The San Diego Union-Tribune

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The San Diego Union-Tribune
May 23, 2015 front page of
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Type Daily newspaper
Format Broadsheet
Owner(s) Tribune Publishing
Publisher Timothy E. Ryan
Editor Jeff Light
Founded 1868 (as The San Diego Union)
Headquarters 350 Camino de la Reina
San Diego, California
Circulation 250,678 Daily
409,796 Sunday[1]
ISSN 1063-102x

The San Diego Union-Tribune is a major metropolitan daily newspaper published in San Diego, California. Its name derives from a 1992 merger between the two major daily newspapers at the time, San Diego Union and San Diego Evening Tribune. The name changed to U-T San Diego in 2012 but was changed again to The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2015.[2]


San Diego Union building, c. 1870s
San Diego Sun building, 1908
San Diego Daily Bee building, 1908


The predecessor newspapers of the Union-Tribune were:[3][4]

  • San Diego Herald, founded 1851 and closed April 7, 1860; John Judson Ames was its first editor and proprietor[5]
  • San Diego Sun, founded 1861 and merged with the Evening Tribune in 1939.
  • San Diego Union, founded October 10, 1868.
  • San Diego Evening Tribune, founded December 2, 1895.

In addition, the San Diego Union purchased the San Diego Daily Bee in 1888, and a for a brief time the combined paper was named the San Diego Union and Daily Bee.[6]

Both the Union and the Tribune were acquired by Copley Press in 1928[7] and were merged on February 2, 1992. The merged newspaper was sold to the private investment group Platinum Equity of Beverly Hills on March 18, 2009.[8]

Recent history

On August 17, 2010, the Union-Tribune changed its design to improve "clarity, legibility, and ease of use". Changes include being printed on thinner, 100 percent recycled paper, moving the comics to the back of the business section, and abbreviating the title The San Diego Union-Tribune on the front page to U-T San Diego.[9] The U-T nameplate was created by Jim Parkinson, a design guru who also created nameplates for Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Newsweek.[10]

Purchase by MLIM Holdings

In November 2011, Platinum Equity sold the paper to MLIM Holdings, a company led by Doug Manchester, a San Diego real estate developer and "an outspoken supporter of conservative causes." The purchase price was reportedly in excess of $110 million.[11] Manchester built two landmark downtown hotels, the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel and the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina. His group also owns the Grand Del Mar luxury resort in San Diego.[12]

On January 3, 2012, the paper announced that it would now use the name U-T San Diego "on all of our media products and communications"; the paper's website (formerly will now use the name The official announcement explained the change as being intended to "unify our print and digital products under a single brand with a clear and consistent expectation of quality."[13][14][15]

U-T San Diego bought the North County Times in 2012.[16] On October 15, 2012, the North County Times ceased publication and became the U-T North County Times, which was an edition of the U-T with some North County-specific content.[17] Six months later the U-T North County Times name was dropped and the paper became a North County edition of the U-T.[citation needed]

In June 2012, U-T San Diego launched U-T TV, a television news channel. The network featured news, lifestyle, and editorial content produced by the paper's staff, and was created as part of the paper's growing emphasis on multi-platform content under Manchester. By October 2013, just over a year after its launch, the network re-formatted with a focus on news, amidst a number of major departures among the channel's staff. On February 19, 2014, U-T TV was discontinued, but the network's remaining staff was retained to produce video content for the paper's digital properties.[18][19]

In November 2013 the paper bought eight more local weeklies in the San Diego area, which are continuing publication under their own names.[20]

Purchase by Tribune Publishing

On May 7, 2015, it was announced that the Tribune Publishing Company, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other newspapers, had reached a deal to acquire U-T San Diego and its associated properties for $85 million. The sale ends the paper's 146 years of private ownership. The transaction was completed on May 21, 2015. On the same date the paper reintroduced its previous branding as the San Diego Union-Tribune.[2] The Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times became part of a new operating entity known as the California News Group, with both papers led by current Times publisher and CEO Austin Beutner. The two papers reportedly will retain distinct operations, but there will be a larger amount of synergy and content sharing between them. The acquisition did not include the paper's headquarters, which was retained by Manchester and will be leased by the paper.[21][22] On May 26, the paper announced it would lay off 178 employees, representing about 30% of the total staff, as it consolidated its printing operations with the Times in Los Angeles.[23]

Closure of San Diego printing facilities

On June 13, 2015, at 10:02pm PDT the final run of the San Diego Union Tribune printed at the San Diego headquarters in Mission Valley began.[24] It was to print the Sunday edition paper for June 14, 2015. The following Monday's paper would be printed at the Los Angeles Times location. The dismantling of the printing presses in Mission Valley began in mid-September 2015.


The paper was originally located in downtown San Diego. In 1973 it moved to a custom-built, brick and stone office and printing plant complex in Mission Valley. In 2014 the U-T proposed a plan to redevelop the property's parking lot into a seven-story, 200-unit apartment complex along with a parking garage shared by residents and the U-T. This plan was scaled back from an earlier, more ambitious proposal which would have included a 22-story apartment tower, a 10-story office building, and retail space. The change was attributed to a sluggish market for office space.[25]


Pulitzer Prizes

  • 1979, Breaking News Reporting: San Diego Evening Tribune for its coverage of the PSA Flight 182 jetliner collision with a small plane over North Park[26]
  • 1987, Editorial Writing: San Diego Evening Tribune editorial writer Jonathan Freedman for his editorials urging passage of the first major immigration reform act in 34 years[27]
  • 2006, National Reporting: The San Diego Union-Tribune and Copley News Service (with notable work by Marcus Stern and Jerry Kammer), for their disclosure of bribe-taking that sent former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham to prison "in disgrace".[28] They also received the George Polk Award[29] for these stories.
  • 2009, Editorial Cartooning: Steve Breen "for his agile use of a classic style to produce wide ranging cartoons that engage readers with power, clarity and humor."


