Tribune Publishing, the Chicago-based media giant and owner of the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune, is buying the Union-Tribune for $85 million.
Here are the facts: The deal is not quite closed. Doug Manchester will be stepping away when it is (here’s his farewell). The U-T’s new publisher is a man named Austin Beutner, who will also remain as the publisher of the L.A. Times. Former U-T editor and current president, Jeff Light, will be staying on at the paper, though Beutner told our Scott Lewis he did not know what Light’s title will be.
The newspaper’s staff will have to leave its longtime offices in Mission Valley (Manchester’s keeping that property and will be developing it into two residential towers). Beutner would not say where the company would move. “I’m not being coy. We haven’t found a space yet,” he said.
There will be layoffs. The U-T and L.A. Times will now be part of a new entity: the California News Group. “There will be some overlaps and there will be some areas we want to grow. The net of those probably means some reduction in the head count,” Beutner told us.
Here are memos from Beutner. His letter to readers gracefully quotes Voice of San Diego founder, Neil Morgan.
Lewis asked Beutner about the editorial page – how much would the U-T’s opinions change? “We’re going to remove some of the owners influence – and I’m not just referring to Mr. Manchester. I’m sure it happened with the Copleys,” he said.
Manchester had bought the paper for $110 million. But he keeps the real estate he got in the deal and the development he does there will likely more than make up the difference. Our 2012 profile of Manchester highlighted how irresistible it must have been for him to get the prime real estate and become a media mogul at the same time. The greater risk was really the media part and now he has shed it.
One thing that’s pretty sure: We’re not going to lose the print U-T to a digital-only edition. That would be suicide. As the L.A. Times itself notes, “the print product still generates the lion’s share of revenue at Tribune Publishing and other legacy media companies.”
Finally, we’re old enough to remember that weird front-page letter Manchester put up himself saying no, he would not be selling the paper.
• A bit forgotten in the hoopla about the L.A. Times purchase: The fact that the U-T under Manchester killed off the North County Times, itself the product of a newspaper merger. (Disclosure: I worked up there for 7 years and contributed for another 8 more.) The U-T’s Logan Jenkins went over that history a while back, noting that the “stately” Tribune Co. (which recently split from Tribune Publishing) owned the Escondido paper, where both of us were colleagues.
Drought’s a Tree-Killer in Balboa Park
VOSD’s Ry Rivard takes a look at the dying-tree crisis in Balboa Park. How many trees are losing the fight? No one knows because no one keeps track, and tourists may not notice the die-off, but trees are definitely struggling.
The park is trying to save certain trees, including those that are “horticulturally important.” As a public service, we won’t repeat Dorothy Parker’s reported joke about horticulturalists.
This VOSD story, by the way, may be the only place you’ll see a reference to “denuded tops” this week outside of Black’s Beach.
• The New Yorker has published an epic story about the fate of the Salton Sea, a creation of human overreach that’s now a barren, ugly, smelly mess: “The air smelled sweet and vaguely spoiled, like a dog that has got into something on a hot day.” Eww.
Gonzalez: Fix Civic SD for Workers
Last week, Andrew Keatts got some grief for writing that at the heart of the controversy about the future of Civic San Diego was a push by labor to organize hotel workers. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is pushing legislation to emasculate the agency by forcing the City Council to approve its decisions. Keatts decided to follow up his piece with a direct Q-and-A with Gonzalez.
It absolutely is about labor. Gonzalez hopes that forcing Civic San Diego to run its decisions past the City Council will make it easier to prod hotel owners to do better for their workers. “What we’re looking for is hotel management that will be neutral if workers exercise their rights to unionize,” she said.
Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, who represents some of San Diego’s poorest neighborhoods, is oddly still quiet about where she stands.
San Diego Explained: Bond Spending
San Diego Explained, our TV feature, looks at how San Diego Unified is figuring out how to spend the millions that it borrowed (and taxpayers will pay off).
Cops Rethink Body Camera Rules
“The San Diego Police Department announced a change to its body camera policy after an officer failed to turn on his camera before fatally shooting a man in the Midway District,” NBC 7 reports. The police chief announced, the station said, that “instead of hitting record when they contact a suspect, officers will now have to turn on their cameras before they arrive at a scene.”
Quick News Hits: Bottom-Ranked
• SeaWorld’s attendance is recovering but the company is still losing money. (AP/NBC 7)
• An environmentalist group is miffed by prospects for more desalination plants. (Times of San Diego)
• The city is taking its sweet time to do something about the decrepit former downtown library. (City News Service)
• Today, whippersnappers consider longtime curmudgeonly U-T sports columnist Nick Canepa to be a bit of a “off my lawn, damn kids!” kind of guy, especially when he gets cranky after being called out over insisting on nonsense. But back in the day, Canepa seems to have been a bit of a badass: the Clippers, when they were based here, even let him make a draft pick, he tells Deadspin.
• Here’s how Airbnb could go totally wrong, via Gawker.
• No, the announcement of the U-T sale didn’t look like this, but it’s nice to think so. And here’s a Twitter note about what I’ll miss most.
• NerdWallet, which sounds like something I’d keep in my back pocket, is out with a list of the Top 100 Best Places for Tech Jobs. San Diego has got to be at the top of the list, right?
OK, let’s take a look. A-ha! There’s San Marcos. Oh wait, that’s Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Tex., at No. 9. Hmm. Looking in the 10s, the 20s… the 70s…there goes Topeka… Oh boy! At No. 88, there’s San … Antonio.
Hmm. This is not looking good. We’re not No. 100, are we? Nope. Whew. We’re at … No. 90. Why? Because tech pay is on the lower side here, and housing prices are waaaaay high. Virtual reality, meet virtual quality of life.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.