Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What is VERY WRONG with the Union Tribune

If you did not know before; it was made clear today by Michael Stetz of the Union Tribune. I have always said the Union Tribune was a bush league, yellow journalism paper that was not fit to line the bottom of a cat box. Today, I can point to why I say this and I don't think there is anyone who can argue. Michael Stetz wrote; "Remember, City Hall – we buy ink by the barrel," an article defending the pathetic series of articles related to city payroll. If there was ever a doubt to the length the Union Tribune will got to publish a story; the truth be damned, it was made clear today by Stetz.

To refresh those who may have forgotten the articles; Eleanor Yang Su and Craig Gustafson, Staff Writers, and Agustin Armendariz, Staff Data Specialist, wrote a series of articles for the Union Tribune titled: "Watchdog Report / Digging into San Diego's Finances." The first segment was "City's payroll surged in '08." In the article was a link to a City web site allowing people to view City employee compensation. This caused uproar from employees and then the mayor for the lack of context of the information presented and the failure to accurately report ALL elements of the data being presented.

The second article in the series; "City workers' pay goes beyond base salary" was ANOTHER ignorant, twisting, inflammatory article that spins the facts to such an extent you would think EVERY City employee was making a mountain of money from specialty pay. AGAIN the lack of articulate, detailed and specific information leaves the reader thinking there is some sinister, back room, sneaky agreement to allow employees to fleece the taxpayer.

The third and final article in the series; "City payroll sees big gains in high-income earners" again spins data and failed in their efforts to accurately report in context the increases in compensation for city workers. The articles when viewed as a whole, failed miserably to report facts in a manner that accurately reflected the status of city employee wages, benefits and the cuts to these wages and benefits over the past four years. The impression left with readers based on the information provided by the Union Tribune was City employees had received excessive raises since the mayor took office (We all know this is NOT true).

The mayor; in my opinion defending HIMSELF; fired off a nine page letter to the City Council refuting the articles and the spin of the data provided. The mayor followed this up with a letter to the editor of the Union Tribune (which the Union Tribune FAILED to print in its entirety) decrying the failure to place in context the wages and benefits paid to employees.

Along comes Stetz and his "we buy ink by the barrel" piece that is clearly a threat to anyone who dare point out the failure on the part of the Union Tribune to provide factual information to its readers. Stetz starts off making two points; ONE, the link to City employee compensation was public information and the Union Tribune had "every right" to publish the link. TWO; the City provided the link and Stetz made excuses to the Union Tribunes refusal to "pony up" $1,900 the City required to provide the raw data in a more useful form. Stetz reasons the City should have paid (taxpayer money) for the auditor to re-do a data base for the Union Tribune. Hey Michael; the Union Tribune may have had "every right" to publish the link; but just because you had that right, did not "make it right." You lost complete credibility placing blame on the City for refusing to do the work for your purported "Staff Data Specialist" and culling the numbers from the data. You further lost credibility for your shameful and inadequate justification for publishing the link without providing the context of the data and Karin Winner's pathetic attempt a justifying its use hiding behind the "public's right to know" mantra.

Stetz then strikes home what many have thought and believed for years; Truth does not matter; it's selling newspapers that matters. Stetz writes; "I do have a dog in this fight, of course. I work for the newspaper. I love the newspaper. I believe in it. And I'm seeing something of a trend with it, one that I think public officials in the region should be aware of: We still have ink. And while we have hardly been wary of spilling it before – we've done lots of tough pieces on local governments and elected leaders over the years – I believe we are more prepared than ever to use it." Stetz continues; "My reaction: Try us. C'mon." So the hell with context, full disclosure, factual presentation of data and information; we will write what we want, how we want and if you challenge or refute anything we print, we will use the barrel's of ink we have to destroy you even if it is a lie. We got it Michael.

Stetz then takes the next step and makes these statements; "I am all about going to the mattress. We may have a leaner staff, but, believe me, it's meaner. We're not a bunch of happy scribes, given the state of the industry. After what we have been through – buyouts, layoffs, furloughs – I think the overall consensus is that we don't want to play." I heard someone out there sniffling; was that from crying about the turmoil and grief of a once proud group of professional journalists who no longer exist within the bounds of the Union Tribune because of these buyouts, layoffs and furloughs? The Union Tribune staff does not want to play Michael? If you are all that unhappy; go do something else. It is clear your anger and hell bent desire to ruin any respect those taxpaying, resident, city employees earned, is clouding any ability you have to provide accurate, articulate and objective news to the reading public.

Stetz begins to feel his oats and begins to pound his chest as he nears the end of his diatribe; "With the city payroll series, we didn't play. It took months of work and exposed not just that the city hasn't clamped down on payroll as much as advertised, but that some city employees get extra pay for rather unusual reasons." You are kidding aren't you Michael? That was a tongue in cheek comment, right? It is obvious Stetz did as much homework and fact checking for this "article" as the three "watchdog investigative reporters" did when working for "months" on the inaccurate series that spawned the ire of City employees, retirees, the mayor and others. The series lacked context for data; truthful background analysis; and a true comparison of wages and benefits from prior years. If accurate presentation of factual data and information to educate and inform the public was the goal; The Union Tribune and its reporters FAILED MISERABLY.

