Has U-T's Papa Doug lost his appetite for print?
Published - 04/18/14 - 12:44 PM | 2030 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a recent editorial, we suggested U-T San Diego owner/publisher Doug “Papa” Manchester, who has been gobbling up local independent newspaper publications like corn flakes, had his own — and not print journalism’s — best interests in mind.

In noting that there’s a “battle for freedom and independence going on” in the local print-journalism industry, we intimated that Manchester’s machinations were more land grab than altruistic acquisition.

We suggested that what Manchester is doing in the short-term —attempting to buy out his competition — is bound to be detrimental to the print journalism industry in the long run. We think his try-and-buy approach will ultimately turn into cut-and-run.

In truth, the Manchester “era” in local journalism could come to an unexpectedly quick end.

In San Diego, word on the business street, now rebounding among a number of daily publishers around the country, is that the ownership of the San Diego Union-Tribune, renamed U-T San Diego, wants out.

Rumor has it that “Papa Doug” wants to sell and that he’s directed U-T CEO John Lynch (who has publicly been talking about wanting to purchase more papers) to find a buyer.

We know Manchester is working on plans to redevelop U-T’s existing Mission Valley headquarters site, creating an estimated $200 million, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use project offering residential, office and retail in twin towers with 200 residences, a parking garage with a rooftop swimming pool, a gym and tennis courts and a San Diego River trail.

This sounds like the “Papa Doug” Manchester we all know, not the wannabe newspaper publisher but the real estate baron credited with being the driving force behind development of the San Diego Convention Center, the man who made his fortune building some of San Diego’s tallest hotels and office buildings.

Why is Papa Doug interested in acquiring print publications losing money in a troubled industry during rapidly changing times?

Could it be he’s not actually interested in improving the print product or moving it forward but, rather, making a quick buck on the real-estate end before moving on?

Noting that the current print journalism trend has been toward national markets with a global audience, many industry experts are now saying the print industry is due for a reversal, that increases in the next five to ten years will be local. They also are pointing out that the local digital opportunity is “real,” while cautioning that advances on that front will be a slog fit only for those in it for the long and not the short term.

Something tells us Papa Doug’s not a long-termer. We think he’s already getting indigestion from the debt he’s absorbed appeasing his appetite for print. Our hunch is, once the U-T headquarters redevelopment is done and over with, Papa Doug will collect his profits, divest himself of debt (print), and move on to his next “project.”

-- San Diego Community

Newspaper Group
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