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Member Report: A Media vs. Pol Rumpus and Our Editor Has an Itch

A skirmish has broken out between U-T San Diego and Nathan Fletcher, the assemblyman running for mayor.

You may have noticed Sunday an editorial from the paper about Fletcher. The editorial implied that Fletcher’s abandonment of the Republican Party damaged his integrity as a Marine. That kick-started a flurry of conversation over the weekend.

Apparently, the editorial was going to be harsher on that point, according to two folks who saw copies of an email exchange between U-T management and Fletcher’s allies before it ran. Nobody would share the emails with me. All they’d say is that the U-T’s ownership was furious with Fletcher and demanding he answer some questions.

That, of course, turned out to be the theme of the editorial: Fletcher has some questions to answer. But Fletcher did answer questions from the U-T in an on-the-record editorial board meeting shortly after he abandoned the GOP.

And now, Fletcher has decided to release his own recording of the discussion. It’s quite an exchange. Here’s a taste. It’s a question posed by the U-T editor Jeff Light to Fletcher. Note how it is asked:

“We as an editorial board do not want to see Bob Filner get through to the general election, because the environment around the general election is much more favorable to Bob Filner. So we certainly want to keep that from happening. On the other hand, some of the things you said, it was a little more than just ‘hey I just want to be an independent voice.’ And I think this was what Pete Wilson was reacting to. It was sort of that message that ‘well, the Republican Party is bad.’ How can we get behind you given that we’ve got a lot of Republican backing and Republican tradition? I think that puts us in a tough position.”

This gets at what interested me most about the U-T’s editorial: The paper was very concerned about the damage Fletcher was inflicting on the party.

I’m writing a column about what parties are and what seems to be happening. This Fletcher discussion with the U-T helps illustrate some parts of it. And we’ll post the audio with it. If you have any thoughts about how parties work and how it affects policy, please share.

Donohue’s Gotta Go See About an Idea

Every manager at any level of any organization knows the feeling. It’s what sets in that moment when a partner or colleague comes up to your desk and says, “Hey, got a minute?” And nods to the door.

This time, for me, it was different. It was my long-time friend, partner and co-conspirator, Andrew Donohue, Voice of San Diego’s editor. He let me know that, in coming weeks, there was a good chance he’d win a fellowship at Stanford and he was trying to decide whether he would take it.

It was no easy decision. The guy’s about to have a kid (right around Election Day — hang in there little one!) and he’s known around the country for his work. VOSD’s doing well and we’re having a lot of fun doing it.

Donohue and I met in 2003, and almost immediately began collaborating. And, almost immediately, I noticed that he seems to always have something tugging at him. It’s like an instinctual drive.

Months later, sure enough, he bolted to Central America.

But we still collaborated.

When Voice of San Diego was launching, the founding editor, Barbara Bry, offered me a job as a writer.

I didn’t take it. My wife was in the Navy and she had to go to South Carolina for a spell. I decided to go with her.

But I recommended they talk to Andy, who I said was either in Panama or Costa Rica. Donohue, after all, was the one who first broke the story of the city’s pension scandal. In 2002, he had gone to a City Council meeting where a whistleblower, Diann Shipione, was begging the politicians not to do an obscure and complicated deal to give pension benefits to employees but also shortchange the fund set aside to pay them.

He followed her out of the meeting and so began San Diego’s pension crisis.

Bry did find Andy and he followed that tug once more, taking a job with a strange new startup.

Months later, Bry and her successor had left. But Andy and I collaborated again. We had a phone call that would change our lives forever. We decided to put together a proposal to run the organization, make it impactful and focus it on doing only a few things really well. The board took it.

That was November 2005. And since then, we’ve built something that thousands of San Diego’s most engaged residents rely on every day. Now, he’s got an idea tugging at him. Here’s a bit about it and we’ll share more in the future.  

We still have him in our circle. He’ll remain editor through the summer while we plan how to re-organize our leadership once again. He’ll continue to contribute from afar. And then, someday, I have no doubt that we’ll have a phone conversation (or maybe it will be on Twitter now) that will change both our lives again.

Andy’s departure will open opportunities to shift things up a bit. Let us know now if you think we should be covering different things or changing anything we do or how we do it. We can always reconsider priorities and improve how we deliver them.

But our ability as an organization to grow and just do more depends on support from you. Thank you for being a member. And since many of you haven’t yet become a member and donated, please consider it.

I’m Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. You can contact me directly at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it’s a blast!): twitter.com/vosdscott.

Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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