The San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego Union-Tribune

May 23, 2015, front page of The San Diego Union-Tribune
Type Daily newspaper
Format Broadsheet
Owner(s) Tribune Publishing (renamed Tronc Inc. effective June 20, 2016)
Founder(s) William Jeff Gatewood
Publisher Jeff Light
Founded 1868 (1868) as The San Diego Union
Language English
Headquarters 600 B Street
San Diego, California, United States
Circulation 250,678 daily (2013))
409,796 Sunday (2013)[1]
ISSN 1063-102X
Logo of U-T San Diego between 2012 and 2015

The San Diego Union-Tribune is an American metropolitan daily newspaper, published in San Diego, California.

Its name derives from a 1992 merger between the two major daily newspapers at the time, The San Diego Union and the San Diego Evening Tribune. The name changed to U-T San Diego in 2012 but was changed again to The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2015.[2] In 2015, it was acquired by Tribune Publishing, later renamed tronc.


San Diego Union building, c. 1870s
San Diego Sun building, 1908
San Diego Daily Bee building, 1908


The predecessor newspapers of the Union-Tribune were:[3][4]

In addition, the San Diego Union purchased the San Diego Daily Bee in 1888, and a for a brief time the combined newspaper was named the San Diego Union and Daily Bee.[6]

Acquisition and merger by Copley Press (and subsequent sale to Platinum Equity)

Both the Union and the Tribune were acquired by Copley Press in 1928[7] and were merged on February 2, 1992. The merged newspaper was sold to the private investment group Platinum Equity of Beverly Hills, California, on March 18, 2009.[8]


On August 17, 2010, the Union-Tribune changed its design to improve "clarity, legibility, and ease of use". Changes included being printed on thinner, 100 percent recycled paper, moving the comics to the back of the business section, and abbreviating the title The San Diego Union-Tribune on the front page to U-T San Diego.[9] The U-T nameplate was created by Jim Parkinson, a type designer who also created nameplates for The Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Newsweek.[10]

Purchase by MLIM Holdings

In November 2011, Platinum Equity sold the newspaper to MLIM Holdings, a company led by Doug Manchester, a San Diego real estate developer and "an outspoken supporter of conservative causes". The purchase price was reportedly in excess of $110 million.[11] Manchester built two landmark downtown hotels, the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel and the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina. His group also owns the Grand Del Mar luxury resort in San Diego.[12]

Rebranding to U-T San Diego

On January 3, 2012, the newspaper announced that it would use the name U-T San Diego "on all of our media products and communications"; the newspaper's website (formerly would use the name The official announcement explained the change as being intended to "unify our print and digital products under a single brand with a clear and consistent expectation of quality".[13][14][15]

Acquisition of the North County Times

U-T San Diego bought the North County Times in 2012.[16] On October 15, 2012, the North County Times ceased publication and became the U-T North County Times, which was an edition of the U-T with some North County–specific content.[17] Six months later the U-T North County Times name was dropped and the newspaper became a North County edition of the U-T.


In June 2012, U-T San Diego launched U-T TV, a television news channel. The network featured news, lifestyle, and editorial content produced by the newspaper's staff, and was created as part of the newspaper's growing emphasis on multi-platform content under Manchester.

By October 2013, just over a year after its launch, the network re-formatted with a focus on news, amidst a number of major departures among the channel's staff.

On February 19, 2014, U-T TV was discontinued, but the network's remaining staff was retained to produce video content for the newspaper's digital properties.[18][19]

Acquisition of weekly newspapers

In November 2013, the newspaper bought eight more local weekly newspapers in the San Diego area, which continued publication under their own names.[20]

Purchase by Tribune Publishing

On May 7, 2015, it was announced that the Tribune Publishing Company, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other newspapers, had reached a deal to acquire U-T San Diego and its associated properties for $85 million. The sale ended the newspaper's 146 years of private ownership.

The transaction was completed on May 21, 2015. On the same date, the newspaper reintroduced its previous branding as The San Diego Union-Tribune.[2]

The Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times became part of a new operating entity known as the California News Group, with both newspapers led by Times publisher and chief executive officer Austin Beutner. The two newspapers reportedly would retain distinct operations, but there would be a larger amount of synergy and content sharing between them.

