GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

SD Union-Tribune’s identity crisis

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 7, 2009

At $.75 per issue (same as the LA Times), I expect the San Diego Union-Tribune to distinguish itself by doing a significant amount of original reporting, not just reprint wire service stories on the net.  Long before David C. Copley sold the newspaper to Edward R. Moss [Correction: it was sold to Platinum Equity (thanks Joe).  Also I should have written that Copley Press sold it] , the U-T was already going in the wire services direction, shedding reporters and cutting back on original coverage.  The paper has grown thinner and thinner.  Its approach to local news seems half-hearted. Under the new ownership, so far I haven’t see any sign of that changing. [Aug 12: More layoffs have been announced]

Meanwhile, I have seen the LA Times improve with the merger of its California section with the main ‘A’ section (with regional coverage becoming more substantive) and a noticeably reduced reliance on wire service reports.

I decided to do a brief informal comparison between the two papers to look, specifically, at how much original reporting the LA Times and SD Union-Tribune publish. Below I’ve itemized a working week’s worth of original reports in the main sections from each paper.

What I tallied: The LA Times combines its local and regional coverage with its ‘A’ section material, while San Diego U-T puts local and regional coverage in its ‘B’ section, so my tally looks only at Section A for LAT and Sections A+B for SDUT.  Business sections are not compared.  I tallied stories going through the papers front-to-back.  You’ll notice the LA Times now puts most “traditional”  news in back pages and uses the front more for personal interest stories.

Monday, Aug 3

LA Times

  • The sound of one boy healing / Shari Roan
  • Church tests policy on gay clerics / Duke Helfand
  • Health measure will be a tough sell / Janet Hook
  • Taking ‘ownership’ of Afghanistan war / Julian E. Barnes
  • Remains of pilot from 1991 war recovered / Tony Perry
  • Yoga mats in the outfield / W.J. Hennigan
  • Unpopular but undaunted / George Skelton
  • On the road to learning / Ruben Vives
  • Pension plan threatens city budget
  • State agency resumes review of fumigant / Amy Littlefield
  • Targeting heat-related farm deaths / Anna Gorman
  • Christians, Muslims forging new bonds / Larry B. Stammer
  • Hybrid U.S. prison considered / Josh Meyer and Julian E. Barnes
  • In Colorado, judges as prosecutors / DeeDee Correll
  • Debating the role of prevention / Kristina Sherry
  • 4 soldiers held in Iraqi bank heist / Liz Sly
  • Israeli gays mourn in shock / Richard Boudreaux
  • 6 U.S. troops killed in bombings, ambush in Afghanistan / Laura King
  • Iran court warns against criticizing proceedings / Borzou Daragahi
  • Newsbrief: Tip halts planned cockfight / Ari B. Bloomekatz
  • Newsbrief: Marine killed in crash is identified / Ari B. Bloomekatz
  • Newsbrief: Boy dies in early morning hit-run / Alan Zarembo
  • Newsbrief: Deputies kill man wielding cleavers / Ari B. Bloomekatz

SD Union-Tribune

  • Advisers urge foes of Prop. 8 not to rush / John Marelius
  • Southbound screenings: Mexico’s customs inspection plans raise traffic concerns / Sandra Dibble
  • Fanita Ranch plans stumble / Michele Clock
  • Progress is reported on repairing spinal cords / Scott LaFee
  • Council members get advice on recusals / Craig Gustafson
  • Finding their ‘lifeline’: Foster siblings make important family ties while enjoying camp / David Hasemyer
  • Scripps team manipulates skin cells to breed mice / Thomas Kubber
  • Just Fix It: Paint on Point Loma curbs should make parking limits clear / Jeff Ristine
  • Newsbrief: Missing man found dead in Mission Bay / Leslie Berestein
  • Newsbrief: Carlsbad woman found slain in home is identified / Leslie Berestein and Mark Arner
  • Newsbrief: Coronado fire causes $120,000 in damage / Mark Arner
  • Newsbrief: Del Mar racetrack holds contest for Miss Cougar / Tanya Mannes
  • Newsbrief: Walk Against Crime set for tomorrow in Vista / Rick Rogers
  • Newsbrief: Ship repairers donate to public swimming pool / Helen Gao
  • Newsbrief: Boy, 14, hit by watercraft while tubing in Mission Bay / U-T report

