Even by the standards of the struggling newspaper industry, U-T San Diego — formerly known as The San Diego Union-Tribune — has been through a tumultuous half-decade. Under three owners, it’s gone through hundreds of layoffs. Now, there’s talk that it might become the property of a non-profit.

The keyword in that sentence is “might.” A deal is far from certain, and many questions remain unanswered. In his most extensive comments yet on his interest in acquiring the U-T, local philanthropist Malin Burnham explains what he has in mind and reveals the work that still needs to be done for the purchase to become reality.

Burnham tells VOSD reporter Liam Dillon that there’s no arrangement, just an idea, a bid for approval by the IRS and an intrigued U-T publisher Doug Manchester. “If Malin gets the necessary approvals then we will talk but we are a long way from any type of transaction if any will ever materialize,” Manchester said.

While there are plenty of non-profit news outlets around the country, including this one, non-profit newspapers are extremely rare. Burnham said he hasn’t looked into the only major one, the once-respected Tampa Bay Times, which is now going through severe struggles.

Our story also looks into Burnham’s background. He’s 86 with moderate-to-conservative political leanings and is a major contributor to charitable organizations and political efforts. Among other things, he supported an unsuccessful bid to pull some control over the San Diego school board away from voters. He also stood behind a widely derided 500-foot-tall waterfront art project and suggested voters be left out of the loop in talks of a grand new City Hall building.

For Business Types with Gripes, Airport Is Target-Rich

San Diego and international flights aren’t the tightest of buddies. There aren’t a lot of non-stop direct flights from Lindbergh Field to faraway countries: We have seven non-stop international flights, while Phoenix has 20. We’re barely above Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas.

A recent survey reveals how much this situation annoys local business types. “They say San Diego may be missing out on visitors and even businesses, particularly the high-tech and export-focused ones the region wants to boost,” VOSD reporter Lisa Halverstadt writes in a new story about the challenges facing the business community. “Meanwhile, business leaders are focused on luring more international flights they say would help San Diego compete globally rather than on pushing for a new airport.”

News Literacy Update

Following a successful workshop series focused on Chula Vista residents’ neighborhood concerns, Voice of San Diego’s News Literacy program is now working with South Bay community members leading up to the Sweetwater Union High School District board election. This unprecedented school board election will usher in five trustees who will also be responsible for hiring a new superintendent. At our news-lit workshops, residents and students are getting the tools they need to be civically engaged in the election. Follow their updates on Twitter @voicesofsuhsd and @VOSDNewsLit.

This election is a big deal. That’s why we’re hosting a candidate forum, and you’re invited. Our Area 4 candidate forum is Thursday, Oct. 16 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. VOSD CEO Scott Lewis will talk to candidates vying for a newly formed spot representing students from Castle Park and San Ysidro neighborhoods. Grab your seat here.

Water Honcho Puts Homeless to Work

Give credit to city employee Daniel Orozco for some of the top creativity in town. His job is to maintain the city’s 15 storm-water pump stations, and — as the Reader reports — he developed quite an unusual way to find out of a pump station has lost power.

“I strategized and installed strobe lights and when the system fails they go on,” he told City Council members recently. “I gave my card to the transients [who shelter near the pumping stations] and they call me when they see the light go on.”

Yikes. Why does it matter? Because floods can be damaging and even deadly. Councilman David Alvarez says we’re dealing with “really outdated technology and dangerously deteriorating conditions.”

For Urban Cyclists, a Deadly Risk

In the New York Times, columnist Timothy Egan focuses on the recent death of a cyclist in Seattle and points to some disturbing numbers: “In 2012, the last year for which full numbers are available, 726 cyclists lost their lives nationwide — almost two a day. It’s far safer to fly… lanes for cyclists and signage for special routes might offer little more than the illusion of safety. ”

More than 150 of those deaths occurred in California. “The thing to do is to realize how vulnerable you are whenever two wheels try to share a road meant for four wheels,” Egan writes. “Getting on a bike in the city is an act of faith in a flawed urban contract, and in beating the odds.”

• Kerry Kunsman, a board member and former treasurer of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, has died from injuries in a bicycle accident in Oregon, the U-T reports. He was hit by a truck while cycling along the coast.

Culture Report: This Rehearsal Is Hot

VOSD’s weekly Culture Report links to coverage of the art and food renaissance in Tijuana, a high ranking for San Diego among the “Top 5 Artsy Cities,” and ragtime on the way.

The Culture Report also notes how UCSD actors are rehearsing for a Tom Shepard play in the desert outside Campo, right next to the border fence. Fortunately, audiences won’t need sit amid cactuses, lizards and stifling heat to see the production. It will be performed at Echo Park in L.A. and profiled in a documentary.

Quick News Hits: Abused Dog Captures a Heart

• The debate between 52nd District candidates Carl DeMaio and Rep. Scott Peters Tuesday night doesn’t appear to have tread much new ground. From the U-T: “DeMaio repeatedly portrayed Peters as a wealthy politician more concerned about ‘special interests’ than ordinary Americans. Peters suggested that DeMaio’s new self-construct as a moderate isn’t reflected in his political past.”

• More than 2,500 people withdrew their signatures in support of the minimum wage referendum, but it may not matter since supporters — led by foes of a hike — may have enough. (U-T)

• The county Board of Supervisors isn’t quite ready to approve rules to forbid themselves from making a big whoop-de-do about their individual $2 million stashes of taxpayer money that they hand out to community groups. (U-T)

• The future of fixes at Belmont Park is up in the air as the City Council and the park operator try to agree on a lease. (U-T)

• “A dog that was seen tossed over a gate and then abandoned in extreme heat in Ramona has a new, loving home,” NBC 7 reports. The disturbing video of the abuse made a splash online.

No word on whether the dog, a pit bull named Dolly, will star in a musical. (Hint!)

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Please contact him 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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