The acquisition did not include the newspaper's headquarters, which was retained by Manchester and would be leased by the newspaper.[21][22]

On May 26, 2015, the newspaper announced it would lay off 178 employees, representing about thirty percent of the total staff, as it consolidated its printing operations with the Times in Los Angeles.[23]

Closure of San Diego printing facilities

On June 13, 2015, at 10:02 p.m. PDT the final run of The San Diego Union Tribune was printed at the San Diego headquarters in Mission Valley began.[24] It was to print the Sunday edition newspaper for June 14, 2015. The following Monday's newspaper would be printed at the Los Angeles Times location. The dismantling of the printing presses in Mission Valley began in mid-September 2015.

Gannett offer and name change

In 2016 rival newspaper publisher Gannett Company offered to buy the Tribune Publishing Company. The offer was rejected by management, spurring some shareholder dissatisfaction and a shareholder lawsuit. Meanwhile, the Tribune Publishing Company renamed itself Tronc Inc. Tronc is an acronym for Tribune online content. Effective June 20, the renamed company will trade on the NASDAQ exchange under the symbol TRNC.[25]


The newspaper was originally located in Old Town San Diego, and was moved to downtown San Diego in 1871. In 1973, it moved to a custom-built, brick and stone office and printing plant complex in Mission Valley.

The newspaper moved back downtown in May 2016, to offices on the 9th through 12th floor of a tower at 600 B Street. The Union-Tribune is to be the named tenant of the building, replacing Bridgepoint Education and, before that, Comerica.[26]


Pulitzer Prizes


Copleys and Platinum Equity

Under the Copleys' ownership, the newspaper had a reliably conservative editorial position, endorsing almost exclusively Republicans for elective office, and sometimes refusing to interview or cover Democratic candidates.

Under Platinum Equity, the newspaper's editorial position "skewed closer to the middle" and showcased multiple viewpoints.[31]

Manchester and Lynch

When Manchester and business partner John Lynch took ownership in 2011, they were open about their desire to use the newspaper to "promote their agenda of downtown development and politically conservative causes",[32] with Lynch stating on KPBS radio that he and Manchester "wanted to be cheerleaders for all that is good in San Diego".[33] Lynch expanded on this position in 2012, saying "We make no apologies. We are doing what a newspaper ought to do, which is to take positions. We are very consistent—pro-conservative, pro-business, pro-military—and we are trying to make a newspaper that gets people excited about this city and its future."[34]

This open promotion of certain viewpoints resulted in criticism from journalism professors and other newspaper editors, who worried that negative news about topics such as the military and business might not be covered.[35] Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University, argued, "Now if you're saying we're going to be the cheerleaders of the military, why would you report on this guy that's taking bribes?... Where's the cheerleading there?" a reference to the Union-Tribune's Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal.[36] A New York Times writer added, "There is a growing worry that the falling value and failing business models of many American newspapers could lead to a situation where moneyed interests buy papers and use them to prosecute a political and commercial agenda. That future appears to have arrived in San Diego."[34]

Lynch said, "We totally respect the journalistic integrity of our paper and there is a clear line of demarcation between our editorials and our news. Our editor, Jeff Light, calls the shots." However, in November 2011 Lynch told the sports editor that the sports pages should advocate for a new football stadium; when a longtime sportswriter wrote skeptically about the idea, he was fired.[34]

Downtown redevelopment

In January 2012, two months after Manchester bought the U-T, the newspaper featured a front-page proposal for downtown redevelopment, to include a downtown football stadium and an expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.[37] Both properties are adjacent to hotels that Manchester owns.[38]

In September 2012, Investigative Newsource reporter Brooke Williams obtained articles that claimed Lynch "threatened" Port Commissioner Scott Peters, who was running for Congress, "with a newspaper campaign to dismantle the Unified Port of San Diego". In e-mails obtained by Williams, Lynch was quoted as indicating that if the Dole Food Company obtained a long-term contract, that the Port's independence governance would be questioned in editorial coverage. Williams said the effort showed "the extent to which the newspaper's new owners will go to push their vision for a football stadium on the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal",[39]