Tuesday, Aug 4

LA Times

  • Clinton goes to North Korea / John M. Glionna, Paul Richter
  • Tradition adrift in a sea of change / John M. Glionna
  • Burk slaying suspect was on his 3rd strike long ago / Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
  • A shot at thwarting swine flu / Thomas H. Maugh II
  • Clunkers credited for big July sales / Ken Bensinger, Jim Puzzanghera
  • White House gives drug makers a seat / Tom Hamburger
  • House just tip of the horror / Hector Tobar
  • Suit over child’s death dismissed / Victoria Kim
  • L.A. schools’ dropout rate declines 17% / Howard Blume and Jason Song
  • Giving Hollywood a tumble / Carla Hall
  • Justices back employer in privacy case / Maura Dolan
  • State prepares for climate change / Margot Roosevelt
  • Quach in collision before crash / My-Thuan Tran
  • La Jolla’s beach squatters spark debate / Tony Perry
  • Michael Jackson’s mother is given custody of his children / Victoria Kim
  • Police rescue hostage in Riverside County / Joel Rubin and Robert J. Lopez
  • Families confronting money woes / Carla Rivera
  • State to consider altering law on test scores, teacher evals / Jason Song
  • Obama hails new GI Bill as ‘an investment in our own country’ / Mark Silva
  • Senate set to debate Sotomayor / David G. Savage and James Oliphant
  • Justices cool to bail request by Simpson / Ashley Powers
  • GOP defector Specter faces challenge from his new party / Josh Drobnyk
  • White House clarifies tax talk / Mark Silva
  • U.S. may soften Sudan stance / Peter Wallsten, Edmund Sanders
  • A bird’s-eye view of Afghanistan / Carolyn Cole
  • Israeli denies any fraud / Richard Boudreaux
  • 3 die in pneumonic plague outbreak in remote part of western China / Barbara Demick and Joshua Frank
  • Newsbrief: Man gets prison for $14 million Ponzi scam / Raja Abdulrahim
  • Newsbrief: Retirement plan vote delayed / David Zahniser
  • Newsbrief: Dealer sentenced in girl’s death / Nicole Santa Cruz
  • Newsbrief: Man decapitated; suspect arrested / Steve Chawkins
  • Newsbrief: Deaths called murder-suicide / My-Thuan Tran
  • Newsbrief: County weighs pension appeal / Tami Abdollah
  • Newsbrief: San Diego police kill robber / Tony Perry

San Diego Union-Tribune

  • Auto dealers praise rebate incentive / Catherine Mitros
  • Steelhead strategy roils local waters / Mike Lee
  • Zoo institute gives teachers lessons to share with students / Robert Krier
  • Schools prepare for flu’s return / Chris Moran
  • Suspect tried suicide before, authorities say / Rick Rogers
  • Officials at border hail wastewater diversion system / Sandra Dibble
  • Rancher devoted to ‘giving back’ to Lakeside / Anne Krueger
  • Devoted family man hit by car is mourned / Mark Arner
  • Kinfe-wielding man fatally shot by police / Craig Gustafson and Matthew Rodriguez
  • 5 council members raise $351,350 through June / Craig Gustafson
  • Newsbrief: Man who jumped from boat into bay identified / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • Newsbrief: Girl, 9, dies in I-5 crash; driver suspected of DUI / Debbi Baker
  • Newsbrief: Marine arrested after chase on way to hospital / Karen Kucher
  • Newsbrief: Man attempts robbery, threatens eatery manager / Debbi Baker
  • Newsbrief: Blaze caused by someone in home, fire chief says / Debbi Baker
  • Newsbrief: Baja earthquakes felt in downtown San Diego / Karen Kucher
  • Newsbrief: Discovery of fruit fly prompts spraying, traps / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • Newsbrief: Public safety is focus of community fair tonight / Janine Zuniga
  • Newsbrief: Trace of precipitation remarkable for San Diego / Robert Krier
  • Newsbrief: Attorney recommended for seat on ethics panel / Craig Gustafson
  • Newsbrief: Ruling sets stage for L.A. venue in Trump suit / Leslie Berestein

