San Diego named a sports stadium after Jack Murphy, a toady Union-Tribune sports columnist who tossed aside objectivity to blatantly lobby to bring a football team to town. Even when the city sold out the stadium name to Qualcomm, the poobahs erected a statue of Murphy in the parking lot, just to prove their undying respect for toadyism.
They won't be putting up any statues for Don Bauder, the business columnist who retired recently after 30 years with the paper. Bauder was no toady, which means he didn't get invited to many Chamber of Commerce weenie roasts.
Bauder, 67, was one of the paper's true characters, a sharp contrast to polo shirt columnists like Logan Jenkins and James Goldsborough, who act like their every fart is a communiqué from the throne.
Bauder was a grumpy, cantankerous old dude, even before he got old. Pity the poor PR bunnies who tried to pitch him "positive" stories about office buildings that will "transform the urban core." He had no patience for the happy horseshit.
Opinionated and cynical, Bauder was old-school all the way. During one of the J. David trials in the '80s, a judge tossed Bauder out of court because he was loudly snorting during the defendant's testimony.
Bauder was all over the J. David scam, gleefully detailing the greed and excess that stemmed from J. David Dominelli's Ponzi scheme. Bauder was one of the first to suggest that ethically-challenged "moderate Republican" Mayor Roger Hedgecock may be a crook for the way he oiled himself up with J. David money.
Bauder even wrote a book about the J. David scam, making him one of the very few U-T writers who can claim to have written something longer than 500 words.
If nothing else, Bauder loved a good scam. Among cops, San Diego is known as "Scam Diego," and Bauder was always the first to report every boiler room bust or senior citizen shell game.
Shady characters and fleeced citizens are prime fodder for a hotshot business reporter, but it is an alien world to reporters at the U-T business section, who are too busy writing stories like, "Wireless Executives Say Sales are Swell."
More than anything, Bauder relished examining the shady financing behind deals, or ripping the fantasy "economic impact" numbers that accompany so many projects.
Bauder often wrote like an economist, using icky big words like "inflation" and "price-earnings multiples," which turned off readers who wanted investment advice from someone like, say, Martha Stewart.
Bauder saw himself as the last defense for small shareholders. Long before Enron and WorldCom, he was ranting about corporate greed.
As a columnist, he saw it as his job to state his opinion, to give the reader his take on what was happening in the markets. After all, the only thing any reader really wants from a business section is some clue about whether the stock market will go up or down.
Bauder was wrong a lot. Anybody who listened to his pessimism missed out on a chance to make millions during the tech boom. But anybody who listened also would have saved millions by heeding his cries that the market was due to collapse.
To the end, he was a purest. His last column didn't even mention his departure. Instead, he stated his opinion on the future of the stock market, which, for the record, he believes "will only [generate] 4 to 5 percent annual returns with great volatility."
The U-T handled Bauder's departure with its usual ham-fisted charm. Bauder's opinions were often the direct opposite of the U-T's bow-tied editorial writers, which didn't endear him to management. The U-T is happier with "positive" columnists like Ozzie Roberts, Richard Louv or Jane Clifford, who tell warm and fuzzy stories about 4-year-olds baking cookies. The U-T's idea of an alternative voice is former Congressman Lionel Van Deerlin, who is something like 80 years old.
In the terse official announcement of Bauder's retirement, editor Karin Winner praised Bauder as a "fixture," making him seem just a bit more important than the halogen lamp in the women's bathroom. Winner's grudging "he will be missed" seemed a tad forced, far from the wet smoochy you'd expect for a guy who kicked butt for the paper for 30 years.
"He's made fans out of many readers, thanks to the work he's done exposing the latest scam," Winner said in her carefully worded statement. "He's also angered the business establishment at times, for taking such a hard line against professional sports investments in favor of infrastructure improvements."
The headline on the farewell feature proclaimed that Bauder "had his fans [and] no small number of foes," which meant Bauder was forced to defend himself in his very own farewell feature.
"The job of a journalist is to report fully and fairly on what's going on," Bauder explained to his fellow U-T reporter. "We represent the stockholders in these companies, not the people in the boardroom."
The treatment for Bauder was in sharp contrast to the recent farewell to longtime editorial figurehead and former Nixon toady Herb Klein, who was hailed as an icon. No one asked Klein to respond to charges that even Nixon thought he was a hack.
Bauder was left to slink off to Colorado, labeled controversial by his own paper. He deserved better. It's been a couple of weeks since Bauder left and already the pages of the U-T's business section seem just a wee bit drearier.