Endorsements and polling

During the 2012 mayoral election the owners of the U-T donated to Republican City Council Member Carl DeMaio's campaign,[40] and the newspaper ran several prominent editorials favoring DeMaio. Those endorsements were wrapped around the front section of the newspaper on a separate page, "as though they were even more important" than the front page.[41]

In October 2012, a poll was taken by the U-T asking respondents to choose between DeMaio and Democratic Congressman Bob Filner in the mayoral election to be held in November. A rival news outlet noted that "Employees of a newspaper, television / radio station, marketing / public opinion research company or the city of San Diego—or who live with someone employed in one of those fields" were excluded from the poll results, which showed the Republican leading the Democrat, 46 percent to 36 percent. Reporter Kelly Davis of wrote: "Common sense dictates that those votes [by city employees or those living with them] would swing in Filner's favor due to DeMaio's long-running feud with city-employee unions." But U-T assignment editor Michael Smolens replied that "city employees were excluded to avoid political entanglements" in other parts of the ballot as well as in the mayor's race.[42][43] Despite the newspaper's efforts, DeMaio lost to Filner.

Lynch handed day-to-day operations off to another executive in February 2014,[44] and Editor Jeff Light became company president in January 2015.[45] In 2016, Light was named publisher.[46]


  • William Jeff Gatewood founded the newspaper, which first published October 10, 1868. He sold his interest to Charles P. Taggart in May 1869.[47]
  • Edward "Ned" Wilkerson Bushyhead, 1868–1873 with various partners, beginning with Taggart. Bushyhead (1832–1907) was a miner, publisher and lawman who was born in Tennessee. Part Cherokee, he was the son of a Baptist preacher, whom he accompanied from Georgia to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears at the age of seven. Having moved to San Diego, he became the "silent" publisher of the San Diego Union. In 1873, he sold the newspaper. In 1882, he was elected sheriff of San Diego County.
  • Douglas Gunn, 1871–1886. Gunn (August 31, 1841 – November 26, 1891) was a scholar, publisher, pioneer and Republican politician from California.
  • John D. Spreckels, 1890–1926. The son of German-American industrialist Claus Spreckels, he founded a transportation and real estate empire in San Diego.
  • Col. Ira C. Copley, 1928–1947
  • James S. Copley, 1947–1973. He was a journalist and newspaper publisher. He published the San Diego Union, San Diego Union-Tribune and San Diego Evening Tribune from 1947 until his death in 1973.
  • Helen K. Copley, 1973–2001
  • David C. Copley, 2001–2009
  • Edward R. Moss, May 2009 – December 2011[48]
  • Doug F. "Papa Doug" Manchester, 2011–2015[49][50]
  • Austin Beutner, May–September 2015
  • Timothy E. Ryan, September 2015-March 2016[51]
  • Jeff Light, March 2016-

