Ten years after the dawn of CityBeat, the San Diego media landscape looks like a scene from The Terminator, with the rotting carcasses of journalists littering the hillsides. It's the day-after for San Diego media, and it's not a pretty picture. The bastions have crumbled, torn down by nerds with digital toys. In just 10 short years, every aspect of the business has changed, the rivers diverted; bizarro world is now reality.
Look at the Union-Tribune—er, U-T San Diego— where the survivors of the purge cower in their cubicles waiting for the building to be torn down to make room for the World's Largest Wendy's. Never considered much of a paper in its heyday, it's now the subject of national mockery, the play-thing of a delusional Citizen Kane wannabe, who's vowed to use the paper to make sure everyone in San Diego is familiar with the size of his penis.
Turn on TV or radio and the airwaves are filled with ghosts of the past, dispossessed spirits wandering through a fading media world. They hang on to their jobs for no apparent reason, desperately thankful that they can still get into the Del Mar Fair media party.
Then there's CityBeat, which refuses to die. Like a VD-resistant cockroach, CityBeat scurries forward, beating the odds and annoying the hell out of certain politicians. CityBeat is the successor to SLAMM, which was first printed on the back of used Trader Joe's bags. By one recent count, approximately 6,343 weeklies have appeared and disappeared since SLAMM was first tossed into a convenience store near you. When the current owners took over, there was the usual grumbling about carpetbagger scum. Some thought the paper would lose that brewed-in-the-bathroom vibe and develop into one more failed attempt at a happy-face alternative to the Reader.
But that never happened. CityBeat actually covers news and publishes the likes of Edwin Decker, who has developed into a Voice for San Diego, proving that CityBeat never abandoned authors willing to run their nails across the chalkboard.
In 2003, when the head of the U-T editorial board—a talentless, bow-tie-wearing hack named Robert "Bob" Kittle—threw a hissy fit over one of this writer's columns, CityBeat editor David Rolland refused to back down, flashing the type of cojones rarely seen these days in local media. Today, Kittle is long gone, dumped by the paper when the accountants realized that a trained chimp could write with the same eloquence.
If you want to get all truthful and crap, a lot of guys like Bob who lost their jobs during The Cleansing should have been banished to the PR farms long ago. Yet, many Bobs are still out there, preying on San Diego, oblivious to the curse on their souls.
So here are 10 San Diego media vampires that should have been spiked long ago:
1. Roger Hedgecock: Once considered a smart guy, he tossed aside intelligence for a desperate attempt to become the next Rush Limbaugh. Now he's just another Tea Party toadie pandering to the wackos, a smirking icon of talk radio ignored by anyone with an IQ over 32.
2. San Diego reality show contestants: Once upon a time, San Diego was best known for obedient killer whales, nice beaches and the occasional mass murder. Now the face of San Diego is a drunken frat girl who will gladly show her tits for the promise of warm beer and a chance to meet Jonny Moseley.
3. U-T San Diego editorial writers: No one has actually paid attention to newspaper editorials since 1898, yet the arrogant hacks continue to pound out the drivel. Naming President Obama the worst president in history put the current crop of U-T editorial writers in the intellectual class of the drooling 90-year-old Glenn Beck fan who thinks Obama is a fascist Kenyan socialist who fathered a two-headed baby with an alien.
4. John Coleman: Working a schtick that went out of style in 1976, Coleman continues to babble on, his crazy-clown smile a reminder that TV was once a very weird and scary place.
5. Local TV news: The local stations treat news as the "stuff that goes in between the weather reports." Anchors and reporters display the personality of greeters at Scientology offices. No one cares. Reruns of Two and a Half Men provide more intellectual stimulation.
6. Jeff and Jer: Seriously, these guys are still employed? This is how radio is fighting the wave crashing over its old static-filled life? Exactly who is the person out there who gets up in the morning and says, "Gosh darn, those dudes sure are funny"?
7. Kimberly Hunt's plastic surgeon: OK, maybe her carefully sculpted hard-edged look is simply the result of clean living and sharp journalistic standards. Either way, the KimBot is sad evidence of the fate of aging anchor babes who are still forced to tighten and hone their Barbieness to stay on the air.
8. U-T San Diego entertainment writers: Let's not get into names here, but a lot of these guys were old and boring 10 years ago. Now they are just older and more boring.
9. Reader cover stories. OK, we get it. They are different. Quirky. But after all these years of staking out the esoteric high ground, would it really kill the editors to run a cover story that people may actually want to read?
10. Mark Larson: The official jokester of San Diego's Christian right couldn't get a gig at the Barstow Chuckle Room. Only in the Des Moines of the West is "being around forever" a qualification for on-air employment.
Ms. Beak wrote "San Diego Munch" until 2005.