Here are a couple FAQs to get you warmed up for today’s special Cafe San Diego on the Union-Tribune.

Q: Could the U-T become a non-profit?

A: Newspaper spokesman Drew Schlosberg told me that’s not an option. But what if it was? David Copley, publisher of the U-T, could decide to donate the paper to a foundation.

There’s not much of a precedent for such a move, however. Only two major newspapers in the U.S. are non-profit: The Christian Science Monitor, which is subsidized by the Christian Science Church, and the St. Petersburg Times in Florida.

The St. Petersburg paper is far from immune to the apocalypse facing the newspaper industry, however. It has bought out staffers and just this week announced the extension of a wage freeze, a pension benefits freeze and the suspension of company 401(k) contributions.

Alan Mutter, a former newspaper executive and widely read blogger, points out that being a non-profit doesn’t rid a newspaper of a major challenge: Avoiding red ink.

“The business has to be right-side up,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the structure is.”

But what about non-profit news websites like They’re staying afloat even in this difficult economy and have a wider range of revenue sources, including donations and grants. But their staffs are also much smaller than those of major metropolitan daily newspapers, and their focus is limited to specialized topics. In general, they’re not designed to be full-service news providers like daily newspapers.

Q: Several companies have come under fire recently for owning corporate jets. Does the U-T have one?

A: Yes, the Copley Press owns an airplane. But it’s trying to unload it.

FAA records show that Copley Press owns a twin-jet, 12-passenger Gulfstream IV. You can see photos of it here.

The website, which tracks the movements of aircraft, shows that the plane hasn’t been busy over the last four months. It traveled to San Diego to the French Riviera in October. In late December and early January, it flew from San Diego to St. Maarten in the Caribbean; Palm Beach, Fla.; the Virgin Islands and then back to San Diego. The site doesn’t identify who was on the plane.

The firm assigned to sell the plane doesn’t list its price. But another plane, identified as the same model from the same year (1990), is listed at nearly $17 million.


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