A big change just happened in San Diego. You might not know it to read the paper, though.

The San Diego Union-Tribune, the region’s largest newspaper, is now officially owned by local hotelier Doug Manchester, a controversial developer who has shaped the city’s downtown waterfront.

When Manchester struck a deal to buy the paper Nov. 17, the newspaper announced the tentative agreement and said it would close before Dec. 15.

On Tuesday, the deal became final. Manchester’s name appears in all caps in a small column on the newspaper’s second page. His name and those of two new executives are also on the opinion page. Manchester’s title: Publisher.

He quickly put his stamp on the Union-Tribune’s slogan atop its printed front page. What once read “More Than 1,000,000 Readers Weekly” now says “The World’s Greatest Country and America’s Finest City.”

As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, those subtle changes were the only public acknowledgements from the paper that anything was different. The region’s dominant media outlet changed hands and barely noted the transition in its own pages. Its website carried an Associated Press wire story at 3:06 p.m. Tuesday, but didn’t put it on the front of the site. Instead, up top were stories about the weather, San Diego State football and a fire.

San Diego CityBeat was the first to report the ownership change. The alternative news weekly published a memo sent to newspaper staffers that said the paper’s current publisher, Ed Moss, had “gracefully agreed” to stay as an adviser to the new ownership.

Ken Doctor, a media analyst with Newsonomics, said the newspaper’s near-silence was a troubling step for new owners who’ve already gotten national attention for suggesting they would blur the line between independent news gathering and advocacy work.

The paper’s new vice president has said he wants its sports pages to advocate for a new Chargers stadium and call out opponents as obstructionists.

Doctor said how a newspaper reports a change in ownership is the first test for its new owners. He told me:

If Manchester says, ‘Let’s just do the story tomorrow,’ you want an editor who says: ‘We could do it tomorrow, but someone will say something about it. We should do it today.’ It doesn’t bode well — the fact that they can’t even get it together to do the basics to say we bought the paper and be interviewed about it. It’s amazing. That’s just weird. They have a public trust there, whether they realize it or not.

I called Union-Tribune Editor Jeff Light for an explanation. I’ll update this if he responds.

Rob Davis is a senior reporter at voiceofsandiego.org. You can contact him directly at rob.davis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

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    Written by Rob Davis

    Rob Davis is a former senior reporter for Voice of San Diego. He is currently a freelance writer in San Diego. He can be reached at robdaviswrites@gmail.com or 619.259.0529.

    18 comments
    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    San Diego deserves better than a mediocre paper with a left wing slant, maybe the new incarnation of the UT will be just that.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones

    San Diego deserves better than a mediocre paper with a left wing slant, maybe the new incarnation of the UT will be just that.

    michael-leonard
    michael-leonard subscriber

    Even bad guys can do good things - nobody is totally evil.

    mlcred
    mlcred

    Even bad guys can do good things - nobody is totally evil.

    joe vargo
    joe vargo subscriber

    StevieD, right's spin bullsh_t, day in and day out. I'm sorry but left is real, as in keep it real. All righties can do is divide the electorate, in hope of getting more than 1%, as in 99%.

    joev
    joev

    StevieD, right's spin bullsh_t, day in and day out. I'm sorry but left is real, as in keep it real. All righties can do is divide the electorate, in hope of getting more than 1%, as in 99%.

    Bradley Fikes
    Bradley Fikes subscriber

    Is the U-T paying royalties to KFMB talk show host Mike Slater? He's been using that slogan since he arrived nearly a year ago.

    Bradley J Fikes
    Bradley J Fikes

    Is the U-T paying royalties to KFMB talk show host Mike Slater? He's been using that slogan since he arrived nearly a year ago.

    David Cohen
    David Cohen subscriber

    Stevie--I don't give a rolling you-know-what whether Papa Doug makes a fortune from the U-T or gets flattened in its presses. We aren't going to subscribe to his new publicity-vehicle toy.

    fryefan
    fryefan

    Stevie--I don't give a rolling you-know-what whether Papa Doug makes a fortune from the U-T or gets flattened in its presses. We aren't going to subscribe to his new publicity-vehicle toy.

    Steven Dobbs
    Steven Dobbs subscriber

    The first sign of panties progressing up the crack: the rather petty debate about the merits and grammatical correctness of a PR header.

    StevieD
    StevieD

    The first sign of panties progressing up the crack: the rather petty debate about the merits and grammatical correctness of a PR header.

    David Cohen
    David Cohen subscriber

    And when it's all said and done, we are letting our subscription expire when time comes for its renewal.

    fryefan
    fryefan

    And when it's all said and done, we are letting our subscription expire when time comes for its renewal.

    Dianne Parham
    Dianne Parham subscriber

    A newspaper is not a newspaper when it only serves the narrow vision of a person who has a predatory interest in selling off San Diego to the highest bidder, or giving it away to billionaires asking for public handouts. I'm not impressed with Manchester or his ridiculous insistence that we all accept him as a paternalistic overlord of information. It won't be a great paper...it will be a vanity rag. He really should watch "Citizen Kane" if he wants to learn a lesson of massive ego with too much money and too little understanding.

    dialyn
    dialyn

    A newspaper is not a newspaper when it only serves the narrow vision of a person who has a predatory interest in selling off San Diego to the highest bidder, or giving it away to billionaires asking for public handouts. I'm not impressed with Manchester or his ridiculous insistence that we all accept him as a paternalistic overlord of information. It won't be a great paper...it will be a vanity rag. He really should watch "Citizen Kane" if he wants to learn a lesson of massive ego with too much money and too little understanding.

    Nathanael Webster
    Nathanael Webster subscriber

    "The World's Greatest Country and America's Finest City," makes no grammatical sense. It has subject agreement issues. "Serving America's Finest City in the World's Greatest Country" would add clarity and only one word. If the editors are not going to tell the emperor he no clothes when it comes to grammar, imagine what they'll do on important issues.

    Rational Realist
    Rational Realist

    "The World's Greatest Country and America's Finest City," makes no grammatical sense. It has subject agreement issues. "Serving America's Finest City in the World's Greatest Country" would add clarity and only one word. If the editors are not going to tell the emperor he no clothes when it comes to grammar, imagine what they'll do on important issues.


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