San Diego Union-Tribune… nee… make that “U-T San Diego” owner and real estate magnate Douglas Manchesterran not one, but TWO editorials in his new toy… er… paper today, shilling for his waterfront development plans. And one of them ran on the friggin’ front page!
San Diego is not pleased. Voice of San Diego CEO Scott Lewis called the plans “half baked.”
The paper provided no new insight on deep, decades-old disagreements. It merely posits that problems can be solved because problems can be solved. It worries about a skeptical public unwilling to invest in big ideas because it has been misled so much and then immediately misleads on how expensive this big idea would be.
Meanwhile, San Diego CityBeat’s Dave Maass notes that Manchester and his media executive John Lynch basically bought themselves a $110 million all-you-can-lobby buffet when they took over the U-T.
In the editorial, the writers make reference to “U-T San Diego executives and editorial board members” taking a meeting with Mayor Jerry Sanders to discuss the proposal. We’ve also heard that Lynch has been lobbying individual City Council members, who are expected to vote on a financing plan for a long-planned Convention Center expansion this week.
But is it actually lobbying? No, it’s not.
Normally, developers would need to register as lobbyists if they’re going to approach elected officials. They would need to disclose who they met with, the issue being broached as well as what they’re spending to lobby for it. However, the city’s lobbying ordinance includes this big, fat exception for media organization.
The scariest thing about Manchester’s plans are that other billionaires across the country may be paying attention. Newspapers may not be very profitable as public watchdogs anymore. But they could prove quite lucrative as the PR/lobbying wing of some amoral oligarch.