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The push for a U-T advisory board that isn’t one-sided

Guided by values

The U-T’s latest community advisory editorial board is packed with PR people and controversial former politicos. Clockwise from top: Jeff Light, David Bejarano, Dwayne Crenshaw, Stephanie Brown, Teresa Acosta, Jan Goldsmith.
The U-T’s latest community advisory editorial board is packed with PR people and controversial former politicos. Clockwise from top: Jeff Light, David Bejarano, Dwayne Crenshaw, Stephanie Brown, Teresa Acosta, Jan Goldsmith.

Back in July 2011, after Beverly Hills vulture capitalist Tom Gores bought the Union-Tribune from an ailing David Copley, ending decades of local ownership, the paper’s new editor Jeff Light announced he had come up with an unprecedented idea: “an editorial board composed of community members — with a set of values to guide them.”

Pronounced Light, “In many ways they are a diverse group — a mix of Democrats, Republicans and independents from many neighborhoods and different walks of life,” who would “weigh in on issues as they see fit.” Said Light of the first piece the paper ran by retired public school teacher Ernie McCray, “I like his essay not because it reflects my own views (it doesn’t), nor because it is free of any political slant (it is not). I like it because it challenges my assumptions.” Recalled McCray in a 2012 San Diego Free Press piece, “We were on a Community Editorial Advisory Board being listened to, respected, given opportunities to tweak editorials here and there, in efforts to have them written in a way that wasn’t so ‘one sided,’ shall I say.”

Light’s local version of Prague Spring turned out to be brief, lasting just four months, until the U-T’s takeover by San Diego Republican Douglas Manchester in November of 2011. “Suddenly we had a paper which boasted, jingoistically, on its cover every day: ‘The World’s Greatest Country and America’s Finest City,’ ” McCray wrote. The paper’s vaunted community advisory board was virtually dead on arrival.

Now, almost six years later, Light is trying again. “The U-T’s goal in forming the board is to gather a diverse group of local people who reflect and care about our community, who believe in civil discourse on critical issues and who help foster a dynamic community dialogue,” says an April 14 announcement of the new effort’s membership. But how varied the revived panel (which does not include McCray) will turn out to be under the U-T’s current owner, Chicago-based tronc, may trigger its very own debate.

Members include Republican ex–city attorney Jan Goldsmith, now working for Procopio, a big-money downtown law and lobbying firm; controversial ex–police chief of Chula Vista and San Diego David Bejarano; and one-time Fourth District city-council candidate Dwayne Crenshaw, a Democrat financially backed by many in the local Republican establishment, including the GOP Lincoln Club. Another member is Carlsbad’s Teresa Acosta, “a public affairs consultant at Madaffer Enterprises,” a government relations and lobbying shop run by Republican former city councilman Jim Madaffer.

Perhaps the most intriguing presence on the board is that of Stephanie Brown, a Del Mar resident listed as “vice president of marketing and public relations” for ex-U-T publisher Doug Manchester’s Manchester Financial Group, “overseeing all marketing, media, community and public relations on behalf of the company.”

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The U-T’s latest community advisory editorial board is packed with PR people and controversial former politicos. Clockwise from top: Jeff Light, David Bejarano, Dwayne Crenshaw, Stephanie Brown, Teresa Acosta, Jan Goldsmith.
The U-T’s latest community advisory editorial board is packed with PR people and controversial former politicos. Clockwise from top: Jeff Light, David Bejarano, Dwayne Crenshaw, Stephanie Brown, Teresa Acosta, Jan Goldsmith.

Back in July 2011, after Beverly Hills vulture capitalist Tom Gores bought the Union-Tribune from an ailing David Copley, ending decades of local ownership, the paper’s new editor Jeff Light announced he had come up with an unprecedented idea: “an editorial board composed of community members — with a set of values to guide them.”

Pronounced Light, “In many ways they are a diverse group — a mix of Democrats, Republicans and independents from many neighborhoods and different walks of life,” who would “weigh in on issues as they see fit.” Said Light of the first piece the paper ran by retired public school teacher Ernie McCray, “I like his essay not because it reflects my own views (it doesn’t), nor because it is free of any political slant (it is not). I like it because it challenges my assumptions.” Recalled McCray in a 2012 San Diego Free Press piece, “We were on a Community Editorial Advisory Board being listened to, respected, given opportunities to tweak editorials here and there, in efforts to have them written in a way that wasn’t so ‘one sided,’ shall I say.”

Light’s local version of Prague Spring turned out to be brief, lasting just four months, until the U-T’s takeover by San Diego Republican Douglas Manchester in November of 2011. “Suddenly we had a paper which boasted, jingoistically, on its cover every day: ‘The World’s Greatest Country and America’s Finest City,’ ” McCray wrote. The paper’s vaunted community advisory board was virtually dead on arrival.

Now, almost six years later, Light is trying again. “The U-T’s goal in forming the board is to gather a diverse group of local people who reflect and care about our community, who believe in civil discourse on critical issues and who help foster a dynamic community dialogue,” says an April 14 announcement of the new effort’s membership. But how varied the revived panel (which does not include McCray) will turn out to be under the U-T’s current owner, Chicago-based tronc, may trigger its very own debate.

Members include Republican ex–city attorney Jan Goldsmith, now working for Procopio, a big-money downtown law and lobbying firm; controversial ex–police chief of Chula Vista and San Diego David Bejarano; and one-time Fourth District city-council candidate Dwayne Crenshaw, a Democrat financially backed by many in the local Republican establishment, including the GOP Lincoln Club. Another member is Carlsbad’s Teresa Acosta, “a public affairs consultant at Madaffer Enterprises,” a government relations and lobbying shop run by Republican former city councilman Jim Madaffer.

Perhaps the most intriguing presence on the board is that of Stephanie Brown, a Del Mar resident listed as “vice president of marketing and public relations” for ex-U-T publisher Doug Manchester’s Manchester Financial Group, “overseeing all marketing, media, community and public relations on behalf of the company.”

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Comments
6

So this is to be like the 'independent' police review board, not just here but in every major city where police actions are approved without question. Such boards are a PR stunt to give the illusion of fairness. The reality is that the public has a voice and an opinion. The newspaper and the police can suppress it somewhat but listening carefully would be advantageous to both.

omphaloskepsis often

April 26, 2017

Effete navel gazing, or a ravenous Ouroboros?

Either way, you'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than the UT advisory board.

The history of how the city became deep in debt, with pension promises that will never be kept, white elephant sports subsidies, and PR reps masquerading as political leaders will prominently feature, in a place of deep shame, the names of precisely these "advisors" to the UT.

Kudos to Mr. Light for showcasing San Diego's skankiest scum.

April 29, 2017

"A diverse group of local people who reflect and care about our community, who believe in civil discourse on critical issues and who help foster a dynamic community dialogue"?

What an exercise in Orwellian doublethink. It would be difficult to name a group of locals more lockstep in representing and promoting the exact opposite.

April 26, 2017

So Roger Hedgecock wasn't available? He would have fit right in!

April 26, 2017

You forget, dwbat, Roger Hedgecock is out on disability since his wife tripped on a bad San Diego sidewalk, but otherwise he would fit right in with this rogues' gallery. The only exception is former police chief David Bejarano, who has always been a genuinely community-minded person.

April 26, 2017

Should we start a GoFundMe page for poor Roger Dodger? ;-)

April 27, 2017

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