Copleys and Platinum Equity

Under the Copleys' ownership the paper had a reliably conservative editorial position, endorsing almost exclusively Republicans for elective office, and sometimes refusing to interview or cover Democratic candidates. Under Platinum Equity the paper's editorial position "skewed closer to the middle" and showcased multiple viewpoints.[30]

Manchester and Lynch

When Manchester and business partner John Lynch took ownership in 2011, they were open about their desire to use the newspaper to "promote their agenda of downtown development and politically conservative causes",[31] with Lynch stating on KPBS radio that he and Manchester "wanted to be cheerleaders for all that is good in San Diego."[32] Lynch expanded on this position in 2012, saying "We make no apologies. We are doing what a newspaper ought to do, which is to take positions. We are very consistent—pro-conservative, pro-business, pro-military—and we are trying to make a newspaper that gets people excited about this city and its future."[33]

This open promotion of certain viewpoints resulted in criticism from journalism professors and other newspaper editors, who worried that negative news about topics such as the military and business might not be covered.[34] Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University, argued, "Now if you're saying we're going to be the cheerleaders of the military, why would you report on this guy that's taking bribes?... Where's the cheerleading there?" a reference to the Union-Tribune's Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal.[35] A New York Times writer added, "There is a growing worry that the falling value and failing business models of many American newspapers could lead to a situation where moneyed interests buy papers and use them to prosecute a political and commercial agenda. That future appears to have arrived in San Diego."[33]

Lynch said, "We totally respect the journalistic integrity of our paper and there is a clear line of demarcation between our editorials and our news. Our editor, Jeff Light, calls the shots." However, in November 2011 Lynch told the sports editor that the sports pages should advocate for a new football stadium; when a longtime sportswriter wrote skeptically about the idea, he was fired.[33]

Downtown redevelopment

In January 2012, two months after Manchester bought the U-T, the paper featured a front-page proposal for downtown redevelopment, to include a downtown football stadium and an expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.[36] Both properties are adjacent to hotels that Manchester owns.[37]

In September 2012, Investigative Newsource reporter Brooke Williams obtained articles that claimed Lynch "threatened" Port Commissioner Scott Peters, who was running for Congress, "with a newspaper campaign to dismantle the Unified Port of San Diego." In e-mails obtained by Williams, Lynch was quoted as indicating that if the Dole Food Company obtained a long term contract, that the Port's independence governance would be questioned in editorial coverage. Williams said the effort showed "the extent to which the newspaper's new owners will go to push their vision for a football stadium on the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal,"[38]

Endorsements and polling

During the 2012 mayoral election the owners of the U-T donated to Republican City Council Member Carl DeMaio's campaign,[39] and the newspaper ran several prominent editorials favoring DeMaio. Those endorsements were wrapped around the front section of the newspaper on a separate page, "as though they were even more important" than the front page.[40]

In October 2012, a poll was taken by the U-T asking respondents to choose between DeMaio and Democratic Congressman Bob Filner in the mayoral election to be held in November. A rival news outlet noted that "Employees of a newspaper, television / radio station, marketing / public opinion research company or the city of San Diego—or who live with someone employed in one of those fields" were excluded from the poll results, which showed the Republican leading the Democrat, 46% to 36%. Reporter Kelly Davis of wrote: "Common sense dictates that those votes [by city employees or those living with them] would swing in Filner's favor due to DeMaio's long-running feud with city-employee unions." But U-T assignment editor Michael Smolens replied that "city employees were excluded to avoid political entanglements" in other parts of the ballot as well as in the mayor's race.[41][42]

Lynch handed day-to-day operations off to another executive in February 2014,[43] and Editor Jeff Light became company president in January 2015.[44]


  • William Jeff Gatewood founded the newspaper, which first published October 10, 1868. He sold his interest to Charles P. Taggart in May 1869.[45]
  • Edward "Ned" Wilkerson Bushyhead, 1868–1873 with various partners, beginning with Taggart. Bushyhead (1832–1907) was a miner, publisher and lawman who was born in Tennessee. Part Cherokee, he was the son of a Baptist preacher, whom he accompanied from Georgia to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears at the age of seven. Having moved to San Diego, he became the "silent" publisher of the San Diego Union. In 1873, he sold the newspaper. In 1882, he was elected sheriff of San Diego County.
  • Douglas Gunn, 1871–1886. Gunn (August 31, 1841 – November 26, 1891) was a scholar, publisher, pioneer and Republican politician from California.
  • John D. Spreckels, 1890–1926. The son of German-American industrialist Claus Spreckels, he founded a transportation and real estate empire in San Diego.
  • Col. Ira C. Copley, 1928–1947
  • James S. Copley, 1947–1973. He was a journalist and newspaper publisher. He published the San Diego Union, San Diego Union-Tribune and San Diego Evening Tribune from 1947 until his death in 1973.
  • Helen K. Copley, 1973–2001
  • David C. Copley, 2001–09
  • Edward R. Moss, May 2009 – December 2011[46]
  • Doug F. "Papa Doug" Manchester, 2011–2015[47][48]
  • Austin Beutner, May–September 2015
  • Timothy E. Ryan, September 2015 - [49]

Notable people


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  42. [1] Poll results
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External links