The Slow, Sad Demise of the San Diego Union-Tribune

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 24: The coffin rests in the back of a hearse after the funeral for former Geelong Cats VFL player, coach and media personality Bob Davis at St Mary's Basilica on May 24, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

When it comes to the newspaper in San Diego, the Union-Tribune is it. The NC Times has less than 1/3rd of the UT's circulation, and it shows. Back in November, the newspaper was sold to Doug Manchester and John Lynch. Since then, seemingly every decision that's been made by the paper has dug a deeper hole for the U-T to be buried in.

I'll stay out of how Lynch and Manchester are trying to use the paper as a propaganda machine to push forward their own agenda, mostly because this is a sports blog. Let's just stick to the two most recent screw ups, both of which affect the sports arm of the U-T.

The Firing and Un-Firing of Tim Sullivan

First, Tim Sullivan was fired. There was an outpouring of love from writers around the country and fans of Sullivan's articles. Then, he told his side of the story and revealed that the reason he was fired was mostly because he questioned the direction of the paper. Yesterday, Sullivan is informed that he hasn't been fired but has simply been on vacation. Quite a way to use up your vacation days, huh?

Do I agree with the firing of Sullivan? Absolutely not. He is one of the gems in their sports department. Did I understand it? Yes. The U-T was desperate to keep Kevin Acee, essentially gave him Sullivan's job, and couldn't keep them both.

However, by now caving to public demand and Sullivan's big reveal, the new owners have given everyone who works for them a blueprint on how to behave if you ever get fired in the future. They've weakened themselves and given the power to former employees and the readers. Good luck ever firing someone again. Also, good luck on having the money (and space) for 3 sports columnists.

UPDATE: Nevermind. Still fired.



Scott and BR and Standard Blonde Girl

Actually, this is getting lengthy. Let's discuss after the jump.

First, let me say that it's not my goal in life to constantly deconstruct Scott Kaplan and his show. If he had signed on to do another radio show in another city, I would've forgotten that he ever existed. However, it has become apparent that, despite his sexist and boorish behavior, Kaplan has been given preferential treatment by his former and current employer, John Lynch Sr. Let's take a look at this timeline.

2001: Scott Kaplan comes to San Diego and starts the "Scott and BR Show" on XTRA 690AM.

2001: XTRA moves to Los Angeles after being sold. Lots of talent, both on-air and off-air, is released with nowhere left to go but outside of San Diego.

2002: John Lynch sees an opportunity to pick up a lot of talent for cheap, including the Scott and BR Show, and forms Mighty 1090AM.

2010: Lynch passes the reigns to Broadcast Company of the Americas (BCA), which owns 1090AM, over to Larry Patrick. Lynch continues to have a friendship with many important people in San Diego radio and television. (UPDATE: I was wrong. He was fired.)

2011: Lynch's plan to leave 1090AM makes sense as he purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune with Doug Manchester.

2012: Scott Kaplan is fired from 1090AM and Billy Ray Smith goes with him. They seemingly seek out no new opportunities except for inquiring about interest from Fox Sports San Diego (of which there was none).

2012: Scott and BR are hired by John Lynch, for the second time, and given a television show on a non-existent channel. The construction of their set becomes the new focus of the newspaper.

Does that seem fishy to anyone else? Do you think BR actually leaves 1090AM, instead of finding a replacement for Scott, if he's not granted an assurance that him and Scott would get an opportunity to do their show together soon in another venue by either Lynch or Larry Patrick? I don't, but I'm a conspiracy theorist.


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I was curious what our old buddies Scott and BR were up to. I know that U-T TV has launched and that their show is available because I've read tweets from people around San Diego that have mostly described the show as being "terrible" and having "horrible production value". I decided I needed to see for myself, and thought it'd be fun to live-blog the whole thing. Here goes nothing....

00:00 I go to the U-T's website and.....where the heck is U-T TV?

00:00 Oh. I wasn't scrolling down. Was assuming it would be under Sports somewhere. I'm an idiot.

00:08 Scott Kaplan gets a MacBook and an iPad in a standard black case/stand. Billy Ray Smith gets a MacBook. Standard Blonde Girl gets.....a pink iPad with a pink iPad case/stand? Let's get past the goofiness of the colors and ask how many internet-connected electronic devices do these three need?

