In a move that effectively consolidates the two biggest newspapers in San Diego, U-T San Diego owner Doug Manchester confirmed Tuesday that his ownership group has also acquired the city’s other daily paper, The North County Times.
According to the Times, which serves most of San Diego County’s northern communities, the $11.95 million deal involving it and the Temecula-based Californian, will be completed Oct. 1.
Times editor Kent Davy told Raw Story Wednesday that it was not clear whether the paper will continue to function as a separate brand or be taken into the U-T banner, but that his staff did not serve “corporate masters.”
“I will tell you what I told my staff when I spoke to them yesterday: We do not work for corporate masters, no matter what their name is,” Davy said. “Whether it be [former owners] Lee [Enterprises] or Manchester or The Washington Post. We work for our readers and our community,” Davy said. “We are journalists. We do good journalism, we do good work, we work for that notion of doing good work in the community. What we do at this kind of paper is build community.”
At a Tuesday meeting with Times staff, Manchester, who likes to go by the nickname “Papa Doug,” said the paper will become part of his multi-media approach to news, which has included the addition of a television studio to the U-T‘s offices in Mission Valley.
“You’re no longer just writers, you’re content providers,” Manchester said. “We’ll put a TV studio up here as well and have local reports from the North County.”
The Times reported that Lynch told its staffers he valued the paper’s high-school football coverage, but that other areas were yet to be determined.
“We currently are fielding research that will provide a roadmap as to how best to operate the NCT, in conjunction with the UT,” he said.
Times publisher Peter York told KNSD-TV it’s unlikely that more than 50 of the paper’s 170 employees will lose their jobs in any ensuing reorganization.
While Manchester and U-T CEO John Lynch were excited about the acquisition, though, other local media members expressed concern.
“The North County Times has been an important second voice in the county and you’re putting that voice under Doug Manchester,” Voice of San Diego reporter Rob Davis told KNSD. “He has significant political power owning both papers.”
Manchester had attracted criticism four years ago, when he donated $125,000 in support of Prop. 8, the California state amendment banning same sex marriage, calling it “a First Amendment issue.” More recently, he has said he wanted U-T staff to support the construction of a new stadium for the local NFL team, the San Diego Chargers; the newspaper’s installation of an in-house car museum also drew the attention of city officials.
Lynch told The New York Times, “We are very consistent — pro-conservative, pro-business, pro-military” this past June, and has said he wanted it to become a cheerleader for San Diego. It was also discovered last week that U-T had offered “one-stop” media training to state Republican candidates.
Meanwhile, Davy said, the Times has taken the role of setting the table for their readers to talk about the problems they have.
“We hold a mirror up and say, ‘Here, folks, this is who you are, both your warts as well as your beauty,'” Davy said. “We celebrate successes and we take a cold look at our failures. We care about the truth, and all of that is what has made this society in America a good society. I hope that good journalism continues no matter who the corporate master is.”
KNSD’s report on the sale, aired Tuesday, can be seen below.