans are antagonistic toward L.A. Some will drop the paper. Mistakes could be made in the layoffs. If the Times loads up management with its employees from L.A., the paper's feel for the San Diego market may not be in evidence. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 8, 2015 @ 8:23 p.m.

Bill Whiteley: You can always watch Fox and listen to Rush Limbaugh. Best, Don Bauder

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mf93436 May 8, 2015 @ 8:40 p.m.

I am convinced my father spun in his grave when this news hit. He was an advertising department manager - in charge of dealing with any problems that came up in the ads. I remember him cussing his way out the door in the morning and blowing up again when he read through the green sheet six nights a week. One night he came home very worried about the Times "San Diego Edition" incursion and the next night was excited that he and everyone in the building declared all out war the next day. He despised the LA Times and was ecstatic when they "retreated back to the smog." He also hated the Raiders. Today we have the Raiders and Chargers in bed together and the UT merger comes along and pulls up the sheets. Probably a good thing for SD now considering the last few years, but it just doesn't seem right.

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Don Bauder May 9, 2015 @ 8:22 p.m.

mf93436: When the Times attacked, the Union and Tribune went far overboard hiring a larger staff. Both, parrticularly the Union got bloated. Thast made it easy for Platinum Equity to lay off many employees. (The U-T began the layoffs in preparation for the merger.)

So, in a sense, the Times hurt itself with the invasion, and the Copley organization also hurt itself bcy by vastly overstaffing. This led to the merger, but not enough people were laid off then, particularly in management. Best, Don Bauder

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monaghan May 9, 2015 @ 11:12 p.m.

You are telescoping a period of 30+ years here between the 1978 opening of the San Diego edition of the Los Angeles Times and the 2009 sale of the Union-Tribune to Platinum Equity. If the Union-Tribune was awash in do-little employees for all that time, maybe the Platinum Equity housecleaning was past due. They at least brought in a competent editor. And I disagree that the Los Angeles Times' superb staffing of its edition was an "invasion." I recall it as a gift that our doltish brain-washed "America's Finest City" populace never managed to appreciate.

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Visduh May 10, 2015 @ 9:04 a.m.

When the LA Times made that big push into San Diego in 1978, they expected great things. They were also into focus groups in that era and when they asked San Diegans what they wanted from the paper, the story kept coming back that they wanted a paper tailored to the local area. So, whereas the LAT started off just giving SD County a tailored local section, it responded by tailoring SD sections of the main news, business reporting, and sports (and maybe others.) That should have worked. Even in those days of yore, many people vocally expressed their disdain for the Copley products, and in those days I associated mainly with conservative, business types. So, the market seemed ripe for big acceptance of a local version of the LAT. Oh, the circulation grew during the 80's, but never to the level that LAT management had hoped for. Then the circulation plateaued, and no amount of marketing effort could get it moving upward. And all the time, county population grew. (During those years, the Union and the Tribune were having their own circulation problems, especially the Trib.) Economic hard times (pardon the pun) resulted in the elimination of the second Copley paper, and the withdrawal by the LAT of its SD County edition. Just why the LAT wasn't more successful was not clear to me, and many others were also surprised.

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Don Bauder May 12, 2015 @ 6:57 a.m.

Visduh: The failure of the Times San Diego edition was not a surprise to me. It had some good journalists but not enough of them to cover the metro area well. The Times suffered from hubris then. It felt that one Times person could be better than three Union and Tribune people. Wrong. Very wrong. Some Copley people routinely beat the Times to stories. The Union and Tribune people "knew the territory," as it were.

Typical arrogance was part of the Times's downfall in San Diego. Now, if the Times sends its LA employees down to San Diego to run the former U-T, that same arrogance could backfire and the product could suffer. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 11, 2015 @ 1:20 p.m.

monaghan: It was an invasion of a market, plain and simple. There is nothing wrong with that -- it's a vital part of capitalism. But from the Times's viewpoint, there was something wrong with the invasion: ultimately, it was not profitable. It did add to the competition in San Diego, and that was helpful to readers. Best, Don Bauder

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ronh May 10, 2015 @ 7:55 a.m.

I predict more news of celebrity real estate, divorces, and arrests. And more Tony Perry, a good thing.

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Don Bauder May 11, 2015 @ 1:22 p.m.

ronh: I am not sure that more news of celebrity real estate would be such a good thing. Best, Don Bauder

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gekko May 10, 2015 @ 6:29 p.m.

Don, If the deal does not include the building and the presses, then the LA Times must be planning on going online here. I worked at the UT in Circulation and specifically Distribution. The presses started at 11:30 p.m. If they try to print at a plant owned by the Times north of San Diego it would be a disaster, if it is even possible in the first place, given the time constraints. When the Chargers were in the Superbowl, we had a meeting with Jerry Warren and Karin Winner to plan plan how many more papers to print if the Chargers won. At this meeting, it became clear that upper management does not understand the Circulation and Distribution process. The newspaper industry is a dinosaur. At least Manchester realized this and got out. David Copley couldn't see this coming and had to sell cheap. This story should get better everyday for the bloggers.

gekko

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Don Bauder May 11, 2015 @ 1:42 p.m.

gekko: Top management did not see the internet explosion coming -- or Craigslist or other phenomena that bit deeply into revenue and profits. But most newspaper executives around the U.S. did not see these things coming either. Neither did Wall Street. The awareness seemed to come suddenly around 2005.