Stetz then makes the boldest of his statements; "But, more and more, even I want to muscle up. (And here's good news: The newspaper, as yet, does not test for steroids.)" I get the use of metaphor and he is not really espousing the use of steroids; but let's take a look at what he is saying. Stetz is making clear the Union Tribunes position and bent on writing what it chooses and how it chooses. Stetz is making clear the Union Tribunes willingness to use ALL the ink in its many barrels, to fight for their right to be a yellow newspaper. Stetz is making clear for anyone who was on the fence and not yet sure where the Union Tribune is headed since it was sold; the trash heap or recycle bin.

If you have yet to cancel your subscription; what are you waiting for? (Cancel subscription here) The latest attempt at justifying the pathetic performance of the journalist's for San Diego's only newspaper should be sufficient justification to end any relationship one may have with this company. Coupons can be had on the internet; ads from business and retail outlets can be found on the company web pages or at the entrance to most stores; Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Voice of San Diego, and many other mediums are available to provide the needed fix for news junkies. If you miss the garbage written in the Union Tribune; tune in to any of the five local television stations and watch the news; they all read the paper to you; the only thing you may miss is "Dear Abby."

I have said for years we need to challenge inaccurate, false and misleading information being presented to the public from politicians, journalists and others. I have encouraged people to immediately address this information and provide the truth, context and COMPLETE details of whatever it is being opined upon, that is being inaccurately spun. I would encourage continued writing of letters to the editor and correct that information you know to be incorrect. I would encourage you to read the blogs on and address the incorrect and misleading information being put forth as fact by the likes of Chris Reed, Richard Rider, Michael Stetz, Ricky Young et al. We may not have barrels of ink or paper by the truck load; but we have facts, honesty and the truth. In my opinion; worth much more than the Union Tribune's ink and paper filled with lies and yellow journalism.


Anonymous said...

I am proud to proclaim that I am responsible for eight U.T. subscription cancellations within the last week.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to have one of my letters published. I write them, but awhile back I made a fatal error and said I was a retired cop. NO LETTER SINCE THEN!! Not even ones having to do with something entirely unrelated to police stuff.

I think they put me on a list!

Anonymous said...

I wrote a letter to Mr Stetz but amazingly his email said he is out of town. How convenient. I believe this is a pattern at the UT. Write a controversial article then leave town.

Anonymous said...

UT is a bunch of right-wing wackos, bent on the destruction of the middle class. Dirty rat bastards!!

30 yrs plus said...

I stopped my paper on the 6th, and the subscription department called last evening and asked for me to re-subscribe. After I stopped laughing, I blasted the poor guy on the phone and told him IF and WHEN they fire the entire editorial staff of that rag, I will never read it again. Being a kind hearted person I did apologized to the poor kid on the phone. He did not write the articles so I felt a little bad for dumping on him. FYI for those in need of their comics fix - I found two different web sites to cover all my favorites. and I can skip Ann Landers, but I really do like the comics!

Anonymous said...

Definitely a sign of desperation on the part of the UT !!!!!

Anonymous said...

You have to admire Stetz for his willingness to share with all of us that the UT is a pathetic excuse for a newspaper. His stupid comments show just how yellow the journalism has become at the UT.
Excellent post Steve, again. Glad you are back.

San Diego Detective said...

The only reason ANY of these people are left at the Soviet Union Tribune is they are so pathetic and ignorant to reality and substance they are what they claim all city workers to be; incompetent. What an ass this guy is. Who the @%$# does he think he is? Threats, challenges and boasting of their anger and willingness to take on anyone who dare challenge them? The bully in he park as you said Steve. Only thing is he is going to get his ass kicked and his lunch money taken in short order. Ignorance and a thick skull does not bode well for someone who needs intellect and grace to fight a war of words. Stetz is an idiot and showed such in his pathetic rant.

I sent him an email yesterday with your BLOG address Steve. Hope you don't mind?

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Unfortunately many citizens still subscribe to the U-T because they are very similar to the writers... ignorant, naive, and in DENIAL of many things... a slowly increasing crime rate, a state about to release thousands of inmates because they cant afford to house them, and a city with WAY FEWER COPS. In a tough economy this is a recipe for disaster. But the U-T and many citizens dont care. There are in denial that this is even going on. They sleep soundly in their nice communities where police are hardly summoned. THEY ARE SHEEP. The sheep typically do not like the sheepdogs (until they are needed). We will stand tall my fellow sheepdogs, and continue to protect this ungrateful city, so that writers like STETZ and his cult like (and idiotic) following can sleep well at night. They can talk all they want about how much they want a lower paid police force... Just remember they run their mouths from behind their desks while the real men and women, the WARRIORS, handle the dangerous work. With Trolley Officers getting robbed of their guns (yes you heard 62nd St/Akins Ave), and felony assualts occuring weekly (often nightly... just check the calls for service in S/E or Mid-City Division). Godspeed my fellow Officers.

Anonymous said...

All of this from "jouralists", who spent vast amounts of money to be educated for a profession that is rapidly losing relavence in todays society. Of course they are pissed. In 15 years they all will be flipping burgers unless they learn a new language. Meanwhile we will still be here, picking up the pieces.