Opinion

San Diego Union-Tribune Reports ‘News’; Tries and Fails to Smear San Diego News Desk

On Tuesday, the San Diego Union-Tribune published an article about San Diego News Desk. The piece reeked of desperation, as most of it had little to nothing to do with San Diego News Desk.

For starters, the Union-Tribune called on investigative reporter Morgan Cook to look into San Diego News Desk. Cook is most notable for her work in covering Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), which resulted in her being recognized as the 2017 journalist of the year by the local Society of Professional Journalists. This suggests that the Union-Tribune was heavily invested in covering San Diego News Desk.

As far as the article itself, the attacks began in the title—before the actual substance of the piece. The title, “Republican Party of San Diego County launches ‘news’ website for political purposes,” immediately indicates the partisan nature of Cook’s work and the editorial slant of the Union-Tribune. The very first sentence of the article complains about the right-leaning perspective of San Diego News Desk. Perhaps we are in the minority here, but we view our openness about our political leaning as a feature, not a bug. The Union-Tribune could be honest about its left-leaning political bias, but the facade of Objective Journalism™ is seemingly too attractive to pass on.

Another fatuous critique offered by the Union-Tribune concerns political disclosure laws. The Union-Tribune reached out to California Common Cause executive director Rey López-Calderón to inquire about any potential legal violations of San Diego News Desk in this regard. López-Calderón acknowledged that San Diego News Desk is meeting all legal requirements, of course.

The right-leaning viewpoint offered by San Diego News Desk is punctuated by our openness about being a project of the Republican Party of San Diego County. This information is easily available in our “About” page as well as at the bottom of the home page. We do not hide our funding source or political perspective—we’re very open about it. Once again, the Union-Tribune could learn a thing or two about this sort of honesty with readers.

One may think that this would be the end of the issue regarding legal expectations, but instead, the Union-Tribune desperately pivots to “ethical questions.” Cook suggests that it’s unethical that the “Paid for by the Republican Party of San Diego County” disclosure is located at the bottom of the website home page. This is a lazy attempt to manufacture a scandal where none exists. It is common practice for websites to disclose this information at the bottom of the page, where it is easily accessible and doesn’t interfere with the reader’s interaction with the content of the site. The Union-Tribune even states that the “identification numbers for the party’s state and local political committees and its associated tax-exempt organization” are included, which further conveys that there is nothing amiss about the disclosure.

While it’s obvious that the aforementioned allegations of unethical behavior are unsubstantiated, that didn’t stop the Union-Tribune from delving deeper into unrelated subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with San Diego News Desk, the Republican Party of San Diego County, or even the state of California. The Union-Tribune reached out to a D.C.-based attorney, Brett Kappel, who has litigated cases related to campaign finance laws and the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Kappel provides a couple of quotes that are entirely unrelated to San Diego News Desk and the broader subject matter of the Union-Tribune article.

Never missing a chance to connect unrelated issues to fabricate impropriety, the Union-Tribune transitions to fraud and corruption charges levied against former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX). Cook spends a good portion of her piece rambling on about the misconduct of Stockman, but fails to show how this has any relevance to San Diego News Desk. It’s difficult to see this as anything but another miserable attempt to attack our website.

The Union-Tribune also took issue with a few of our articles and their subject matter, focusing in particular on a recent piece titled, “Five Democratic Candidates Visit San Diego to Pander to Latinos.” One sentence from this article reads, “This is a bit surprising, as three of the candidates—Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar—are old white people, and Kamala Harris prefers to see Latinos on the other side of steel bars.” A reasonable reader would likely see the tongue-in-cheek nature of these words, while recognizing the underlying truth.

By contrast, Cook elected to play dumb, pretending to be unaware of the many substantiated reports of Sen. Harris’ failures and scandals—that disproportionately affected racial minorities—as San Francisco District Attorney and California Attorney General. Apparently, Cook either forgot or missed Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) brutal takedown of Harris’ record during the most recent Democratic debate.

Cook also questioned why this particular article wasn’t labeled as “opinion.” By this standard, one may wonder why Cook’s article—which clearly features her left-leaning bias and baseless smears of San Diego News Desk—is not labeled “opinion.” Instead, it’s found under the “News” section of the Union-Tribune in the subcategory of “Watchdog.” An ominous category for a hit piece that lacks any substance and focuses extensively on fallacious accusations of unethical behavior as well as random scandals involving Texas politicians.

With such feeble attempts at reporting, it’s easy to see why the Union-Tribune and many other local publications are struggling immensely. Recent polling shows that 72 percent of Americans believe that traditional media outlets report false or intentionally misleading news, which has resulted in the collapse of public trust in the media. In light of this, it’s no wonder that institutional gatekeepers—such as the Union-Tribune—are trying so hard to shut down their competition.

San Diego News Desk remains committed to providing local news from a fresh perspective to San Diegans, as a project of the Republican Party of San Diego County.