Yesterday afternoon I went to the North County Times online to ask for a vacation hold for a couple of days while we’re out of town. The website no longer recognized me as a subscriber, so I had to resubmit my street and email addresses.
This morning I got an email in reply, thanking me for “subscribing to U-T San Diego’s
digital only edition. We know you have several options in how you
receive your news and are glad you chose us.” It was signed “Papa Doug
That reply and the death of the only other choice of a daily
newspaper in North County sealed my decision to extend that vacation
hold request to forever.
The first three days of the North County Times under Manchester’s ownership reveals its new brand: just an added section to U-T San Diego,
gratuitously carrying the familiar blue NCT masthead (adding “U-T” to
it) dishonestly designed to reassure North Countians they haven’t lost
their daily newspaper.
If it’s not dead, it’s been taken off life support. Don’t expect to see that blue masthead very much longer. The new North County Times
has shrunk to sixteen pages, but only five to seven local stories (ads
and public notices fill the rest). Those five to seven pages carry a
laughably titled “Opinion” section, gossipy city crime reports, a half
page of comics and a half page of sports.
Today’s Opinion section filled half a page. There’s no local
editorial. In its place is an oversized Mallard Fillmore cartoon of a
guy wearing a baseball cap wishing the president were unemployed like
There are three letters to the editor that made it to the Opinion
section, two of which bash President Obama. Tuesday’s paper carried six
letters, Monday’s ten.
Before the North County Times became a U-T San Diego
insert, its editorial pages were alive with public discourse. Letters
to the editor filled an entire page, a page and a half in election
years. Liberals and conservatives, atheists and evangelicals waged
lively daily debates. Doonesbury cartoons appeared next to Mallard
Fillmore. Community columnists appeared daily on the Opinion Page,
representing views ranging from conservative to progressive.
When asked in a KPBS interview after he bought the paper, Manchester
said he couldn’t promise an independent editorial board for his version
of the North County Times. That became clear this morning, when U-T San Diego’s Editorial appeared in the North County Times online edition, carrying the headline, “Debate: Romney shows he’s up to the job.”
The opinions of North County residents are apparently unwelcome in their new U-T San Diego insert.
Full disclosure: I enjoyed writing a bi-weekly column for the NCT for
nine years. I’m certain my views did not always reflect the views of
the paper’s editorial page editors. They’ve told me so. Other community
columnists expressed views far apart from my own.
Those days are gone now. And it should come as no surprise.
Manchester has not been hesitant to declare his goal as a newspaper
owner is not to produce quality journalism as a service to the public.
It’s to promote a conservative agenda and be a booster of business and
pro sports in San Diego County.
One reason the budding media mogul may have taken a special interest
in us northerners is that San Diego County is turning blue. But it gets
redder as you head north. The County Registrar of Voters’ latest report
shows there are now 3,881 more Democrats than Republicans registered to
vote in San Diego County. In the City of San Diego alone 40 percent of
voters are Democrats, compared to 28 percent Republicans.
But as you move north the cities turn red. In Carlsbad Republicans
outnumber Demos by 43 percent to 28 percent. In Escondido it’s the same.
In San Marcos Republicans are in the majority by 42 percent to 29
percent. In Poway it’s 47 percent to 25 percent. In Oceanside
Republicans edge Demos, 39 percent to 32 percent.
So Manchester is likely to find friends up here. That’s important,
not only to his ego, but to the pocketbook of a developer, disguised as a
newspaper publisher, in search of political favors.
Former editor of the North County Times, Kent Davy,
told a KPBS interviewer his mission for the NCT was to be a mirror of
the community. Manchester’s mission for the U-T San Diego North County
Insert is to be a mirror of himself.