By appearances, Bob Kittle attempted to sedate his audience, perhaps to limit the depth and intensity of its questions about the Union-Tribune's editorial positions.
Kittle, who's in charge of the U-T's editorial page, lulled a crowd at last Friday's meeting of the Catfish Club at the Channel 10 studios with a roughly 20-minute recitation of the history of the U-T and its publishers. However, one attendee, educator Ernie McCray, came to life, groaning audibly when Kittle described the paper's editorial slant as "moderate Republican."
Despite Kittle's best efforts, when it came time for Q&A, a few mildly interesting tidbits revealed themselves, such as publisher David Copley's influence on the paper's editorial stances.
"The newspaper reflects the views of the publisher," Kittle said. "That is the case at every newspaper.... The publisher has the right and, in my view, the obligation to make sure that his editorial page reflects his view of the world."
He said Copley, despite rumors that he's gravely ill, meets with the editorial board once a week, and Copley's say drowns out all other voices.
As an example, when someone asked whether the potential for a Donna Frye mayoral victory had changed the paper's mind on Proposition F, the "strong-mayor" initiative, Kittle said no, Frye wasn't the impetus for the about-face in the paper's position, which had historically favored the strong-mayor system of government.
"I can answer our change of position with two words: the publisher," he said.
"As the election approached, the publisher told me that he supported the idea of a strong mayor," Kittle said, "but he thought the times were wrong. He was concerned with all of the chaos at City Hall." Kittle said he "gulped more than once. I discussed it a bit with him. In the end, it's his newspaper, so we said, editorially, vote no-this is not the right time for it."
Though he disagreed with Copley, Kittle said, "I didn't quit over this issue"-a jab at former columnist Jim Goldsborough, who quit recently after Copley refused to publish a strikingly inoffensive column by Goldsborough because the publisher considered the piece potentially offensive to Jews. ("Jim had written a number of columns in the past that had offended, at the very least, Jewish leaders in San Diego, who were constantly at our doorstep, unhappy with his columns," Kittle said.)
But the highlight of Kittle's talk was a tasty Freudian slip. He said the U-T published Goldsborough's columns "because they ran counter to the general view of the paper much of the time. But, you know, that's life. That's our job, to prevent all points of view."
He meant to say their job is to present all points of view. Or did he?