LA cop union buys stake in newspaper, demands critical writers be fired

Doran sez, "The San Diego Union Tribune was recently purchased by Platinum Equity, which in turn has a $30-million investment from the pension fund of Los Angeles cops and firefighters, along with other public employee pension funds. Now the President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union which represents L.A. cops, wants the editorial board of the paper to be fired because they don't like what has been written about them."
"Since the very public employees they continually criticize are now their owners, we strongly believe that those who currently run the editorial pages should be replaced," Weber wrote in a March 26 letter to Platinum CEO Tom Gores.

Weber, in an interview, emphasized that the League is not demanding changes in the paper's news coverage of the issue or in its staff of reporters. "It's just these people on the opinion side. There is not even an attempt to be even-handed. They're one step away from saying, 'these public employees are parasites,' " Weber said.

L.A. police union wants San Diego newspaper writers fired (Thanks, Doran!)


  1. Oh like that isn’t going to backfire. Clearly some cops have been raiding the evidence locker.

  2. I’m going to suggest firing the cops for trying to overthrow the Constitution. But then, it’s Southern California and most people here won’t have heard of it.

  3. Saying that it’s because “they don’t like what has been written about them” is a pretty awful generalization.

    “… League officials are none to happy with the paper’s consistent position that San Diego lawmakers should cut back on salaries and benefits for public employees in order to help close gaping budget deficits.”

    It’s not as if this is a reaction to editorials about police corruption or brutality.

  4. @antinous

    But then, it’s Southern California and most people here won’t have heard of it.

    Guess we’ll see on Tuesday if the California Supreme Court has.

  5. @ Grimc #7:

    How is it a generalization? It’s just ambiguous.

    Silencing criticism about pay is no different from criticism about corruption. If you’re paid too much as a public servant, that is corrupt.

  6. @Felix

    Good point. It’s ambiguous to the point of being awful.

    The initial reaction for most people, I think–and admittedly, it was in my case–would be to think that the cops didn’t like the Trib editorializing about some awful instance of police brutality or something. It’s a type of story we’re all familiar with–police hating on intrepid journalists because they were running stories about dirty cops.

    But that’s not the case at all. This is about a newspaper’s editorials–which are the opinion of the paper. It’s been the opinion of the paper that public servants’ pay and benefits should be cut. Well, now those folks are among the owners of the paper, and they have the right to direct the opinion of it.

    And calling them “overpaid” is silly. You really think cops, firefighters and teachers in any major American city are ever overpaid? To the point of qualifying as corruption? Hardly.

    As long as news content is left alone, I really don’t see the problem. If you expect the virgin truth in any paper’s editorials, you’re not doing it right.

    1. I, for one, would welcome our new not-mingling-editorial-with-news overlords. Confusing news with analysis with opinion with advertising doesn’t really serve the ideal of freedom of the press.

  7. “They’re one step away from saying, ‘these public employees are parasites,'” Weber said.

    For a California public employee union leader that’s strangely one step away from the truth.

  8. I think these police really need to consider whether they want to stay American or NOT.

    If they aren’t going to arrest their own union leaders who are obviously engaging in blackmail, then they can leave the country by driving 90 minutes south.

  9. Seems like a great opportunity for any independent media in San Diego to step up to the plate.

    If I were a subscriber to this paper, I’d pay close attention to how this turns out, and when I canceled my subscription I would be sure to tell them why.

  10. What do they own again? A new-s-pa-per? What sort of ancient curiosity is that?

    Also, once a union pension fund owns something, you can be pretty sure it’s on the way out. ex. a Canadian teacher’s pension fund owns the former federal monopoly telecom and through it, one of the two TV networks. See?

  11. Guess we’ll see on Tuesday if the California Supreme Court has.

    I can safely say that prop 8 in California has nothing to do with the US constitution. It is a battle between whether or not the amendment constitutes as ‘major change’ in the California (not US) constitution. If it is a ‘major change’, then it takes more than a simple majority to make the change according to the California constitution.

    Personally, I was mildly mortified to learn that any states (and many do) have constitutions that can be changed with a simple majority vote. I mean… if it just takes a simple majority to change it, WTF is the point of a constitution in the first place?

  12. Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

    ~Abbott Joseph Liebling, “Do You Belong in Journalism?” New Yorker, 4 May 1960

  13. Imagine that. Cops don’t deal well with being contradicted or criticized, and will attempt to punish those who contradict or criticize them. Who’d have suspected?

  14. Why is this a problem? The editorial pages are SUPPOSED to be the opinion of the owners of the paper. If the Union bought a major stake, they should have a say in what is on the editorial pages.

    If Murdock bought a paper, would anyone be outraged that the editorial page went conservative?

  15. If Murdock bought a paper, would anyone be outraged that the editorial page went conservative?

    …are you joking?