In the 1980s and into the 1990s, top management was blissfully unaware of demographic changes. It was obvious that young people were not reading, but no significant actions were taken.

The top editors of the U-T did not know a lot of business-related things. I began harping on the low market share around 1980. I was very unpopular with top U-T management, for that and many other reasons. It was the mid-1990s before the company realized that market share was quite low.

The newspaper was not designed to capture market share. It was designed to conform to the editors' tastes.

There was another peeve of mine in which no one would listen. The top editors and reporters and columnists thought the most important thing was winning contests, particularly a Pulitzer. But the most important thing was garnering market share, and the obsession with winning prizes was a distraction. The importance of market share should have been inculcated into everybody at the paper. Best, Don Bauder

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HellcatCopley May 11, 2015 @ 2:30 p.m.

In the 1980s and into the 1990s, top management was blissfully unaware of demographic changes.

I think MOST of the top management was aware of changing demographics -- certainly advertising, marketing and circulation were. The failure was editorial. It was that department that could and would not keep up with changing times in San Diego. I suspect the fault went squarely to Helen Copley, who froze the editorial content the moment her publisher husband died in 1974. Too much editorial time was spent on what was likely to please or displease Helen and far too little on asking what readers were now interested in. A similar fault was the paper's stubborn refusal to recruit top-quality journos from other papers (no offense, Don). This would have meant paying premium salaries. Couple that with the fact that heavy-hitters from more respectable papers wanted nothing to do with the UT's crummy rep and salaries. So the newsroom's new hires remained mediocre.

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Don Bauder May 11, 2015 @ 9:10 p.m.

HellcatCopley: I sat on the pension committee from 1980 to when I retired in 2003. It was a small committee (maybe 7 people) and one other person and I were the only ones who were not on the board. I listened to the top management and I don't think it was aware of what the internet would do, what declining readership among young people would mean, what Craigslist would mean. By the time they were fully cognizant, it was probably too late.

The biggest failure, though, was in editorial management. You are right. Readership surveys were done, but the results were not followed. The paper was not designed to fit the market.

Welcome back, incidentally. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 13, 2015 @ 3:24 p.m.

WHISPERS: MANCHESTER WAS DISAPPOINTED THAT HIS COMMUNITY ACCEPTANCE WENT DOWN, NOT UP. Understandably, a number of rumors are making the rounds of employees. After all, they have been told to expect layoffs. Such an announcement is bound to generate whispers.

Papa Doug Manchester is said to have sold the paper because he thought newspaper ownership would boost his community acceptance, instead of worsening it. His reign in some respects made him a laughingstock. So he was open to bids.

Some suspect he may have gotten several bids, and that's why the price escalated to $85 million. I am in that camp myself, although there are not many buyers for metro dailies these days. I can't see what Tribune Publishing is getting for $85 million, and neither can a number of employees.

Another rumor: preisdent and editor Jeff Light will be out in 30 days. "He was Manchester's man," says one staffer. The good-looking young'ns who read the news on the website video will go to the guillotine, according to rumors. That makes sense: UT-TV bombed and the video is what's left. Editorial writers are said to be vulnerable, too. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh May 13, 2015 @ 6:18 p.m.

So, who does that leave? A few popular columnists and of course the sports staff. There are far too few reporters now, but with the tiny news hole on most days, if they had reporters out and about, there would be no space to print their reports. The only bright spot that I hope is kept is the Watchdog section. When they can avoid stepping on Dougo's toes, they do some good reporting.

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Don Bauder May 13, 2015 @ 8:45 p.m.

Visduh: Yes, the Watchdog section does some good work. I was there for 30 years and concentrated on the kinds of scams Watchdog does now. I can assure you that I got little to no backing from management on that. So this, at least, has been a step forward for the paper. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh May 14, 2015 @ 8:01 a.m.

So, his community acceptance dropped, huh? Who'd a thunk it? The flattering reporting he had the paper do on him just exposed his sleazy character. Whereas many local people knew little about him other than his real estate holdings and developments (and the way he put his name on the waterfront hotel a long time ago), they began to see a clearer and far less flattering picture.

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Don Bauder May 14, 2015 @ 9:36 a.m.

Visduh: Other executives in the hotel and commercial real estate business do not have a high regard for Manchester's business methods. Best, Don Bauder

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Syd Michael May 14, 2015 @ 7:26 p.m.

How is this going to affect the local landscape, besides layoffs?

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Don Bauder May 14, 2015 @ 8:22 p.m.

SydMichael: We are trying to figure out the answer to your question. Here's my thinking now, subject to change: 1. The U-T may be moderately improved editorially, but neither circulation nor advertising will rise much, if at all. Ergo, revenue and profits won't rise significantly. 2. The LA Times, through its parent, Tribune Publishing, will buy the ailing Orange County Register, whose parent has also been through bankruptcy. This will give the Times even more Southern California muscle. (Remember, if the drought turns out to be a long one -- say, ten years -- the Southern California market won't be considered so juicy.)

  1. The U-T will go all-digital on one or two weekdays. 4. The Register and U-T will be printed at a Costa Mesa plant the Times has built but not utilized. 5. Tribune Publishing will at some distant point spin off the Southern California operation, consisting of the Times, U-T, Register, and smaller papers. 6. The editorial page of the U-T will become middle-of-the-road. There is lots more -- but this is enough for now. Best, Don Bauder
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