00:15 Kaplan asks if everyone is doing okay and then says he's going to "Jump right into it". He hasn't made the transition from radio to TV yet.

00:19 Literally the first thing Scott says after "jumping right into it" is that he's so excited, which leads to Billy Ray and Standard Blonde Girl dancing and singing the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited." I'm not 30 seconds in and I already would rather die than watch the rest of this.

00:26 Scott has joined the singing. He's also dancing. BR is apologizing to someone (us?) for getting Scott riled up. Nobody has jumped right into anything.

00:50 They have national spelling bee champion Snigdha Nandipati on the show. No, they're not talking to her. Instead, they're having her work as a camerawoman for the show. Not joking.

1:11 Scott Kaplan: "Everyone else wants her to spell words. We said, forget that....Snigdha, get to work!" I can see that the quality of Scott and BR has gotten much better since their radio days. I couldn't be more entertained or less offended than I am right now.

1:11 Do I really have two and a half more minutes of this?

1:26 Weird technical point: I have my volume on my computer set to 100% and the volume of their video player set to 100% and I can barely hear them. I tried playing another U-T TV video at the same volume and nearly ruptured an ear drum. Maybe we're not supposed to hear them?

1:41 They're asking the national spelling bee champion questions while she's operating the camera. Originality is not always a good thing, people.

2:13 The first decent moment of the entire show....and it's actually just a clip of Snigdha Nandipati on The Jimmy Kimmel Show. Jimmy is having people with thick accents pronounce the words that she's being asked to spell. Isn't it great when you can cover up your own bad show by running clips from a good show?

2:43 Scott Kaplan: "Everyone's like 'Spell this word, Snigdha' ....and yet, there she is, working the camera." Because that line was such a screamer the first time, he felt the need to repeat it.

2:43 Only about a minute left. I'm thinking I can make it, I'll just need a few more clips from other shows.

2:43 None of the three of them have touched, or even looked at, the collection of Apple products sitting on the desk in front of them.

2:47 I take that back. BR just looked at his MacBook and smiled. I'm willing to bet you a dollar that this is what was on his screen.

2:50 Add another Apple product to the mix, as I just noticed that there's an iPhone with a magenta case sitting next to Standard Blonde Girl's pink iPad. That's 5 Apple devices on the desk, by my count.

3:28 Scott Kaplan just made another "joke", about how the U-T should hire Snigdha to be a camerawoman and then when she's done with that the U-T editors could hand her the newspaper and say "Here's the paper. Read it and make sure there are no errors in it." The old BR would've responded with uproarious laughter. Instead, BR responds with "Wow." Maybe he's actually impressed by the idea.

3:48 I thought I had made it to the end, but Scott is now talking about how Snigdha is going to "the hot seat" to talk about how her life has changed. You mean they do shows longer than 4 minutes? This was just a teaser?

Okay, first of all, I could barely get through 4 minutes of that. Second, where is the full episode? A quick glance at the other U-T TV videos include a 3 minute (complete) video where the lovely Annie rides the trolley with Nick Hundley and Chase Headley, a 4 minute (complete) video about Bill Johnston and his daughter running the Rock n' Roll Marathon to help find a cure for Huntingdon's Disease, and a 30 second (complete) response video from Peter Uberroth where he basically says that San Diego shouldn't try to bring the Olympics here. Where is the full Scott and BR and Standard Blonde Girl video?!?

Wait, I think I've found more (read: older) "Highlight" videos (that was the highlight of the show?!?), but no full episodes. I don't understand. Is your only option to watch the show live? When is it even "on air"? I'm getting no answers to these questions from the U-T's site.


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Let's recap. The U-T has decided that they're no longer a newspaper, they're also a television channel where you can't find the terrible shows that they have even if you wanted to watch them. Also, they decided that firing the first person who voiced a contradictory opinion was a good idea in a company full of sneaky journalists. Finally, they decided that if the person they fire can get enough support, they will tell that person that they were never actually fired (I'm sure Tim just misunderstood) and that the person should be enjoying their luxurious vacation.

The U-T wasn't the world's greatest newspaper to begin with, but it had a lot of bright points. Now, those bright points are being completely overshadowed by the arrogance of their ownership. For someone who "blogs", I still see an incredible value in having a strong newspaper in every major city. One that will find the truth and tell it, not one that will work to push the agenda of its owners. At that point, it's no better than the coupons that come with it on Sundays.

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