    I can with 100% conviction that the answer to that question is yes, people would be pissed if Murdock whacked a paper’s editorial staff for being too liberal.

  16. The way newspapers are dying off, this union move may be too little image control, too late.
    Sounds like a lousy investment for the fund.

  17. Attacking public service unions — not just for Republicans anymore, I guess. At one time, progressives were incensed that Reagan screwed over the air traffic controllers and felt solidarity for those serving the public.

    Also — as a current San Diegan, I can assure you the Trib under its former owners was a horrible right-wing rag — when it criticized cops, it didn’t do so out of any civil rights angle — it criticized them, just like it criticized teachers, because they actually wanted a living wage with decent benefits. Really, the only direction the Trib can go these days is up.

  18. @ grimc

    Just because stated the stated reason was that the Editorial staff was belittling the Union employees doesn’t mean that is the truth. They could could have said anything and still asked for the same results. Yes Police, Firemen, and other city workers have a hard job and deserve their pay but to fire the people who criticize them is not going to raise their pay, it’s just going to silence the reporting of some of their bad deeds.

    So,,,with firing the parasites for calling you parasites you get that added bonus; liberal use of tazers and batons.

  19. Anybody who knows journalism knows that this is par for the course. Owners are always leaning on papers to push their editorial positions, and often as ham-handedly.

    The onus always lies on the paper to push back. Papers have been owned by self-interested dickheads since day one; and since day one, editors and journalists have had to stand their ground. Not much to see here unless the Trib actually starts cutting back their police criticism, or actually fires any editorial writers.

  20. I second Jonathan Badger’s post. The Union-Tribune has been owned by a wealthy local family for as long as I can remember and the editorial board has been moderately to very conservative the whole time. When the confluence of forces that are killing the newspaper industry are combined with an editorial board whose opinions are farther and farther from local mainstream opinion, it’s not surprising that the owners decided to sell. So for all these years the editorial board has been speaking for the benefit of the previous owners – corporations and wealthy individuals, but now that there’s a new owner the rules have changed?
    It’s not about the paper reporting on issues – it’s about the editorials using the public employee unions as an excuse for the problems we’re having with San Diego’s budget. The city council was majority Republican when the deal was made with the unions back when it would benefit the city (saving money in the short term) and then subsequently the council underfunded the pension fund for years. Now the bill has come due and they want to reneg. (and unfortunately, the City of San Diego elected to not participate in social security because they thought they could do it better – no s.s. benefits for city employees)

  21. Jonathan Badger: I support all genuine working class unions including public service unions. This solidarity extends to fire fighters, teachers, city maintenance workers, etc.

    I support the union movement, hardcore. I was there night and day at the Republic Windows factory occupation. I’ve gotten fired for organising. I serve on a national (volunteer) board for a campaign. I’ve been sanctioned for refusing to take a job that would have crossed a picket line. Solidarity Forever!

    That said, my solidarity does not extend to cops. I don’t care if they have a “union”. They have been the enemy of the working class movement from day one and don’t deserve our support. They defend scabs. They assault and kill strikers. They enforce a whole host of laws made by and for the bosses.

  22. @demidan

    it’s just going to silence the reporting of some of their bad deeds.

    Newspaper editorials aren’t reporting. They’re editorializing. That’s why they’re in a section all their own. And it’s not about “belittling” the union. The Trib has been calling for pay and benefits cuts. Something quite different than name calling.

    And Jonathan Badger has it right: The Trib has long been rightwing fishwrap. This wouldn’t be dissimilar to the SEIU gaining some ownership control of the WSJ and shaking up the fascist fever swamp of its OpEd section. Would as many BBers complain about that? Probably not.

  23. There is no free press, there never has and there never will be. Every owner of any media can and does decide what the ideological and editorial politic will be.

    What makes life so inextricably complicated is our need to pass for reality the illusions that we seek to fit our ambitions, prejudice, desires… We chose the news we get accordingly. For example, it is no accident if we are here on BB: we know that it stands to the left, inasmuch as there is something like that in American politic, and that comforts us.

    Anyone who believe that anything at all is the press is objective, factual, unbiased is deluding oneself; anyone who believes that anyone is interested in hard facts, in reality even is deluding oneself even more so.

  24. Personally, I think news media should not be allowed to be owned by other corporations to prevent these conflict of interest situations.

  25. The union president is only imagining that his union is part owner in the paper. It isn’t.

    Platinum Equity bought the paper. Platinum has received “$30M in investment from the police and firefighters pension funds”. Not the union. Platinum also has investments from other pension funds.

    If that’s a letter from the union president to Platinum’s ceo, and nobody at Platinum has contacted the paper about this matter, how did we get to hear of this letter? Was it “leaked” by the union because Platinum seems to be doing nothing about it?

  26. @ #22

    “Why is this a problem? The editorial pages are SUPPOSED to be the opinion of the owners of the paper. If the Union bought a major stake, they should have a say in what is on the editorial pages.”

