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The Orange County Register, the main daily newspaper just to the north of our fair county, is up for auction. The LAT reports that Platinum Equity, which now owns the U-T, may be in the hunt.

Anonymous observers tell the LAT that it’s possible that one owner may own most of Southern California’s major daily papers including the U-T, the LAT and the Register. Right now, the three — plus the Press-Enterprise in Riverside — are owned by different companies. Another company owns the North County Times, and yet another (MediaNews) owns a chain of papers in the San Fernando Valley, San Bernardino and elsewhere.

“A merger between the Register and either The Times, Union-Tribune or MediaNews would have the same broad outlines: The individual newspapers would maintain their identities, names, news staffs and editorial boards, in an effort to hold on to loyal readers. They would combine all other operations: ad sales, printing, distribution, human resources and publicity,” writes the LAT’s James Rainey.


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What would consolidation mean for readers? “At best, they could jolt new life into the newspaper business,” Rainey writes. “At worst, they hang together, rather than hang separately.”

It’s important to note that newspapers, in general, aren’t bleeding red ink all over the place. (If it was really bad, a lot of big-name papers would have shut down. That hasn’t happened over the last few years outside of some competitive markets.)

So why is the business struggling? Lots of newspapers continue to make a profit, but it’s often not as much as they’d like. Some are saddled with big amounts of debt. And online advertising hasn’t been the answer: most newspaper readers still read the paper the old-fashioned way, in print. That remains where the big money is, along with the big expenses (printing the paper and getting it to you).

Out but not Done:

A new report says only a bit more than a third of community college students in San Diego and Imperial counties reach the final step of that part of their academic lives. Just 35 percent get a certificate, a degree or transfer to a university within six years.

“That remarkable statistic underscores a problem that I want to pay more attention to as an education reporter,” Emily Alpert writes. “School districts aim to get students to college and often measure their success that way. But getting into college is just the beginning. What happens to students after they get there?”

There’s another interesting tidbit: Minority students are more likely to go to for-profit schools, which have come under a lot of criticism from people who say they saddle students with lots of debt.

At Last, Tiles for Tables:

As we told you last week, a City Heights community park improvement project was left in limbo because tiles painted by neighborhood children weren’t being installed in picnic tables. Now, the city has taken the tables away, but not for the wrong reasons: it’s installing the tiles.

Hands Off, Governor!:

Local cities have been busy spending and stashing: they’re trying to keep municipal money out of the hands of the state as Governor Brown pushes to get rid of redevelopment agencies and send their dough back to Sacramento. Escondido has gotten in on the game of hide-the-cash: The NCT says the city “will quickly transfer $20 million in cash from the city’s redevelopment agency to the city’s general fund, and that they plan to call the transfer a partial payback of nearly $32 million the agency owes the city in loans and interest.”

School Nurses Face a Financial Slap:

School nurses have been bemoaning declining budgets for well more than a decade, and now San Diego schools are thinking about really lowering the boom: plans call for just 44 nurses to roam around more than 180 schools, although campuses could pay for extra care. By one estimate, there are now the equivalent of 140 nurses in the schools. The teachers union is miffed.

Just Tell Them It’s Raining:

San Diego City Hall will finally get new fire sprinklers. Several floors don’t have them, and now that there’s not going to be a new City Hall anytime soon, they’re going to get them.

Prices Down, Demand Up:

Real-estate columnist Rich Toscano checks the latest home price numbers and finds another dip in January. (He means a fall in home prices, not an ordinary dip like, say, me.) Also: the OC Register just interviewed Toscano about his prognostication skills (he was a real-estate bear back before being a bear was cool) and gets a prediction for the next five years. Commenters chime in by lauding Toscano’s reality-based prediction skills. (Surprisingly, the commenters are not all named rtoscano.)

SD Scientology Chapter in the News:

The New Yorker has just published an epic article about Scientology and a top Hollywood director/screenwriter’s well-publicized fall from faith. Paul Haggis, who’s played major roles in creating Oscar winners like “Crash” and “Million Dollar Baby,” began turning against the church after “a staff member at Scientology’s San Diego church had signed its name to an online petition supporting Proposition 8,” the anti-gay-marriage initiative. The church distanced itself from the move, but that wasn’t enough for Haggis, who’s transformed himself from one of the church’s leading advocates to one of its most influential critics.

She Got a Move On:

A year ago, an El Cajon mother of three took up photography. Now she’s got two awards to her name and she’s opened a gallery featuring her rainbow-hued, digitally manipulated photos of nature, carousels and boats. Arts blogger Dani Dodge was on hand during Friday’s gallery opening and heard from the woman’s teenage son (“She’s like a snowball rolling downhill. She just keeps picking up speed and getting bigger”) and a 90.5-year-old artist who says she’s impressed by the gallery owner’s daring during this economy: “As they say in my family, she could sell a tail to a monkey.”

A 90.5-year-old artist? Yup. I’m far from the first person to notice that people love to throw on half-years when their ages are really small or really large.

Don’t Try This at Home:

San Diego arty types have been agonizing over the state of arts journalism in the region since the U-T revamped its coverage and sacked a veteran critic. Now, there’s word that the Cleveland Orchestra has taken a unique step: it’s hired its own “critic in residence” to engage with listeners during the orchestra’s annual residency in Miami.

The “critic” is hosting a blog about the orchestra and is accepting comments both laudatory and critical. That’s all well and good, but he’s also working hard to keep his critical perspectives to himself. It is, after all, a challenge to declare that your employer stinks or could do a better job.

The Cleveland Orchestra is smart enough to move to Miami during the winter, so it should know that this guy is no critic — he’s not even pretending — and stop calling him one. And let’s hope the title isn’t a trend.

The Wrong Kind of Beach Butts:

Consider these numbers: 42,000 cigarette butts, 70,000 pieces of plastic, a keyboard, a car window, a bag of vomit and a bag of something even yuckier. That’s what two local environmental groups collected from local beaches during 2010 trash cleanups.

And here I thought it was the detritus leftover after another one of my family reunions.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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