When William Osborne started working for the Union-Tribune 44 years ago, it wasn’t actually the U-T. It was just the T, as in Tribune, and it was on one side of a building. On the other was the U, the Union. They were fierce competitors even though they had the same ownership. It was right where the NBC building now stands, across the street from Dobson’s and right next to what is now Horton Plaza.
Since then, Osborne has had many different bosses. When he finally took over the opinion section of the paper in the late ’90s, he took over the role of speaking for the ownership and reflecting their values in the paper’s opinions. When the Copley family finally sold the paper, he found himself with owners who did not care about the paper’s perspective. And when they sold the paper, to Doug Manchester and his partner John Lynch, that freedom came to an abrupt end.
I interviewed Osborne about how things changed, what it was like to lay off Bob Kittle, the longtime face of the paper and its editorial page editor and how he managed that time with Lynch, who he admitted was quite a micromanager as CEO.
He also addressed a persistent question of mine about unsigned, so-called “house” editorials at newspapers like the U-T: Who do they speak for? Ostensibly they speak for the newspaper as a whole, that’s why they don’t have bylines. But the news department of the paper — the most important and largest section — disavow them.
“We’re a little more careful now. We don’t say ‘the Union-Tribune believes.’ We more often now say ‘the editorial board believes’ or when we use the term we, the reference is to the editorial board, certainly not the newsroom,” he said.
If you’re interested in the evolution of San Diego’s dominant newspaper, give our conversation a listen.