Wednesday,  Aug 5

LA Times

  • Bill Clinton brings back journalists / John M. Glionna, Paul Richter
  • Deal was months in the making / Paul Richter
  • State gets two years to cut 43,000 from prisons / Carol J. Williams
  • A sticky situation for L.A. lawyer / Alan Zarembo, Victoria Kim
  • Obama sees a region through hard times / P.J. Huffstutter
  • Burk case mirrors part of ’86 crime / Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
  • The great California sell-off / Steve Lopez
  • L.A. fire officials cut rescue vehicles, hospital liaisons / Robert J. Lopez and Phil Willon
  • System is blamed in boy’s death / Garrett Therolf
  • Historic Clifton’s struggles to sustain itself / Cara Mia Di Massa
  • O.C. officials order revamp of agency / Tami Abdollah
  • 5 die in fiery O.C. crash / Paloma Esquivel and My-Thuan Tran
  • All-American day for Inglewood / Emeralda Bermudez
  • Glendale brush fire controlled: Robert J. Lopez
  • AEG, mayor team up for bach / David Zahniser and Phil Willon
  • Judge upholds ‘bubble’ law / Robin Abcarian
  • Legislation addresses water policy / Bettina Boxall
  • Sotomayor critics line up in Senate / James Oliphant and David G. Savage
  • What’s on the Pentagon’s mind? Facebook / Julian E. Barnes
  • Obama’s full-time, VIP healthcare / Mike Dorning
  • White House rebuts Drudge / Peter Nicholas
  • Summit to tackle text messaging, other driver distractions / Kristina Sherry
  • Abbas urges nonviolent struggle / Richard Boudreaux
  • 2 hurt as rockets rain on Afghan capital / Laura King
  • Baghdad’s copper market loses its luster / Usama Redha
  • Struggling to make it in Kenya / Edmund Sanders
  • Tehran calls 3 Americans spies / Maria L. La Ganga, Liz Sly
  • LA newsbrief: Vote on uniforms delayed / Maeve Reston
  • LA newsbrief: City oks loan to help Cirque / Maeve Reston
  • Statewide newsbrief: Veterans win college aid / Larry Gordon
  • Whittier newsbrief: 3 men arrested in attack on woman / Robert J. Lopez
  • Westminster newsbrief: Council’s Quach charged with DUI / My-Thuan Tran

SD Union-Tribune

  • Private lawyers cost state millions / Michael Gardner
  • Oval park isn’t part of waterfront plan / Helen Gao
  • California voters increasingly tolerant / John Marelius
  • Jackson calls ‘beer summit’ distraction from real issues / Matthew T. Hall
  • Let us not overlook the Battle of Shewan / Michael Stetz
  • Pension hearing to weigh payment / Craig Gustafson
  • Night sky brings town an air of distinction / Bruce Lieberman
  • Program eases the pain of medical school costs / Keith Darce
  • Chula Vista: 2 police promotions reinstated / Tanya Sierra
  • Carlsbad: Power plant plan clears county hurdle
  • National Night Out brings residents, police together / Matthew Rodriguez
  • Campo: Water project will receive $1.1 million / Onell R. Soto
  • Just fix it: Water leak repaired, but not before it had turned into deluge / Jeff Ristine
  • Newsbrief: 2 arrested in connection with April death of sailor / Debbi Baker
  • Newsbrief: Name of man with knife slain by officer released / Angelica Martinez
  • Newsbrief: Suspect in hit-and-run turns himself in to police / Karen Kucher
  • Newsbrief: Motorist, 88, dies after apparent heart attack / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • Newsbrief: Blaze at Torrey Pines reserve quickly put out / Angelica Martinez
  • Newsbrief: Fires break out on two consecutive nights in lot / Karen Kucher
  • Newsbrief: Man in bottle-bomb case to be evaluated further / Mark Arner
  • Newsbrief: Bail set for El Cajon man in alleged fraud scheme / David Hasemeyer
  • Newsbrief: UCSD to benefit from an unusual bond issue / James P. Sweeney
  • Newsbrief: Sustainability Fair set for tomorrow, Sunday / Mike Lee
  • Newsbrief: Sheriff’s Dept. to spend stimulus money on hires / Jeff McDonald

