Local entrepreneur Douglas Manchester insists that he be addressed as “Papa” Doug. He’s well known by this name. Ostensibly, this moniker distinguished him from his son, who is also named Doug. Of course, when one considers Manchester’s life, this nickname takes on a much clearer meaning.
Manchester has given a lot to the city of San Diego. He could rightfully be called the “Papa” of the San Diego waterfront, when it comes to the development of real estate. He built the Manchester Grand Hyatt, the tallest waterfront hotel on the West Coast. His buildings have served to define the San Diego skyline, and his mark will remain on the city long after he is gone. Manchester would have it no other way.
Recently, he purchased the region’s largest newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune. The timing of this acquisition, and the identity of the man who acquired it, should lead San Diegans to ask a few questions.
Manchester has not made his political ideology a secret. He has openly contributed to the campaign of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Manchester came under fire from Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transsexual groups following a $125,000 donation to support Proposition 8. He’s an unapologetic conservative who has also donated heavily to various religious charities such as St. Vincent de Paul, Billy Graham Crusades and San Diego Diocesan Ministries throughout the last few decades. He has every right to throw his money behind causes he believes in, and I absolutely praise his charitable work. He has also donated to San Diego State. Our school has a Manchester Hall because of Papa Doug.
Even if he is the nicest, most charitable guy in the world, the question responsible citizens have to ask when it comes to a devoted ideologue such as Manchester owning the local newspaper is this: Will Manchester and his lackey John Lynch protect the journalistic integrity of The U-T?
If Manchester intends to use the newspaper to advance a conservative agenda, we should all have a huge problem with it, no matter what our political persuasions may be. Does he have the right to use the newspaper to say whatever he wants? I think so. Is it ethical to do so? Absolutely not. Manchester owns the newspaper, but I think it is fair to say San Diegans also have a stake in their local newspaper. We don’t own it as far as the bank is concerned, but the newspaper does (in some way) belong to the community.
It may seem speculative to question, but why did Manchester spend more than $100 million to buy the newspaper in the first place? The newspaper market is dwindling and people continue to look to alternative news sources. The staff of The U-T has dwindled as readership has declined. There is no money to be made in the newspaper and Manchester is a businessman, first and foremost. Buying The U-T makes no financial sense.
That is, until one considers the real estate value of the land The U-T offices sit on. We’re talking prime real estate, located in the heart of Mission Valley, conveniently positioned with easy access to multiple freeways. Could good ol’ Papa Doug be planning to develop that land? The long-term value of that land is a sure thing, according to real estate analyst Gary London. “The greater risk is on the media part of the acquisition. The lesser risk is on the real estate,” according to London. “But to be the real estate mogul and media mogul in this town, it had to be irresistible to him.”
It is definitely too early to know what Manchester’s plans for The U-T are. There have been indications he will not be shy about using the newspaper as a personal soapbox, such as his very pro-Jesus Christmas editorial, which left many non-Christian readers feeling quite excluded. Again, I support Manchester’s right to use his newspaper as a platform for his freedom of speech. The type of thing I object to is The U-T banning any comments that expressed disagreement with Manchester from the paper’s website. Papa Doug doesn’t like it when people exercise freedom of speech on his website, apparently.
Keep an eye on this, dear readers. When reading the news, it is important to be aware of exactly where it is coming from.
—Kenneth Leonard is an English junior.