On Friday afternoon, the newspaper U-T San Diego summarily dismissed columnist Tim Sullivan. The U-T, you may recall, was bought last fall by right-wing hotel owner Doug Manchester, who immediately declared that newspapers should be “cheerleaders” for projects like sports stadiums. Sullivan, you may recall, has done some excellent work conveying the awfulness of most sports stadium deals. And Sullivan, for one, sees a connection:
The links tell a little of the back story of my conflict with Union-Tribune CEO John Lynch (who I have yet to meet in person). The first is a column I wrote when he ran a local sports talk station. The second is a piece that appeared on the Voice of San Diego web site shortly after he became the new CEO of the Union-Tribune.
He then quotes Lynch’s Voice of San Diego interview:
Lynch said he wants the paper to be pro-business. The sports page to be pro-Chargers stadium. And reporters to become stars.
“It’s news information, but it’s also show biz,” Lynch said. “You get people to tune in and read your site or the paper when there’s an ‘Oh wow’ in the paper.”
He wants that sports page to be an advocate for a new football stadium “and call out those who don’t as obstructionists.”
“To my way of thinking,” Lynch said, “that’s a shovel-ready job for thousands.”
Lynch and Sullivan later clashed over the CEO’s plan to force U-T newsroom reporters to produce content for a new TV station on top of their other job responsibilities. But Sullivan notes that he went along with the paper’s “multimedia” plan, and thinks the reasons for his firing had more to do with his being pegged as one of those stadium “obstructionists”:
Though I can’t read Lynch’s mind, I am inclined to believe that my firing was the result of multiple factors: 1) My failure to endorse a new stadium without wondering whether that’s good public policy, a justifiable expense or a good deal; 2) My comparatively healthy salary; 3) My age and/or demographic. Our two other sports columnists are also white males: Nick Canepa, who is older but a local institution, and the youthful Kevin Acee, who was just promoted to that position. Acee has been identified as one of the paper’s “stars.”; 4) The erroneous issue of whether I was “on board.”
In any event, a newspaper whose management has declared that stadium opponents are public enemies has just fired its only reporter — a columnist, mind you, whose job is to express opinions — who has focused on critically investigating stadium deals. Either this is the biggest coincidence in the history of coincidences, or the U-T has just signaled that it intends on giving up the journalism biz to become an advocacy site for its owner’s political ideology. Which we kind of knew already, but this is another nail in the coffin.