Thursday, Aug 6

LA Times

  • A flight to Asia that altered the U.S. political map / Paul Richter
  • Police chief’s exit poses a major challenge for L.A. / Jack Leonard and Richard Winton
  • Longtime associate lured Bratton to security firm / Joel Rubin
  • New ordeal for the old in Iraq / Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed
  • Budd Schulberg, 1914-2009: A man Hollywood hated and hailed / Dennis McLellan
  • There’s money in oil. Take it / George Skelton
  • State criticizes police firing range in Redondo Beach / Jeff Gottlieb
  • Payments to officials are probed / Howard Blume, Scott Glover and David Zahniser
  • Illinois inmate charged in 5 area slayings / Tami Abdollah
  • Assembly expunges votes on controversial oil drilling bill / Patrick McGreevy
  • Legal opinion adds to flap over governor’s vetoes / Eric Bailey
  • L.A. council to vote on emergency billboard law / David Zahniser
  • County-USC hospital reopens rooftop heliport / Rong-Gong Lin II
  • Brown criticizes order to release inmates / Carol J. Williams
  • I-5 crash victims identified / Paloma Esquivel and My-Thuan Tran
  • A realm of the coin in L.A. / Bob Pool
  • EPA proposes new rule to help curb smog / Margot Roosevelt
  • State to further restrict fishing / Amy Littlefield
  • Healthcare debate gets uglier / Janet Hook
  • Low-risk suopport for Sotomayor / James Oliphant
  • Stimulus is working, Obama tells crowd / P.J. Huffstutter
  • Court restores ban on new roads in forests / Bettina Boxall
  • Doubt cast on spine surgery / Thomas H. Maugh II
  • Lawmaker who had cash in his freezer is convicted / Richard Simon
  • Mob targeted Pakistani Christians / Alex Rodriguez
  • A cursed job and a boxing legend’s demise / Tracy Wilkinson
  • ‘Home and free’ again / Raja Abdulrahim and Anna Gorman
  • Tensions fester in secular Tel Aviv / Edmund Sanders
  • Iran leader is sworn in amid signs of discord / Borzou Daragahi, Ramin Mostaghim
  • NATO chief reaffirms Afghan priority / Henry Chu
  • Funds may be delayed for Mexico’s anti-drug effort / Kristina Sherry
  • LA newsbrief: Judge delays Chris Brown sentencing / Harriet Ryan
  • San Bernardino newsbrief: Shooting case nears settlement / David Kelly
  • Santa Ana newsbrief: Officer kills man in alley / Ari B. Bloomekatz
  • LA newsbrief: L.A. City College suspends sports / Gale Holland
  • LA newsbrief: Attorney held in bribery case / Ari B. Bloomekatz
  • San Diego newsbrief: Another panda born at zoo / Tony Perry

SD Union-Tribune

  • Electric car fuel stations funded / Thomas Kupper
  • ‘Cougars’ make tracks for Del Mar / Tanya Mannes
  • Panda cub makes debut in early morning at zoo / Jeanette Steele
  • Bejarano war chest continues to grow / Jeff McDonald
  • Hero worship puts focus on sailor dad / Leonel Sanchez
  • Caltrans to pay Minutemen in settlement over cleanup on I-5 / Leslie Berestein
  • Council reverses, will replace McCann temporarily / Tanya Sierra
  • Slain court reporter’s ex-boyfriend pleads not guilty / Angelica Martinez
  • DNA links murderer to 5 killings in Calif. / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • 2 could face death penalty in fatal stabbing / David Hasemyer
  • Schools fear more cuts later if state budget woes continue / Chris Moran
  • Budget cuts force court closures in county / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • Total loss of state funds imperils domestic violence shelters / John Wilkens
  • El Cajon newsbrief: Police looking into death of 9-month-old in tub / Karen Kucher
  • SD newsbrief: Hiker dies, girl rescued from Cowles Mountain / Susan Shroder
  • SD newsbrief: Three who handled soiled baggage receive treatment / Matthew Rodriguez
  • SD newsbrief: Series of thefts linked to suspects in custody / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • La Mesa newsbrief: Two men, one with a gun, rob La Mesa water store / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • SD newsbrief: Driver in pickup crash who later died identified / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • SD newsbrief: Man convicted of shooting his ex-girlfriend’s husband / Angelica Martinez
  • Newsbrief: Woman is 13th person in county to die of swine flu / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • Newsbrief: Nuclear attack sub set to arrive at Point Loma / Steve Liewer
  • Newsbrief: GOP governor candidate advocates job creation / J. Marelius
  • Newsbrief: Lower temperatures are forecast for inland valleys / Robert Krier
  • Newsbrief: S.D. County to solicit bids for new lobbying contract / J. McDonald

