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What seems like a long time ago, I wrote a long profile about a media magnate, Dean Singleton, who was purchasing The Salt Lake Tribune. It’s fair to say there was incredible consternation about what was going to happen to the paper. The paranoia was peppered with religious fears as the Tribune had always been the non-Mormon paper. But overall the concern was about journalism in Salt Lake City. Would it suffer if the paper was not allowed to go back to the family that once owned it and instead went to a corporation like Singleton’s MediaNews?
The Tribune is a better paper now in my opinion. It focuses on local news. Its front page is filled with local, staff-written content — not the wire stories from The New York Times and other services that are available in, say, The New York Times. However, Tribune is facing troubles just like the Union-Tribune here.
So it’s based on that experience that I have to disagree with Point Loma Nazarene University’s journalism professor, Dean Nelson, who recently was on the KPBS radio talking about the U-T‘s for sale sign. Nelson had some great insights, particularly when he talked about how great voiceofsandiego.org is and how we are a potential model for how communities can support journalism. I can’t thank him enough for the recognition.
But I have to disagree with his statement that a corporate takeover of the Union-Tribune would definitely hurt the paper and the community. I don’t know what publisher David Copley brings to the paper that’s so special we have to worry about losing his influence. The paper is already shedding staff — with rumors of more pain on the way — and it’s cutting what it offers readers. It’s hard to imagine how it could contract any faster.
Besides that, though, new leadership could enforce a more local perspective on the Union-Tribune. New leadership might recognize that the paper should stop trying to be a news source for the country or the world — because people can get national or international news from much better outlets than the random wire stories that the U-T regurgitates.
New leadership could bring ambition and passion to a paper that for some reason rarely publishes major Sunday investigations and has lost so many of it’s talented local writers — people who wrote with authority and context.
I could be wrong, but I’ve seen people worry about a family lose control of a local newspaper and, miraculously, I’ve seen that local newspaper suddenly write more local news. Let me be the first to eat crow if saying goodbye to David Copley somehow turns out to be a bad thing for San Diego journalism.