In the 10 years since Doug Manchester bought the Union-Tribune — wait. Strike that. It only feels like 10 years.
Actually the former hotel magnate has owned the county’s largest daily newspaper for less than 12 months. (No, actually, he now owns the county’s only two daily newspapers, having purchased the North County Times two weeks ago.)
Anyway, in the short time Manchester has been operating his media empire much has changed. And much hasn’t.
The U-T — as it has been re-branded — has for decades been considered a conservative leaning paper, influenced heavily by Republicans.
Their editorial department and opinion writers are still red. Nothing new there. But what has transformed is the subtlety with which they deliver their pronouncements. Whereas in the pre-Doug days op-eds were confined to the editorial pages and heralded with a trumpet blast, it’s not unusual these days to find the paper’s position paper wrapped around the front page. It’s as if their thoughts are more important to readers than the days’ current events.
When you own the biggest megaphone(s) in town you can shout whatever and however you want. So, really, who can fault him for doing what he does? Besides, no one says people have to listen.
However, the fascinating turn of events has been brought on by Manchester’s Sancho Panza, John Lynch.
Lynch is Manchester’s front man, the newspaper’s CEO. He and they haven’t been shy about wanting to be the business industry’s cheerleaders. They’ve stated time and again they want to paint pretty pictures and shine soft-glow lighting on the people who create jobs and otherwise, in their minds, really run this town. They are to the chamber of commerce types what my science teacher used call a nocturnal emission.
While there’s nothing wrong with writing business profiles and featuring happy, feel-good stories, I wonder if there’s a long lasting market for what they’re peddling.
Ostensibly, newspapers — and news organizations in general — are disseminators of stories. Traditionally those stories have been ones that affect a segment of people. Those stories were told in an unbiased straightforward manner. Reporters, editors and publishers used to strive to achieve that ideal.
I’d like to believe that people aren’t as naive or simple as the U-T’s ownership thinks they are. I’d like to believe that more than happy stories about business leaders who risk their capital to make a buck, while creating jobs in the process, readers want stories that will let them decide on their own whether it’s good news or bad. I hope I’m not wrong.