Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!

The city of San Diego first started to emerge from its dusty-cow-town cocoon about 130 years ago. Neil Morgan — newsman, cheerleader, chronicler — wrote about our town for more than 60 of those years.

He provided instant history lessons as San Diego boomed after World War II, battled over its future and mourned its own amid disaster and tragedy. He ran the scrappiest newspaper in town but still liked to see himself reflected in La Jolla’s glitterati. And then the city’s biggest booster, fired up by San Diego’s epic failings, found himself jobless at the moment we needed to hear a once-hopeful voice full of fury and sadness.

Morgan’s story didn’t end there. Stung and stunned by his sacking, he held a press conference to declare that he’d been tossed out. Instead of going gently into his last years, he co-founded Voice of San Diego.

Over the last few years, age and illness stilled Morgan’s voice, but never his legacy. On Saturday morning, he passed away at the age of 89.

Neil was a founding member of the VOSD family, and we will miss him dearly. He didn’t want a memorial service, saying the community has paid its respects to him through his decades of service. But we can still honor him through words of our own:

• In an obituary, we remember the most respected journalist in our city: “Through his long career, Neil Morgan tried to figure out what it meant to be a Westerner, a Californian, a San Diegan. He sought to understand what makes us different and why so many Americans are drawn to the Golden State, a place filled with flim and flam, opportunity and ruin, beauty and disaster.”

• A timeline of Morgan’s life looks back at his decades as a columnist, notes a humiliating moment and remembers one of this most perceptive comments: “We are 30 communities of strangers linked by the climate.”

• Andrew Donohue, former VOSD editor, remembers the motivating powers of our news organization’s co-founder: “the last line of a Neil Morgan email had a way of exploding like a firecracker under your desk chair.”

• Scott Lewis, CEO of VOSD, also remembers Morgan’s spirit and his insistence on powerful journalism: “He demanded we be controversial, that we generate discussion. But we always had to believe in San Diego, believe it was strong enough to meet its biggest challenges. We could be tough. But we could not be pessimistic.”

More Memories of Neil Morgan

• You can find more coverage of Morgan’s life from NBC San Diego, the U-T (note the terse, five-word description of his firing by the paper in 2004), and the L.A. Times.

• And check U-T columnist Logan Jenkin’s 2012 tribute to Morgan, who “gave us a 60-year running poem of civic purpose.”

Jenkins wrote: “One of Morgan’s favorite lines was a letter to the editor about his father, who was then deep into his 90s and still railing against injustice. ‘Can no one silence this old man?’ a Southern writer complained. No matter what life deals to Neil Morgan, no one can silence the richly recorded voice of our grand old man.”

Convention Center’s Neglected Audit

The Convention Center needs about $36 million in repairs, but it hasn’t been clear where the money will come from. An outside audit came up with a bunch of ideas about cuts, but — as we report in a new story — the suggestions have been sitting on the shelf, going nowhere. A board member who pushed for trimming the budget got so frustrated that she quit.

City Politics: Alvarez Ads in TJ, Who’s the ‘Straw Man’?

• Who’s putting up ads for mayoral candidate David Alvarez in Tijuana? The U-T investigates.

• The U-T digs deeper into the history of luxury car dealer Marc Chase, “the alleged straw man in San Diego’s latest political corruption case.”

Quick News Hits

• The VOSD Radio Show and expanded podcast features guest Mark Cafferty, chief executive of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, which wants more businesses to move here. He talks about the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage and other factors that affect our powers to woo.

• A debut column from our new tech industry blogger and our reader’s guide to the minimum wage debate were the most popular stories of last week. Read the full Top 10 list.

• Patch, the national network of tiny news sites devoted to local news, made a splash in San Diego by focusing on communities like Imperial Beach and La Mesa that lacked much in the way of coverage. But the advertising revenue wasn’t there nationally, and waves of layoffs hit Patch. More job cuts came last week via a bizarre you’re-sacked conference call. Now, the Reader reports, only one local reporter/editor is left.

• Remember the little spritz we got on Friday in the city? It was teeny, so small that it maybe deserves another word. Sprutz? Spritzle? Whatever the case, Lindbergh Field recorded .01 of an inch of rain — and that’s all we got in January.

Yup. It’s dry. How dry? The U-T says this was the third driest January in recorded history.

A Legacy to Remember, a Standard Set for the Future

A personal note.

Neil Morgan was not flawless. At times, he was too cozy with the powers that be, whether they were the owners of the U-T or the city’s movers and shakers. (I remember writing a newspaper column in 1992 that gently rapped him for gushing about the merger of The San Diego Union and Evening Tribune). We can expect online commenters to take aim at him any moment now.

But Neil Morgan surely doesn’t want to be remembered as perfect. And his legacy is strong enough to tolerate critics. The fact is that he devoted his professional life to chronicling and improving the city he affectionately called “a stumblebum with character.” He made this city a better and smarter place.

One of his lasting creations is Voice of San Diego. For all its growing pains and faults, VOSD gained Morgan’s affection, just like this magnificent and flawed city itself.

Here’s hoping VOSD continues to live up to his standards — and yours.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and vice president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Randy Dotinga

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

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.