Opinion

The Two Faces of Papa Doug

The Two Faces of Papa Doug

Photo by Paul Body

Doug Manchester

 

For nine months now, the greatest show in San Diego has been the circus Doug Manchester and sidekick John Lynch have mounted since they purchased the Union-Tribune and turned it into the U-T San Diego.

They’re on a shock-and-awe tour. A free-spending thrill ride to collect depressed assets, flex media muscle and maybe, just maybe, turn a profit.

I find it exciting, frankly.

What has been most curious to me, however, has not been the new TV station or the staff changes, or the front-page editorials. It’s not the new auto museum or even the astonishing purchase of the North County Times.

What is really interesting is the strange disconnect between what Doug Manchester (who goes by Papa Doug) says he wants to do with his new media portfolio and what he’s actually doing.

When news that he and Lynch had purchased the North County Times became official Tuesday, Manchester went on KPBS and described his goal for the evolving media company.

“It’s been very clear that our vision has been that, for so many years, the news media has not championed the military, has not championed the many success stories that are here in San Diego and we have tried to, in fact, point out what’s right about America’s Finest City. We want to continue to do that,” he told KPBS.

A North County Times reporter, Brandon Lowrey, tweeted that Manchester visited his new staff at the paper that he told them he wants them to be “positive” and to write nice stories about business owners.

Manchester added this in his KPBS interview Tuesday:

“We’re a champion of San Diego and we’ve had an increase in actual subscriptions. We do not apologize for our editorial position.”

They are most definitely not apologizing for their editorial position. One of the things I’ve watched with great interest is this experiment, this ideological innovation, that the new U-T is carrying out. Lynch and Manchester are trying to be open and proud of a supposedly conservative world view governing the newspaper.

This has enormous and interesting implications. If it works as a business strategy it could set a precedent for a more openly partisan press at a time when anything that works in the business of journalism is big news.

Before you send me the email that the press has always been partisan, let’s be clear. Whether it has or not, most newspapers have bent over backward to prove they’re nonpartisan. What I’m talking about here is open partisanship as a business strategy.

The U-T thinks it has promise. It just launched a new website “Seeing Red: A conservative view of politics.” CEO John Lynch scrapped the community editorial board that editor Jeff Light had set up.

Recent editorials have predicted a war on God and hellscape on Earth should Obama win a second term as president.

Carl DeMaio, a Republican running for mayor, got two unprecedented front-page editorial endorsements from the paper. Actually, they weren’t even on the front page — the editorials were wrapped around the page as though they were even more important.

Far from cheerleading, the editorial page has turned vicious. It said DeMaio’s rival, Nathan Fletcher, had put his loyalty as a Marine in question when he bucked the Republican Party. The paper later, bizarrely, compared Fletcher to a socialist prohibitionist who ran for Assembly in 1918.

They accused the Unified Port of San Diego of running its books like one of the most awful frauds in American business history.

They’ve been hysterical. I don’t mean hysterical as in funny. It’s true hysteria laced with negativity.

Again, I’ve got no problem with that. Go ahead. It’s the disconnect between that and what Manchester says he’s doing that is weird.

Note what Manchester said when Rob Davis profiled him:

“I never go to roasts anymore,” he said. “I don’t like it. I like to go to toasts. I like to toast people and to look at what’s right and good in San Diego and maybe not what’s negative.”

Does this guy have some kind of personality disorder? On one day he’s a warm, sensitive booster, and on another, he’s a ferocious inquisitor.

The fact is, the U-T editorial page, which is where Manchester has his most direct influence on the paper, has hardly been trying to “toast people” and avoid negativity. Quite the opposite.

The disconnect parallels his baffling politics. Manchester told KPBS he supports “limited government” and yet he advocates for massive military spending and taxpayer support of a new football stadium. On the one hand, he hates the idea of a new City Hall, but he’s wildly supportive of the Navy’s effort to build a new headquarters, which benefits, of course, him.

In fact, he’s a fan of big government as long as it is based on religious authoritarianism, provides for private enrichment off public assets and spends what’s left on unquestioned militarism.

All of this makes sense, though, and I think his desire to toast people is sincere.

It’s his definition of “people” that might be worth questioning. Maybe, to him, the real people are Christians, Republican defense contractors and football team owners.

Most importantly, actual people are people who agree with his vision for San Diego.

He wants to toast people, yes. But you’re not a person if you cross him.

That’s, of course, just one interpretation. There is a chance that Manchester does not actually control his newspaper. That would mean all this negativity spilling out of the U-T’s editorial page makes him uncomfortable and that he is, right now, pleading with Lynch to not be so negative.