Notable people

See also


  1. "Top 25 U.S. Newspapers for March 2013". Alliance for Audited Media. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  2. 1 2 Beutner, Austin (March 15, 2015). "LA Times, Union-Tribune Combine Forces". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
  3. Engstrand, Iris (2005). San Diego: California's Cornerstone. Sunbelt Publications. pp. 80–81. ISBN 978-0-932653-72-7.
  4. "Guide to the San Diego Union-Tribune Photograph Collection". Online Archive of California.
  5. "San Diego 120 Top Influential Pioneers". The Daily Transcript. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  6. "Part Five: Chapter III: Later Journalism and Literature". San Diego History Center.
  7. "The Copley Legacy". The San Diego Union-Tribune. May 5, 2009.
  8. Kupper, Thomas (March 18, 2009). "Union-Tribune Sold to Platinum Equity". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
  9. Apple, Charles (August 17, 2010). "San Diego Union-Tribune Launches Redesign". Retrieved October 31, 2010.
  10. Vore, Adrian (May 26, 2015). "What's in a Nameplate? A Lot, Actually". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  11. "San Diego Union-Tribune Sold to Hotelier for More Than $100 Million". The New York Times. November 17, 2011.
  12. "Manchester Grand Resorts". Manchester Financial Group. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  13. "To Our Readers". January 3, 2012.
  14. Walters, Dan (January 3, 2012). "San Diego Union-Tribune Becomes 'U-T San Diego'". The Sacramento Bee.
  15. Romenesko, Jim (January 3, 2012). "San Diego Union-Tribune Becomes U-T San Diego".
  16. "U-T San Diego to Buy North County Times, Californian". North County Times. September 11, 2012.
  17. "U-T Combines with North County Times". KNSD-TV.
  18. "A New Frontier for News". U-T San Diego. February 28, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  19. Malone, Michael (February 20, 2014). "U-T TV Goes Dark". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  20. Horn, Jonathan (November 1, 2013). "U-T Buys 8 Local Community Newspapers". U-T San Diego.
  21. "$85M Deal to Combine U-T, LA Times". U-T San Diego. May 7, 2015. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  22. "L.A. Times Parent to Buy San Diego Paper, Expanding Reach in Southern California". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  23. Pfeifer, Stuart (May 27, 2015). "San Diego Union-Tribune Lays Off 178, Mostly in Printing, Delivery". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  25. Koren, James Rufus (June 2, 2016). "Tribune Publishing renames itself Tronc as its dispute with Gannett continues". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  26. Showley, Roger (May 16, 2016). "U-T: Back downtown". The San Diego Union-Tribune. San Diego, CA. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  27. "1979 Winners". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  28. "1987 Winners and Finalists". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  29. McDonald, Jeff (April 18, 2006). "U-T, Copley News Win Pulitzer Prize". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
  30. "George Polk Awards for Journalism press release". Long Island University. Retrieved November 15, 2006.
  31. Raftery, Miriam (November 20, 2011). "Media Watchdog: Union Tribune Sale Raises Media Ethics Concerns". East County Magazine. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  32. Adams, Becket (October 22, 2012). "San Diego Media Baron Expands Business to Promote Conservatism". The Blaze.
  33. Sharma, Anita (November 17, 2011). "Developer Doug Manchester Buys Union-Tribune". KPBS-FM.
  34. 1 2 3 Carr, David (June 10, 2012). "Newspaper as Business Pulpit". The New York Times. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
  35. Anderson, Erik; Burke, Megan; Cavanaugh, Maureen; Pico, Peggy (September 11, 2012). "It's Official: U-T San Diego Is Buying North County Times". KPBS-TV. City News Service.
  36. Davis, Rob (September 11, 2012). "Manchester Consolidates Power with Second Newspaper Buy". Voice of San Diego.
  37. "Think Big: New Vision Needed for Downtown Waterfront". San Diego Union-Tribune (Editorial). January 22, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  38. "Papa Doug Manchester". Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  39. "Port Commissioner: 'The UT Is Coming After Us,'". Investigative Newsource. September 27, 2012.
  40. Lewis, Scott (October 22, 2012). "The Head-Spinning Polls in the Mayor's Race". Voice of San Diego.
  41. Lewis, Scott (September 11, 2012). "The Two Faces of Papa Doug". Voice of San Diego. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  42. Davis, Kelly (October 25, 2012). "Why Were City Employees Excluded from the U-T Mayoral Poll?". San Diego CityBeat.
  43. Poll results
  44. Lewis, Scott (February 7, 2014). "U-T San Diego CEO John Lynch Hands Reins to President Mike Hodges". Voice of San Diego.
  45. Horn, Jonathan (January 12, 2015). "Light Named U-T President & COO". U-T San Diego.
  47. San Diego and Imperial Counties California: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement. Page 201. S.J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1913. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  48. Davis, Rob (October 30, 2009). "Doing More With Moss". Voice of San Diego. Retrieved November 8, 2009.
  49. "Union-Tribune Returns to Local Hands". The San Diego Union-Tribune. December 6, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  50. "San Diego Developer Purchases City's Newspaper". Bloomberg Businessweek. Associated Press. December 6, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  51. Goffard, Christopher; Pfeifer, Stuart (September 9, 2015). "Publisher Austin Beutner Is Fired After a Yearlong Drive to Reshape The Times". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
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