Oct. 23 2012 12:00 AM

Short answer: Editors say they didn't know publisher invested in '2016: Obama's America'

2016_obamas_america

The new owners of San Diego's largest daily newspapers are using the media to "trumpet" right-wing causes? You don't say, Associated Press

OK, so Doug Manchester and John Lynch's commitment to using U-T San Diego (and now whatever the North County Times has become) as a propaganda instrument is getting to be old, old, sad, old news. Yet, the latest piece by reporter Elliot Spagat does include one tidbit that was fresh, even to the U-T's editors: ---

Manchester invested in San Diego-area resident Dinesh D'Souza's hit documentary, "2016: Obama's America," which portrays a gloomy future if the president is re-elected, according to Lynch.

This buried factoid is quite the scoop, since the film received significant play in the U-T during its theatrical run. The film was promoted on the editorial pages in a particularly batty rant about what the country might look like after a second Obama term (Death panels! No more God on the dollar!). The news pages ran dueling reviews written by former California Republican Party chair Ron Nehring and former City Councilmember Donna Frye. Then there was a piece by writer Peter Rowe declaring the film a sleeper hit. 

"After premiering in Houston in mid-July, the political documentary from Rancho Santa Fe's Dinesh D'Souza spent a snoozy month playing in fewer than 200 theaters," Rowe writes in the follow-up to an earlier, mostly positive profile. "This sleeper, though, has awakened-with a roar."

The film got plenty of play from the U-T in the letters pages and wire copy. Nowhere, however, is Manchester's financial involvement disclosed. 

Nor was it disclosed to Frye when she was asked to contribute to the U-T's coverage. Frye tells CityBeat via email:

I received a call from the U-T asking if I would do a movie review. I was told there would be two reviews, one from me as a Democrat and one written by a Republican. I never knew, until just now, that Doug Manchester was an investor in the movie, but did notice how many full-page color ads there were in the paper while the movie was in the theaters. I wonder how much he invested?

The disclosure, Frye says, wouldn't have changed her decision to participate, but it could've impacted what she wrote. 

"Had I known, I likely would have mentioned it in my review," she says. "The public has a right to know that."

The U-T's government editor Michael Smolens says he was unaware of Manchester's involvement and that, to his knowledge, there was no directive from up high to cover the film. Smolens writes via email: 

I was unaware of Manchester's involvement in the film at the time and only became aware from the recent news reports. If I had known, I would have mentioned that to them.

U-T Editor Jeff Light initiated the concept in a discussion he and I had about the documentary. We thought having reviews from Donna and Ron would provide a balance, coming from both sides of the partisan aisle. We also thought having the reviews done by people so well known in local politics would increase reader interest.

Inquiries sent to U-T San Diego editor Jeff Light's email account were responded to with an automatic message that Light will be out of the office until the eve of the election. 

We also asked Bill Osborne, the newspaper's editorial page editor, why the editorial board decided not to disclose Manchester's financial relationship in the unsigned editorial about the film. He writes:

There was no decision. If I recall correctly, the only thing published on the editorial/opinion pages regarding the film was the editorial John Lynch wrote back in September. I was unaware of any financial tie Mr. Manchester might have to the film. In fact, I am still unaware of any financial tie. So I had no decision to make.

Last week, the filmmaker, D'Souza, resigned as head of The King's College, an evangelical college in New York, after reports that he's has become engaged to another woman while still married. So far, the U-T has featured two short AP stories. 

This isn't the only conflict of interest the U-T left undisclosed. In August, business writer Mike Freeman wrote about AT&T's bid to buy out NextWave Wireless without mentioning that Manchester sits on NextWave's board

Calendar

  • Visit one of the 70 participating restaurants, bars, coffeehouses and nightclubs in town on this night and 25 to 50 percent of sales will go to local HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs. 
  • Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward, who are vying to replace Todd Gloria on the San Diego City Council, will discuss urban issues, such as parking, homelessness and new developments
  • The new exhibition designed by Dave Ghilarducci is made from hundreds of rolls of packing tape and bound together by layers of plastic shrink-wrap. Visitors can navigate their way through cocoon-like passageways...
  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • The San Diego County Bike Coalition hosts this monthly bike-in happy hour event to get biking residents involved in their communities and discuss bike projects planned for that specific community
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • So Say We All's monthly storytelling night features stories about those jobs we took because we had to take a job. Featured readers include Allison Gauss, Annmarie Houghtailing, Cecile Estelle, and more
  • Artists from the all-abstracts group show will talk about their work and techniques. Artists include Edwin Nutting, Danielle Nelisse, Leah Pantea, Lenore Simon, and more
See all events on Thursday, Apr 28