Somehow, I doubt this is the case.

Manchester may want a world where we toast each other. But he’s not trying to create it. And that’s perfectly fine.

Just don’t pretend that’s what you’re actually setting out to do as you build your media empire.

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!):

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.


Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis

I'm Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it's a blast!): @vosdscott.

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78 comments
Jim Neri
Jim Neri subscribermember

my subscription to the U-T is toast

Jimmer
Jimmer

my subscription to the U-T is toast

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

It's likely Manchester's personal experience that has him less enamored of the inspection process than most, and really it's VOSD's issue that being given a perfect segue into a story on city inspectors and the entire process, good or bad, they simply focus on Manchester bashing. Of course they may not want to look too closely at the city workers and processes either.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

It's likely Manchester's personal experience that has him less enamored of the inspection process than most, and really it's VOSD's issue that being given a perfect segue into a story on city inspectors and the entire process, good or bad, they simply focus on Manchester bashing. Of course they may not want to look too closely at the city workers and processes either.

John Hardman
John Hardman subscribermember

To take the discussion to another level, is it OK for a tyrant to hijack the public expression of a city and to berate and proudly exclude a major portion of the public? At least with shock radio there are other choices on the air, but only one local newspaper. Historically a newspaper had a responsibility to its community. Have this changed with the advent of Fox News? Does a newspaper now only have allegence to an ideology, not the community?

JohnTDI
JohnTDI

To take the discussion to another level, is it OK for a tyrant to hijack the public expression of a city and to berate and proudly exclude a major portion of the public? At least with shock radio there are other choices on the air, but only one local newspaper. Historically a newspaper had a responsibility to its community. Have this changed with the advent of Fox News? Does a newspaper now only have allegence to an ideology, not the community?

Darlene Garvais
Darlene Garvais subscribermember

Well said. I just cancelled my subscription a few weeks ago. I got tired of seeing Roger Hedgcock in the opinion pieces.

ecomom
ecomom

Well said. I just cancelled my subscription a few weeks ago. I got tired of seeing Roger Hedgcock in the opinion pieces.

Janet Shelton
Janet Shelton subscriber

Absolutely, a lot of unpermitted work is done. But this was in a commercial building and was an extensive project. By attitude, I mean doing the work without a permit when clearly he knew it required a permit and when it was visible from the outside and then running a city inspector off. My comment had nothing to do with his political views. My point was that when you take that kind of attitude with the city, you are more likely to get fines and bad publicity. He only got bad publicity and I seriously doubt it bothered him one little bit.

myearth
myearth

Absolutely, a lot of unpermitted work is done. But this was in a commercial building and was an extensive project. By attitude, I mean doing the work without a permit when clearly he knew it required a permit and when it was visible from the outside and then running a city inspector off. My comment had nothing to do with his political views. My point was that when you take that kind of attitude with the city, you are more likely to get fines and bad publicity. He only got bad publicity and I seriously doubt it bothered him one little bit.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Oh, and to determine if your project needs a permit, call (619) 446-5000. You can ask them about your water heater. Ask for both gas and electric and let me know what they say.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Oh, and to determine if your project needs a permit, call (619) 446-5000. You can ask them about your water heater. Ask for both gas and electric and let me know what they say.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

This Manchester permit issue is simply petty. It's not news, not in a city like ours with our big issues. It's just to feed the common dislike of a right winger by those on the left, or those that have a personal grudge.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

This Manchester permit issue is simply petty. It's not news, not in a city like ours with our big issues. It's just to feed the common dislike of a right winger by those on the left, or those that have a personal grudge.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

The whole of your attack on me is based on false conclusions on your part.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

The whole of your attack on me is based on false conclusions on your part.

David Cohen
David Cohen subscriber

myearth, Masters of the Universe play by their own rules, doncha know?

fryefan
fryefan

myearth, Masters of the Universe play by their own rules, doncha know?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

So in other words, it's only a story if it is Manchester.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

So in other words, it's only a story if it is Manchester.

Janet Shelton
Janet Shelton subscriber

I agree that they can be forgiving for personal transgressions but not so much for business, especially when they show attitude in the many ways he has. it's news. The Voice didn't have to be out to get him. He handed it to them.

myearth
myearth

I agree that they can be forgiving for personal transgressions but not so much for business, especially when they show attitude in the many ways he has. it's news. The Voice didn't have to be out to get him. He handed it to them.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

But if you think he got away with something,don't you have to ask yourself what Manchester knows about the city inspectors that would convince them to give him this sweet deal to keep it on the down low? Just saying.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

But if you think he got away with something,don't you have to ask yourself what Manchester knows about the city inspectors that would convince them to give him this sweet deal to keep it on the down low? Just saying.

