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After 35 years in public education as a high school English teacher and university administrator, I began my second life as a freelance writer, winning San Diego Society of Professional Journalist awards for my opinion columns in the former San Diego daily North County Times and the San Diego Free Press.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Censorship Comes to North San Diego

From Carlsbadistan.com

Beginning in October Carlsbadians will get only Papa Doug Manchester’s (right) slant on the daily news.
Who’s Papa Doug (his preferred first name) and why should we care? The hotelier-turned-media mogul bought the North County Times [for $11.95 million]. Added to his acquisition and name change to the San Diego Union Tribune two years ago, he’s hellbent on creating a Hearst-like media empire in San Diego County.

And why should we care? He’s declared an editorial war on government employees, unions, President Obama, writers who don’t help promote the community, and anyone who walks, talks or acts like a Democrat. My last North County Times column critical of the empty boosterism of Carlsbad’s latest State of the City video would not see the light of day in a Manchester newspaper.

I experienced Papa Doug’s reign of terror for journalists when I submitted what was intended to be my last The Riehl World column scheduled for publication tomorrow. Here’s the part that was deemed too hot to handle, followed by Editor Kent Davy’s explanation.

“After being able to rant on this page for nine years, often at odds with editorial board positions, my homework assignments for the NCT end with this, my last column. I made that decision after learning the newspaper had been sold. Not that the new owners would have welcomed my prickly presence on their opinion pages.

In a KPBS interview on September 11 Doug Manchester said he hadn’t yet decided on the “brand” of the North County Times. But he left little doubt it will be a virtual clone of UT San Diego, given his primary goal to “salute what’s right and good about San Diego,” with a special pro-military, pro-business, and pro-Padres and Chargers focus.

NCT Editor Kent Davy, on the same KPBS show, described the newspaper’s mission: “We don’t work for corporate masters. We work for readers and the notion of doing good work,” to “hold a mirror up to the community,” to “show the community its successes and failures” and to “right wrongs.”

Asked if the new NCT will keep its own editorial board, Manchester replied, “We will definitely get editorial input from the North County area.” He didn’t promise editorial independence. But he did promise that the NCT, like its big brother in San Diego, will carry front page editorials advancing his conservative political agenda.

I’ll be rooting from the sidelines for the survival of NCT’s journalistic integrity, but I’m not holding my breath.”

And here’s Davy’s explanation of why the column was rejected:

“Richard: I am not willing to let you tee off on Manchester this way. There are people here who will have to work for him even if you don’t.” — Kent R. Davy | Editor | North County Times

It’s a sad day, not only for journalists, but for Carlsbad residents who will need to find sources other than their daily newspaper to find a diversity of opinions about issues they care about.

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