I have something to do for all the new hires at San Diego Voice. Years ago, I would have them sit in a conference room and explain everything I could about key local topics like water, infrastructure, or the difference between the county and the city of San Diego. But then we film San Diego 101 videos and I can make them watch them.

So I moved on to talk starting with what a corporation is, how shareholders and boards work, and what ownership rights are. How powerful capitalism and the profit motive are and how they have shaped our world (in positive, negative and yet to be determined ways). But it was also the dominant mode of governance of newspaper ownership in the United States.

That’s changing, however, as more newsrooms are launching or converting to nonprofits, as the Salt Lake Tribune has done. After defining what profit and shareholder value are, I can distinguish what a nonprofit is from the agreement that nonprofits make with the federal and state governments that the organization will pursue a mission that is valuable to society and therefore should not pay taxes on its income. Donors can deduct their contributions for tax benefits.

This helps me explain our mission, how it is rooted in education and carried out through investigative reporting. Nonprofits are no better than for-profit organizations. As our investigative reports have often shown, nonprofits can exploit and defraud people, and they can be exploited and defrauded. But the structure has proven wise to many media outlets.

We were the first to start as a local digital news nonprofit and now there are hundreds (the Institute for Nonprofit News now has 425 members but some are for subject areas, not local areas).

Then I explain what happened with newspaper economics. All traditional newspapers are heading towards the abyss – the moment when the revenues they generate no longer justify the high cost of printing a newspaper.

The Union-Tribune was heading toward this abyss. Former editor and publisher, Jeff Light, was planning to produce the best news product people could pay to read online. Eventually, enough of them would be able to fully fund the newsroom as it existed.

It was an important endeavour. But Patrick Soon-Shiong sold the newspaper to MediaNews Group and its owner Alden Global Capital and they immediately parted ways with Light and invited dozens of their best journalists to leave.

Since then, we have heard nothing about what they will do. One theory is that they changed course and were no longer just trying to move a large, compelling newsroom into the digital age, but to preserve the print product as long as possible, make it much cheaper to produce with fewer reporters, dramatically increase subscription prices and extract as much profit as they could from the product. printed for as long as possible.

Since I last wrote about this, the paper has said goodbye to a surprising number of valuable journalists. Writers I looked forward to reading every week (and the editors who made it possible). Good journalists still worked at the paper, but it was a major blow to San Diego’s ability to understand itself and pursue a public affairs story.

I don’t include all this story about San Diego and corporate governance in my little orientation lecture but it occurred to me when I talked to the new intern today that everything we’ve built and are trying to sustain for a long time is more important than ever.

The Union-Tribune’s new owners must soon explain their plans for the newspaper. But it’s not going to be about “expanding journalism,” so I hope we can go about planning that in different ways. Not sure what it looks like but we have to get going.

View disconnection of service from MTS

In July, news broke when Grecia Figueroa and her attorneys revealed in an update to the lawsuit filed against the Metropolitan Transit System and former County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher that MTS not only fired Figueroa, but also offered her a severance in exchange for her agreeing not to do so. Take legal action against MTS or Fletcher.

Because of the way the complaint update was worded, the media presented the news as if the separation agreement stipulated that they were being asked to release claims against Fletcher specifically.

But this week, MTS released the full separation agreement the agency offered Figueroa and made no mention of a request to release Fletcher. She offers her $10,000 if she agrees not to sue MTS and all its members.

“In consideration for the payment of severance benefits as set forth above, the Employee unconditionally, irrevocably and absolutely releases the Company, and any parent companies, subsidiaries, divisions and other entities of the Company, past and present, including, but not limited to , San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, San Diego Transit Corp. (“SDTC”) and San Diego Trolley, Inc. (“SDTI”), as well as their former and present employees, officers, directors, agents, attorneys, attorneys and successors (collectively the “Released Parties”). From all claims…”

backgroundFigueroa accused Fletcher of sexually assaulting and harassing her. Shortly after the last of those encounters, which Fletcher later said were consensual, MTS abruptly fired Figueroa. A lawsuit was filed, and Fletcher resigned and disappeared from public life.

What’s going on: MTS is demanding that Figueroa’s lawyers remove the reference to the breakup and Fletcher in particular. If the chapter actually says “and you cannot sue Nathan Fletcher” then that is very different from “if you accept this, you will not be able to sue us or our directors, etc”.

“Plaintiff attempts to inflame and sensationalize allegations regarding the severance offer by misleadingly and unnecessarily placing Fletcher’s name on it, when in fact Fletcher’s name appears nowhere in the four corners of the severance agreement document to which Plaintiff refers,” the filing states. New provided by MTS Lawyers. Attorney Janice Brown represents MTS.

Nothing yet on the main question: The new MTS filings still don’t explain anything about why she was fired.


Seventy-nine: Two weeks ago, California Senate President Toni Atkins announced that she would step down from her leadership position as her term in the Senate expires. We will definitely have more to do with her career in Sacramento.

For a brief moment, Fletcher had as much control over that seat as any politician could ever have. But his fall hastened the fall of the dominoes with the kind of open seats to fill.

Assemblywoman Akeelah Weber is running for and likely will fill the state Senate seat. This leaves her seat in the General Assembly open and this is a difficult and open race.

La Mesa City Councilman Colin Barnett, who is also CEO of Circulate San Diego, which advocates for public transit planning and mobility, received a major endorsement from the San Diego delegation in Sacramento for his campaign alongside the labor council. But Weber and her mother, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, are supporting LaShay Collins, a community engagement specialist in the San Diego County Office of Education and a professor in San Diego State’s Department of Africana Studies.

Interestingly, Collins has now also received the endorsement of San Diego Unified board member Sharon Whitehurst Payne, who beat Collins for the school board seat in 2016. Collins has followed in the footsteps of her former president Shirley Weber in calling for reform and accountability in education.

Enter a new competitor: Raquel Vasquez, Mayor of Lemon Grove, has filed to run for the seat, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

If you have any feedback or ideas about the policy report, send them to scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org.

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