David Carr of The New York Times wrote an unintentional laugh line for Monday's paper: "There is a growing worry that the falling value and failing business models of many American newspapers could lead to a situation where moneyed interests buy papers and use them to prosecute a political and commercial agenda."
No! Could you believe a newspaper would follow a political agenda based on what its owner wanted to do? Where have we ever heard of that before, say, with an owner who told Daddy he thought the Americans should be shot in Vietnam? But wait: in San Diego, it's that other, somehow less professional bias: Union-Tribune owner Douglas Manchester is "anti-big government, anti-tax and anti-gay marriage. And he’s in favor of a remade San Diego centered around a new downtown waterfront stadium and arena."
Carr does say something quietly by being shocked that there is no bias denial going on, as is required in the hallowed halls of the Old Media:
The oddest part? Mr. Manchester and the chief executive, John T. Lynch, who also owns part of the paper, are completely open about their motives.
“We make no apologies,” Mr. Lynch said by telephone on Friday. “We are doing what a newspaper ought to do, which is to take positions. We are very consistent — pro-conservative, pro-business, pro-military — and we are trying to make a newspaper that gets people excited about this city and its future.”
This passage was also hilarious:
Many of us grew up in towns where the daily paper was in bed with civic leaders, but the shared interest was generally expressed on the editorial page. Occasionally, appropriate lines of inquiry would be suspiciously ignored in coverage, but the news pages were just that, news.
At The U-T, which was known as The San Diego Union-Tribune when it was owned by the Copley family, that pretense was obliterated from the start. Mr. Manchester was no stranger to politics, having contributed $125,000 in support of Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in California, and suffering some boycotts at his hotels as a result.
Maybe that was true in Missoula, but anyone who grew up in New York never found "just news" on the front of The New York Times. Carr concluded by worrying that the conservative U-T bias will dominate the town:
In a sense, it’s back to the future for newspapers, to a time when they didn’t make much money but could enrich their owners by advancing their agendas in other areas. But papers were legion then; even midsize American cities supported many varieties — liberal and conservative, morning and afternoon, pro-business and pro-socialist.
In San Diego, there’s a strong weekly, The San Diego Reader, and a great news Web site, Voice of San Diego. But The U-T has the brawn and ubiquity of a daily newspaper. As the only game in town, it seems determined to not just influence the conversation, but control it.
Even in this piece, Carr can't admit that the unlabeled media properties he's pushing as "great" are the leftist ones. Naturally, the Reader agrees with his bias entirely: “David Carr, media columnist for the New York Times, precisely pinpoints what is wrong with the Union-Tribune's current ownership and management in a column slated to appear tomorrow (June 11).”
Voice of San Diego pounded the Times line, and hard: "The paper has become more partisan, provocative and petulant, drawing the attention of media analysts who say it's an important national case study to see whether ideologues like Manchester are solely interested in the newspaper industry because they can use it for their personal political gain."