U-T Editorial Editors Get Lopped Off – More Wonderful Changes Coming Soon

by on August 13, 2009 · 6 comments

in Economy, Labor, Media, San Diego

Ding Dong! The witch is dead!

Not really, but it was fun to pretend for a moment.

San Diego Union Tribune editorial page editor Bob Kittle, and opinion page editor Bernie Jones, are amongst those departing the paper in the latest round of layoffs over at the daily fishwrap.

Here’s the more wonderful things part of the press release, which did not mentions any employees by name:

THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE ANNOUNCES NEW STRATEGIC INITIATIVES

SAN DIEGO — Aug. 12, 2009 — The San Diego Union-Tribune announced today a series of new strategic initiatives designed to better position the company for short- and long-term growth.

The initiatives include a new advertising offering that will allow micro-zoning for small business advertisers at lower, localized rates; an editorial effort that will drive more local news coverage to targeted communities in San Diego; a planned redesign of SignOnSanDiego.com; and a substantial investment in a pagination system that will significantly streamline the newspaper’s production process.

—snip—

“We will soon be implementing new editorial offerings, which will not only increase the story count in the newspaper, but will capitalize on emerging partnerships with other local media outlets. We will continue to deliver high-quality news and content that meet the evolving media habits of our readers and advertisers.”

The new Neighborhood Express Project, introduced last month, will bring hyper-local coverage to targeted communities in San Diego, offering community-oriented news and information along with engagement opportunities for small businesses.

According to a report over at the SDNN website, at least one other editor, several reporters, and eight staffers from the U-T’s lame SignOnSan Diego website also were laid off.

Going back a few months, let’s revisit our article entitled “Eight Ideas For The New Union Tribune Owners” and see how they’re doing: (my additional observations are in italics)

1) Wake up and smell the coffee. San Diego isn’t the Navy retirement village that it used to be. Most of the City’s electorate is somewhere to the “left” of the newspaper’s editorial policies. The next employees that are offered buyouts should be: Karin Winner (Editor), William Osborn (Senior Editor/Opinion) and Robert Kittle (Editor of the Editorial Page). The litmus tests for their replacements should be an open mind and a commitment to what’s best for the people of San Diego, the nation and the world. (We’ll take one out of three, for now.)

2) Take most of the “National” news off the front page, unless it’s original content or has a direct local twist. The Wall Street Journal’s summary of noteworthy national stories is a good model for what you could do with the front page, given that your reading public gets most of its news elsewhere, anyway. (Actually, there has been more local news on the front page lately.)

3) Make a real commitment to local coverage. What goes on at City Hall and the County Building is only part of the picture. San Diego is made of neighborhoods and what goes on in those districts gets largely ignored unless it’s crime, scandal or sexually related. While I understand that all those things sell newspapers, I also know that there are a million other-sometimes positive-things that occur. If opening local bureaus isn’t feasible financially, then “outsourcing” may be a solution. (Oooo…they’re using the uber chic media speak words “hyper-local”. Nothing here, yet, though.)

4) Pick a local issue (or two) and use your bully pulpit to make a difference. Education, for instance, is a much larger issue than simply trying to find bad things to say about the teacher’s union. (Do magnet schools work?) Or transportation. Or urban sprawl. (Nope, nada.)

5) Commit coverage to the activities of everyday people. For too long the paper has been a platform for the Copley family’s rich friends to show off their new gowns and tuxedos while attending dinners in support of the bourgeois charity of the moment. You know what story got the most hits on the OBRag website? Pictures of the Christmas parade. Go figure. (Not yet, & they keep canning photographers)

6) Integrate the “paper” part of your media business with the web. Review websites, share cool links, reprint (& pay for) the best local blog postings. Have you ever looked at the number of foodie blogs in San Diego? It’s just about become a cottage industry. The same can be said about local sports blogs. And, of course, there are neighborhood blogs.

(Maybe this will be addressed with the forthcoming redesign of the website)

Oh, and, while you’re at it, your website really, really sucks. (I guess they figured that out)

7) Get off your dammed pedestal. The era of “we know what’s best” journalism and editorializing are over. There are a lot of voices out there. The AP stylebook is not The Bible. Make sure that you hear, respect, and even-gasp-give some of them the opportunity to replace some of your tired old op-ed columnists. (No clue.)

Well, that’s it. And frankly it’s waaay more than we expected. Keep up the good work. And tell Kittle not to let the door hit him on the ass on the way out.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Frank Gormlie August 13, 2009 at 7:48 am

Doug, no matter how many of OUR suggestions the U-T takes up, they’re NOT gonna hire you.

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avatar Frank Gormlie August 13, 2009 at 8:49 am

Here’s what Councilmember Donna Frye in the latest Voice of San Diego says about Kittle:

“He was very liberal with the facts,” Frye said. “And had a great disregard for truth. Name-calling goes with the territory. That doesn’t bother me. But what bothered me was the absolute lack of factual information. When facts are deliberately tortured, that’s not ethical journalism.”

Here’s what former City Attorney Mike Aguirre said:

“Bob was the absolute spokesperson for the establishment.” “One of his jobs was to use the paper to take on all comers to the establishment. I thought the establishment had disserved the public. So there was a natural clash between the two of us.”

“Bob Kittle was an incredibly intelligent human being who could’ve made a real difference in San Diego,” Aguirre said. “The failure to fulfill his promise was not only a loss to the city but a personal loss for those of us who knew him and liked him personally but could never understand why he engaged in the self-destructive behavior he practiced.”

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avatar lane tobias August 13, 2009 at 9:03 am

it does seem that they took your suggestions to heart, Doug….lets see how it plays out.

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avatar annagrace August 13, 2009 at 10:10 am

Kittle’s gone and I say good riddance to a man who wasn’t about to let the facts get in the way of his “esteemed” opinion. Whether there is good news ahead-finally! a local newspaper that practices good journalism and that people want to read- remains to be seen. Don’t forget- editorial staff and a few journalists are making a shift to the Watchdog Institute which I reported about here http://obrag.org/?p=9594 I suspect they will feed the same old vitriol back to the paper in some form.

I’m laying bets that Kittle will resurface quickly in our little town and continue doing what he does best. Hold your nose.

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avatar doug porter August 13, 2009 at 10:48 am

aaah, yes, jon…. me working at the U-T….fade to daydream…. groucho marx posters on wall… jimi hendrix playing in the background… continuous loops of the daily show and steven colbert playing on monitors throughout the building…. four daily crosswords…

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avatar Wireless Mike August 13, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Kittle is gone! Hooray! I think his bowtie was too tight and cut off the oxygen to his brain. I can never forgive this man for his deceptive and intentional character assassination against Mike Aguirre and the values that he stood for.

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