2012 is not shaping up to be a great year for San Diego journalism. First, Prop 8 backer Douglas Manchester bought the San Diego Union-Tribune–and immediately vowed to make it a “cheerleader” for the city of San Diego. Instead of say, a check on powerful interests that run the city. Only a short time after, Voice of San Diego announced it was laying off three of its best investigative reporters due to fundraising problems.
We’re not the only ones who see potential problems on the horizon. An editorial in this week’s San Diego CityBeat laments the current state of the city’s media.
When Voice first launched, we worried that its funding would lose steam as donor fatigue set in and the novelty wore off. But it has grown, and the nonprofit’s been able to add reporters and features even as for-profit news organizations have shrunk. Fueled largely by top-notch reporting on City Hall and education and some impactful investigations into San Diego’s redevelopment agencies, Voice gave a moribund San Diego Union-Tribune a kick in the pants a few years back. Under new leadership starting in 2009, the U-T responded by stepping up its investgative reporting and seems to be moving with a new purpose.
However, local developer Doug Manchester bought the U-T last month, and his new CEO, John Lynch, has made alarming comments about how the paper will focus on the positive aspects of San Diego and be a cheerleader for projects such as a new stadium for the Chargers. In light of those remarks, no one really knows what to expect from the paper in terms of hard-news coverage.
That’s why, even as we raise an eyebrow at last week’s Voice layoffs, we genuinely hope that they were merely the result of overambitious budgeting last year and that the news site will rebound—because San Diego needs more, not less, journalism.
Anyone who follows media in LA can obviously empathize with those sentiments. Everyone here knows about layoffs. And Manchester sounds like a less entertaining version of Sam Zell.