The new owners of The San Diego Union-Tribune have thrown down the gauntlet to its readers that is best illustrated by the enlarged graphic of the American flag on the masthead.

This prominent image betrays the new owners goal of fanning the flames of partisanship that is consuming our nation. If there was any doubt of this, it was confirmed by one of the new owners who asserted on pubic radio that it was there to demonstrate that San Diego is not Berkeley, where people are afraid to fly the flag.

San Diego now has a single metropolitan newspaper that is owned by two men with an agenda — so bold, so clear, so narrow, that they conflate their own views with what is irrefutably right, and see promulgation of them as a legitimate purpose of their very own newspaper.

Under the new definition of patriotism described in their masthead, “THE WORLD’S GREATEST COUNTRY & THE AMERICA’S FINEST CITY” the first major article was a full-page analysis, “The Numbers behind the Iraq War.”

It mostly covered U.S. troop deployment and deaths, limiting description of effects on Iraqis to increased income. In the section on deaths of various groups there was a paragraph in the smallest typeface giving the Internet source for Iraqi civilian deaths, ( but then not including that number.

This website concludes that deaths of Iraqi civilians — men, women and children — from coalition forces and post war chaos was about twenty five times the number of U.S. troops killed. This means, based on relative population, that an Iraqi was 250 times more likely to know a civilian who was killed than we were to know an American combatant who died. The exclusion of this metric from this article, consistent with the paper’s avowed nationalistic goals, makes it impossible to understand the real cost and the probable consequences of this war. 

We live in an ever more complex world, one that does not revolve around our city, our  country, and certainly not around the interests of two men who happened to have prospered in a country strengthened by the interplay of diverse ideas fostered by great newspapers. Promotion of their values and interests, whether described as advertising, cheerleading or propaganda, is rightly protected under our constitution; but when this displaces legitimate journalism, the raw material for an informed electorate, it is a tragic loss to our democratic system.

Perhaps the benefit of the new owners’ narrow arrogance is it will force those not of their mindset to  get out of the comfortable routine of reading the morning paper over coffee, believing that the news in print has substance and legitimacy.

Hint to management: Now is the time to connect with the audience that Manchester and Lynch have just discarded. We are pretty upset and looking for a home.

Al Rodbell lives in Encinitas.

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Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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