Janet Shelton
Janet Shelton subscriber

What I thought was stunning about building the "auto musuem" ramp and door without a permit is that as a developer of many years, Papa had to know it was illegal. This was no innocent mistake but a thumb of his nose at the rules and the city. And his reward was no fine. Do you think that if others openly did something in so blatant a way, this would have happened? The news shouldn't be that the Voice reported it but that no one else did.

myearth
myearth

What I thought was stunning about building the "auto musuem" ramp and door without a permit is that as a developer of many years, Papa had to know it was illegal. This was no innocent mistake but a thumb of his nose at the rules and the city. And his reward was no fine. Do you think that if others openly did something in so blatant a way, this would have happened? The news shouldn't be that the Voice reported it but that no one else did.

Janet Shelton
Janet Shelton subscriber

liberal? Well, 20 years ago, I would have agreed with this statement. I don't think it is any more. The UT is representative of the extreme right wing that dominates the Republican party. And I'm not sure conservative is the right word any more.

myearth
myearth

liberal? Well, 20 years ago, I would have agreed with this statement. I don't think it is any more. The UT is representative of the extreme right wing that dominates the Republican party. And I'm not sure conservative is the right word any more.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

If I pointed to something on the Qualcomm campus that was built without proper permits, would you do a front page on it?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

If I pointed to something on the Qualcomm campus that was built without proper permits, would you do a front page on it?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

So, you are saying the progressives worship Satan?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

So, you are saying the progressives worship Satan?

Ian Trowbridge
Ian Trowbridge subscribermember

Normally it should not be but Papa is a hypocrite that makes him fair game. After giving over 100K to the Yes on 8 folks and opposing same sex marriages based on his Catholic principles, we find he is playing fast and loose with his own marriage in a very un-Catholic way. Hypocrisy is a charitable description of his behavior.

iantrowbridge
iantrowbridge

Normally it should not be but Papa is a hypocrite that makes him fair game. After giving over 100K to the Yes on 8 folks and opposing same sex marriages based on his Catholic principles, we find he is playing fast and loose with his own marriage in a very un-Catholic way. Hypocrisy is a charitable description of his behavior.

susanf
susanf subscribermember

papa doc (sic) is just another control freak, trying to impose his will upon the rest of us, esp those who disagree with him. sad, really.

susanf
susanf

papa doc (sic) is just another control freak, trying to impose his will upon the rest of us, esp those who disagree with him. sad, really.

joe vargo
joe vargo subscriber

Jim Jones wrote, "newspapers are overwhelmingly liberal across the country". Jim, this slant is getting old. So called conservative media is huckster propaganda. Any news outfit that reports news objectively is liberal. Oreily lies so much his nose doesn't fit in the studio.

joev
joev

Jim Jones wrote, "newspapers are overwhelmingly liberal across the country". Jim, this slant is getting old. So called conservative media is huckster propaganda. Any news outfit that reports news objectively is liberal. Oreily lies so much his nose doesn't fit in the studio.

Scott Lewis
Scott Lewis administrator

Look, obviously I'm being facetious and mocking him trying to make a point that his actions are not following his words. And yes, that's probably a lesson I can learn from too.

scottlewis
scottlewis

Look, obviously I'm being facetious and mocking him trying to make a point that his actions are not following his words. And yes, that's probably a lesson I can learn from too.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Scott, in all honesty I think you do have a very big bias against the UT, and I think it is much more apparent when looking from the outside than it is from your POV. Seriously, has there been any other business or entity that got called out here for not getting a building permit for a door and ramp? This whole article is an attack, not a critique. People cease being people if they disagree with him? That's something you wouldn't allow me to post against Filner or the SDPD if I wrote it.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Scott, in all honesty I think you do have a very big bias against the UT, and I think it is much more apparent when looking from the outside than it is from your POV. Seriously, has there been any other business or entity that got called out here for not getting a building permit for a door and ramp? This whole article is an attack, not a critique. People cease being people if they disagree with him? That's something you wouldn't allow me to post against Filner or the SDPD if I wrote it.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Newspapers, like most of the media, have a definite bias to the left that permeates them and every page in most papers. They might have George Will as a columnist, but that's just the token righty.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Newspapers, like most of the media, have a definite bias to the left that permeates them and every page in most papers. They might have George Will as a columnist, but that's just the token righty.