SAN DIEGO, CA. Today, even the Union-Tribune had to admit that KUSI owner Michael D. McKinnon wanted to buy San Diego’s only daily newspaper. Yesterday, Don Bauder, the Reader blogger – and former Union-Tribune columnist -, had confirmed in his post that a wealthy group of locals were approaching the Union-Tribune to buy it. Both articles discussed that McKinnon was either searching for or already working with silent partners in their anticipated purchase of the newspaper that has ruled this coastal paradise since the early 1900s.
Michael McKinnon had told reporters that he didn’t want to see the Union-Tribune sold to “distant corporations” with little connection to San Diego. “We are definitely interested in making sure the U-T stays locally owned,” he said with a straight face probably.
McKinnon has a controlling interest (66.26%) in KUSI-TV / Channel 51 that he bought in 1990. His family owns the rest of the unaffiliated station. He and they also own two stations in … Texas, one in Corpus Christy – Beaumont area, and the other in Port Arthur. Talk about locally owned. Michael D. also is chairman of the board of the magazine, San Diego Home / Garden.
Hey, I thought initially, this arrangement might not be too bad, as my mind raced back to those days during the October wildfires last year, when it seemed KUSI had the best news coverage of the chaotic mess. (See my old post.) But then I remembered Republican Duncan Hunter – who had just begun his Presidential campaign – on Channel 51 talking with Paul Bloom and Kimberly Hunt about the fires and government responses – as if he was some big expert on fires. And he kept reappearing and reappearing. What was all that about?
It turned out that Dan McKinnon – Michael D’s brother and minority shareholder of the TV station – was the Campaign Chairperson of Duncan Hunter’s bid to be the top hocho in the White House! So, that is why Hunter was a talking head during the firestorm. Now, we all know Duncan Hunter and his pro-war, anti-immigrant presidential campaign. Here is what the Hunter campaign’s had to say about Dan McKinnon:
Commissioner on the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. Founded North American Airlines in 1989 and is president emeritus. Did special projects for the Central Intelligence Agency in the mid-1980s. Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, 1981-84; oversaw deregulation and the shutdown of the agency. Owned and operated two radio stations in San Diego for 23 years and spent four years as publisher of a newspaper in La Jolla, California. Four years in the U.S. Navy as an aviator; he set, and holds, the Navy helicopter peacetime air/sea record of 62 saves. Member of the Country Music Radio Hall of Fame; author of Rescue Pilot (2002).
Wow! Special projects for the CIA in the eighties? During the Reagan administration. Holds a Navy helo record title, is a member of the Country Music Radio Hall of fame, is an author – wrote Rescue Pilot – published in 2002. Apparently Dan McKinnon has been very prolific over the years. The Hunter campaign failed to cite his other works, which, according to Amazon.com, include Everything You Need to Know Before You’re Hijacked (1986), as well as the 1988 Bullseye Iraq, with the sub-title of “the Dramatic True Story of Saddam Hussein’s Atomic Bomb Factory – and the Air Strike That Destroyed It,” about the 1981 Israeli strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor site. (You can order the paperback for $3.89 including shipping.)
Dan McKinnon also owned KSON – the country western station that, true to form, reflected the redneck politics of the county. Depending on your resource, brother Dan is the majority stockholder of McKinnon Broadcasting Company, which is the parent company for all the stations and the one magazine.
If the McKinnons and their silent partners purchased the Union-Tribune, they would most likely push the newspaper rightward politically. How is that possible? Folks who have lived in this town for years and decades know the paper to be essentially a Republican Party propaganda machine. (See mine and Doug Porter’s recent posts about the U-T.)
The McKinnon Media Dynasty Started Out Liberal
How did the McKinnon clan become so conservative? They started out liberal. Why, just a few months ago in March, SDRadio.net, a local blog, ran a piece by David M. Leonard on the McKinnon dynasty. The article was on the old daddy, Clinton Dodson McKinnon.
The McKinnon name is easily recognizable in San Diego media. C. Dan McKinnon is the majority stockholder of McKinnon Broadcasting and is the former owner of KSON radio. His brother, Michael D. McKinnon is the minority stockholder of McKinnon Broadcasting and is the owner of Home and Garden Lifestyles Magazine. But this family dynasty in local media extends to World War II. At that time, San Diego had only two radio stations and one daily newspaper.
Their father, Clinton Dotson McKinnon, was described in Time Magazine as “a jockey-sized little fireball with unruly black hair and bounding energy.” He was immensely successful in journalism and in politics. He was a journalist and a newspaper owner who strung together several throwaway papers to form the Democrat-leaning San Diego Journal in 1944 to compete with the larger Republican-leaning San Diego Tribune. This was possible because the Roosevelt administration rationed newsprint to the Journal as a means to level the competition. It was the only daily newspaper started during World War II.
Among the Journal staff were columnist Neil Morgan and future Congressman Lionel Van Deerlin. By 1947, the San Diego Journal was well established and McKinnon received a commercial radio license to broadcast at 1170 kilocycles on the AM dial as (K) (S)an (D)iego (J)ournal, (KSDJ). But quickly, his career took a new turn in 1948.
Clinton McKinnon was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1948 to a seat that was the last to represent the entire county of San Diego. He sold the San Diego Journal and KSDJ upon his election to Congress and focused on water projects for San Diego. After two terms in office, his ambition led him to seek the US Senate. William Knowland was the incumbent, and in these days of cross-filing without party limitations, Knowland won the Republican and Democratic primaries for re-election. McKinnon remained active in politics as a delegate to the 1952 and 1956 Democratic conventions.
Click image to enlarge. By 1954, McKinnon was vice chairman of the state’s Democratic Central Committee when he acquired the Los Angeles Daily News. In 1956, McKinnon acquired KVOA TV and radio in Tucson, but sold the radio station in 1958. Later, he would publish the La Jolla Light and the Coronado Journal. Clinton McKinnon died in La Jolla in 2001. Like his father, C. Dan McKinnon is involved in media and politics. But this McKinnon served as the national campaign chairman for Republican Duncan Hunter in his quest for President in 2008.
Clinton Dodson McKinnon had three children: Dan, Mike, and Connie. The boys, Dan and Mike, took up their father’s passion for journalism, but somewhere along the line, switched sides. Ol’ Clintn McKinnon battled the San Diego Union. Now his sons want to buy it. If Dan’s politics are any indication of the future of the newspaper, and if Mike lets him get away with it, we’re in for a media rollercoaster ride to push the paper even further to the right, if they are successful in their purchase of the mainstream media monopoly of San Diego. Hell, Duncan can even take up the mantle of the editorial page, to prove that even Bob Kittle can be out danced from the right.