Monday, September 17, 2012

Not Fit to Print

I am loathe to condemn the editorial positions of other newspapers.

For one thing, every paper should have a voice, even it isn’t singing
the same song as me.

For another, I’m not always in lock step with my own newspaper’s
positions. But I don’t burst into print every time I’m at odds with
my colleagues. A diversity of opinions is something to be embraced,
not shunned.


I have worked on the editorial pages of three newspapers on my
resume. At each and every one of them, writers are expected to
provide the evidence on which they base their opinions, often before
they lay finger on keyboard.

These standards apparently don’t apply at the UT, however, a paper
which circulates in San Diego.

It used to be the Union Tribune, a Pulitzer Prize-winning publication
before it was bought by real estate investor Doug Manchester who has
dumbed down the name and content.

In a recent editorial entitled “Obama in 2016? A Choice for America!”
we are told by the UT that if the President is re-elected, “Israel
will be attacked by the surrounding Arab terror states as the U.S.
retreats from Israel’s defense. Israel’s very existence will be in

And that as far as taxes are concerned, “Californians will be paying
60 to 70 percent of their income. But 65 percent of Californians will
pay no tax at all. “

And that “ ...with Obamacare, if you are over 65, a ride to Mexico
will become commonplace, as there will be rationed care in the U.S.
Death panels and other rationing plans will limit care.”

And that “As Obama’s war on God and life continues, we predict an
effort to have late-term abortions paid for by taxpayers – even at a
time when more than 60 percent of America believes there should be
restrictions on abortion. We ask: Who stands for the life and rights
of the child?”

And that “We even predict an effort to get “In God we Trust” removed
from U.S. symbols, including our money.”

Israel under siege? Death panels? A war on God? Dollars without
deity? What, no plagues of frogs, locusts and boils?

This reminds me of the e-mails you get from your crazy uncle usually
entitled WAKE UP AMERICA! offering “proof” that Obama is a radical
Muslim, a non-citizen whose mother was a transvestite and who is in
fact the anti-Christ as described in the Book of Revelations (all of
which were actually in circulation on the Internet).

Except this isn’t the handiwork of a goofy zealot with a laptop. This
is the considered opinion of a major newspaper.

There is no supporting evidence to back up the UT’s claims other than
a vague reference to “several economists” who go unnamed. No one is
quoted. No research is cited.

The problem here is not that the UT dislikes Obama. Lots of people
do. The problem is that the UT’s editors have resorted to
fear-mongering to make the case against the President.

There are issues they could cite to make a case for change. Instead,
they have chosen to instill fear and loathing in their readers, using
a toxic mix of outrageous claims and political paranoia that Mitt
Romney himself wouldn’t touch.

It’s a throwback to the “yellow journalism” of William Randolph
Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer in which “facts” were invented to inflame
the public.

According to the New York Times, none of this should come as a

“The UT San Diego often seems like a brochure for (Manchester's) various
interests,” it wrote.

“Mr. 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.

“Public agencies that have not gotten the hint have found themselves
investigated in the news pages of The UT. A sports columnist who was
skeptical of the plans found himself out of a job, and the newspaper
has published front-page editorials and wraparound sections to
promote political allies who share its agenda.

“According to several employees at the paper, a feature called
‘Making a Difference’ has included flattering profiles of many of Mr.
Manchester’s associates.”

The Times wonders if the UT reflects the future of journalism, one in
which “moneyed interests buy papers and use them to prosecute a
political and commercial agenda.”

This is not a new business model. Many papers in the early to mid-20th Century
were run that way. Some still are.

But if indeed we stand on the threshold of a world where newspapers
once again engage in wholesale misrepresentation of the facts to
feather their owner’s nests, we have a lot more to fear than Barack

We need to fear Doug Manchester.

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