Friday, Aug 7

LA Times

  • Sotomayor is a justice like no other / David G. Savage and James Oliphant
  • Obama aims to overhaul immigration jail system / Anna Gorman
  • Fear is real, but bullet is soap / Scott Glover
  • John Hughes: He listened to kids, and gave them voice / Dennis McLellan
  • Their war hero to end all war heroes / Henry Chu
  • This guy’s got inside game / James Rainey
  • Choosing the next police chief / Phil Willon
  • New twist in battle for land near Malibu / Bob Pool
  • Jackson flag order causes flap in Carson / Jeff Gottlieb
  • Jackson was to get 2nd physical / Harriet Ryan
  • 4 held in string of taco truck holdups / Ruben Vives
  • Gov. signs bill easing office pool penalties / Patrick McGreevy
  • School board member quits / Seema Mehta
  • Warming plan urged for national parks / Margot Roosevelt
  • Psychiatric hospital is sued by ex-workers / Rong-Gong Lin II
  • Workers get new help in Dole fight / Victoria Kim and Alan Zarembo
  • Sheriff to run MTA security / Richard Winton
  • Bush’s terror policies take a beating / Greg Miller
  • Glaciers melting faster, study says / Jim Tankersley
  • Planet-hunting craft shows its stuff / John Johnson Jr.
  • Jewish groups decry Obama award pick / Peter Wallsten
  • Violations cited in gay bar raid / P.J. Huffstutter
  • The victory over Georgia cut two ways / Megan K. Stack
  • Deathly superstition haunts Indian village / Mark Magnier
  • Roadside bombs wreak havoc in Afghanistan / Laura King
  • Chinese lawyer who fought fraud is jailed / Barbara Demick
  • U.S. strike may have killed Pakistani Taliban chief / Alex Rodriguez, Greg Miller
  • Clinton trip marks new engagement in Somalia / Edmund Sanders
  • Swine flu vaccine on track for fall arrival, WHO says / Thomas H. Maugh II
  • Greenspace brief: Tackling the elephant in the room: overpopulation / Margot Roosevelt
  • Greenspace brief: Greenpeace paints mocking moniker on roof of HP building / Amy Littlefield
  • Greenspace brief: Utility pays U.S. a $14.75-million wildfire settlement / Bettina Boxall
  • Greenspace brief: College students compete for best 100% solar home / Amy Littlefield
  • Riverside County brief: Firegighters gain against blaze fanned by wind / Robert J. Lopez
  • Hollywood brief: Man arrested in 2 fatal stabbings / Robert J. Lopez
  • Santa Ana brief: Teen convicted in driving death
  • LA brief: Greuel endorses Essel for 2nd Dist. / Maeve Reston
  • LA brief: Thumbs down on 18 pot exemptions / John Heoffel

SD Union-Tribune

  • Immigrant detention overhaul planned / Leslie Berestein
  • Deal isn’t in the cards / John Wilkens
  • Mayor’s effort to get assistant a raise questioned / Sanya Sierra
  • Keeping the past alive / Onell R. Soto
  • County’s pension board to outsource portfolio oversight / Jeff McDonald
  • Robert Castetter: Dean helped law school get accreditation, stature / Bianca Gonzalez
  • Just fix it: Malfunctioning left-turn signal throws driver for a loop / Jeff Ristine
  • Newsbrief: Teen who hurled knife that hit detective arrested / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • Newsbrief: Police officer who killed armed man identified / Jose Luis Jimenez
  • Newsbrief: Feds offering $250,000 reward in Rosas killing / Angelica Martinez
  • Newsbrief: Check of tire at border yields 50 pounds of coke / Debbi Baker
  • Newsbrief: ‘Trusted traveler’ caught at border with pot in tires / Susan Shroder
  • Newsbrief: Person injured in crash after pursuit by deputies / Matthew Rodriguez
  • Newsbrief: USD gets grant to train science, math teachers / Chris Moran
  • Newsbrief: Expiration date extended for state library grant / Jeanette Steele
  • Newsbrief: Possible 77th Assembly seat candidates emerging / Michele Clock
  • Newsbrief: Cars for sale on street will bring fines starting Sept. 5 / Karen Kucher

Conclusion: LA Times not only produces a greater number of original articles, it produces them almost exclusively. In contrast, the U-T’s ‘A’ section is almost exclusively wire service reports. For LAT, that’s 133 original stories for the week and 48 stories for the U-T. Further, LAT’s breadth of coverage is greater with longer, more in-depth articles from reporters on-location worldwide. For me, this brief survey brought home the fact that the Union-Tribune has virtually given up on assigning its own reporters to cover any national or international stories, and while section B contains some unique local and regional stories, they are only occasionally in-depth; otherwise, it relies heavily on numerous short newsbriefs.  I guess I should give the U-T a little slack: their daily circulation is 296,331 (down from 418,000 in 1993) compared to LAT’s 773,884 and who’s to say if the reduced coverage is because of reduced circulation or vice-versa? There are still some good reporters at the U-T and I would like to continue supporting them with my subscription, but increasingly the paper doesn’t seem worth the price.  I’m hoping they will put renewed effort into more original high-quality stories and more sustained follow-through on important issues.

2 Responses to “SD Union-Tribune’s identity crisis”

  1. Joe said

    Second sentence: “Long before David C. Copley sold the newspaper to Edward R. Moss…”

    David Copley didn’t sell the paper to Ed Moss. He sold it to Platinum Equity, which later hired Moss as publisher.

    I stopped reading at that point; if you can’t get your facts straight on such a basic issue, I have serious doubts you got anything right.

  2. GrokSurf said

    Joe: you’re right, I made a mistake there. It’s worse, because I foolishly concluded that was a technicality, but I was wrong. Thanks for pointing it out.

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