U-T San Diego editor Jeff Light told the four people who attended the second leg of the conservative paper's "One-Stop Shop for Candidates" event two weeks ago that they were kept separate from the local GOP version "to keep the peace."
Spin Cycle has no idea if Light was joking, but he needn't have worried, for the Mission Valley headquarters of hotelier/developer Doug Manchester's spreading media empire remained standing the next day.
Billed as two "exciting evenings" to showcase the U-T's sputtering evolution into an "innovative new media company" and provide insight into "how to get noticed by the press" and "how does one get endorsed," the differences and similarities between the Sept. 11 and Sept. 13 productions were indicative of the company's political underpinnings.
The most notable difference was in who showed up, according to accounts of the proceedings provided to Spin Cycle. Although invitations for both events proclaimed that U-T Vice Chairman and CEO John Lynch would make "introductory remarks," he bothered to do so only for the 50 or so conservative brothers and a handful of sisters at the Sept. 11 Republican gathering.
Of course, it was that day that the Lynch / Manchester duo had lifted its leg on the U-T's latest conquest, the Escondido-based North County Times, whose acquisition by Manchester is set to conclude Oct. 1.
Mention of that to the GOP choir packed in the U-T's Manchester Boardroom that night drew hoots and applause, which seemed to fire up the jock in Lynch.
"I think that allows such incredible opportunity. My kids went to school in North County, and they've always had an incredible heritage of fabulous prep sports and family coverage up there," Lynch told the Republican crowd. "We can really make an impact because the North County is about who we are."
He hinted at undetermined "plans" of "joining the papers together" and of future conquests—Manchester is rumored to be interested in snapping up the Chicago-based, bankruptcy-mired Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times—"to really create a great business with this same type of model across the country."
If that isn't enough to make progressives and working journalists queasy, Lynch also described his vision of changing "the political landscape in each community in terms of really supporting the values that we stand for, and that's loving our country and loving America again," as if somehow the Manchester / Lynch team has a lock on that market, too.
Lynch referred to local GOP honcho and "retired" video-game hacker Tony Krvaric, sitting in the audience, as a "terrific friend and partner" and lauded the fluffy profile of him that ran recently in the U-T as the kind of "good news" about "people who make a difference in our community" that Manchester—who did not attend either event—wants to provide.
Krvaric stumbled through a few laudatory sentences about "Papa Doug" (Disclosure: Spin Cycle has decided to no longer use the self-appointed paternal moniker that Manchester insists on, citing the ridiculousness of it) and bootlicked his "media powerhouse."
"It takes a lot of guts," the San Diego County Republican Party chairman gushed. "You are the ultimate risk takers
. There are some people that will try to take risk out of the system, which means you take opportunity out of the system. Then we're all going to be equally miserable just like in Europe."
Lynch said the "nationwide" coverage of the U-T's growth plans—mostly negative—"mystifies" him. "I keep saying, I'm such a nice guy!' How could they say that?" he said to an eruption of laughter. He then turned the floor over to Mike Hodges, the man charged with turning the U-T into a multimedia dynamo of dominance. Lynch heaped praise on Hodges before going all Darth Vader on him by saying, "You better damn well hit the numbers!"
"It always comes back to the numbers, right, John?" Hodges nervously responded.
Hodges boasted about the emergence of UT-TV, the laugh-track of a television station that features, as one attendee noted, "silicon-laden blondes" who are challenged to speak in whole sentences.
Despite the newsroom and editorial staffs having been decimated by layoffs—opinion "director" Bill Osborne even noted with disdain that the once-robust 14-member editorial board has been slashed to four, with only two writers, making endorsements for the third-tier candidates who made up the majority of attendees difficult—UT-TV staffing has grown to 60, said the star of the Republican evening, loose conservative cannon Roger Hedgecock.
At the second evening event, for candidates not deemed worthy of the initial GOP night, editor Light observed that the Hedgecock he sees on the one-hour show he hosts on UT-TV is "a more moderate Roger" than the ranting loon he portrays on radio.
"You're looking at me like I'm crazy," Light said to Osborne, a 41-year U-T veteran, who responded, "I don't see a lot of mellow."
For the Republicans, Hedgecock—who U-T executives said was "not invited" to the second evening—did not disappoint.
In his element among the likeminded, Hedgecock opened his brief remarks by noting, "First of all, Bob Filner is still crazy." He went on to describe "this UT-TV thing" as "one of the most exciting things to happen in this community in a long time," presumably because he's involved.
"I don't know whether you've been watching the local news on the broadcast channels, but it sucks," he said, promising that his show will exhibit "no political-correct talk, no inhibitions. We are going to go after things. We're going to go after the goals of the people." Oh, hoo-ray.
If last week's appearance on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher is any indication, Hedgecock—pummeled by MSNBC's resident Hardball loudmouth Chris Matthews—had better stay in his conservative cocoon. Being called a "douche canoe" and "Ugly Suit Wearing lie telling ahole" afterwards on Twitter can't qualify as "good news" to Manchester.
In the end, the whole two-night experience seemed more flash than substance for some attendees. The universal agreement? The food sucked.