    I agree. The owners of a paper should be able to control that paper’s content. But in this case, the “owners” bought their share of the paper with public money. This is not a private buy out. It is a government-funded entity taking over a news outlet and demanding it be censored.

    Although, as the commenter above me points out, the union president is probably only imagining he has authority on this issue.

  27. #21 Joe Mommasan: That pretty much describes everyone, no? (I’m not defending the trait, which isn’t admirable.)
    _ _ _ _ _

    #29 Iaminnocent: Very well put.

  28. I’ve lived in San Diego for over 15 years now, and I can tell you that the San Diego Union Tribune is a horrible, poorly written newspaper. Their “salesmen” call you and knock on your door constantly. Their opinion writers seems to be old men afraid of anything new.

    When I read news stories about this or that paper closing up shop, I ask myself, “Why can’t the Union Tribune fail? Please?”

    Whenever I see anyone that has a beef with the Union Tribune, I automatically side with the beef holder.

    Yesterday’s news on a dead tree. Go away, already.

  29. that isn’t true, Innocent. You can say whatever you want here so long as you respect the basic taboos. To wit: Mark’s three hundred semi-feral cats, Cory’s extensive handgun collection fetish, Dave’s bald spot. Xeni’s OCD and John’s voluntary-withdrawal-not-expulsion from the seminary.

  30. @31

    But in this case, the “owners” bought their share of the paper with public money. This is not a private buy out. It is a government-funded entity taking over a news outlet and demanding it be censored.

    Platinum is a private investment firm.

    And the money in the pension fund isn’t “public”–unless you believe that even after the cops get paid and contribute to their pension, the money still belongs to the taxpayers.

  31. Yes it is perfectly reasonable to assume that if some entity owns a newspaper than the paper will reflect that, but that is the problem…

    Oh fuck it all I’m not even going to try to point out the obvious if we can’t agree on basic tenents of a reasonable civilazation. it’s all fucking lost.

    1. Torture is illegal, because it violates the rights of human beings.

    2. “All men are created equal” overrides everything else, even what sex that person decides to sleep with.

    3. Starting wars to spread our world view is not democracy. There is a reason we have a Department of Defense and not War.

    4. The loyalty of the press is to the readers, the citizens and nobody else. Otherwise there is no credibility and no reason to pay attention. If Murdock buys a newspaper and dictates the coverage to suit him, then he’s the only one should be reading that newspaper.

    On second thought I’m more than willing to state an opinion. The very fact that an ownership group is in the position to threaten the editorial staff of a newspaper has already affected its influence. If you are a reporter with a job at the Union-Tribune who needs that job to live in a house and buy food and you see that kind of letter circulating around then is that going to affect how you cover things?

    And if anything even remotely comes of this, a change in the viewpoint or somebody actually leaving then the entire newspaper from editor in chief to paperboy needs to turn in their keys and lock the place up so that paper can get out of the way.

    Congratulations San Diego Union-Tribune, Platinum Equity just made you irrelevant in one person’s eyes.

  32. @ #39

    “Platinum is a private investment firm.

    And the money in the pension fund isn’t “public”–unless you believe that even after the cops get paid and contribute to their pension, the money still belongs to the taxpayers.”

    Point taken. That is why I referred to them as a government-funded entity and not a government agency. The fact that the buyout was by a private investment firm and not the union itself is why I concurred with DAINEL that the union leader’s demands are just a fart in the wind. So my argument is more in response to the union leader’s thinking than the reality of the situation.

    I personally believe that the money paid to public employees does still belong to taxpayers because it was stolen from tax payers in the first place. I certainly wouldn’t pay for our government police if I had the choice, but those very police are the people who would put a gun to my head if I refused to pay their salary. Whether you agree with me or not that taxation is a violent act of theft, you should understand the absurdity of this situation:

    An organization that exist solely on tax dollars, uses those tax dollars to buy out a private newspaper (who’s own income goes to pay that organization’s expenses via taxation), and demands that the newspaper quit complaining about how many tax dollars the organization receives.

    It reminds me of our justice system, in which a person who’s car is stolen is never compensated for the car but is instead made to pay the expense of their thief’s term in prison via taxation. It’s using stolen money to pay for a more efficient means of stealing.

  33. Invest in a newspaper? Why not just throw that pension money out the window? I have to agree with others, newspapers are dying. This is just a bad investment, period.

    And in regards to the main issue at hand.. This is nothing shocking or new. Advertisers back out when the people they’re sponsoring talks about them in a negative way.

    The only reason there’s so much hoopla around this story is because cops are involved. Because you know.. everyone loves to hate cops, right?

  34. I worked for a Platinum Equity. They should be called Parasite Equity. I predict that this is the first of many such actions.

  35. #30,

    The assertion is correct, and the fact that the arm (police) that breaks the back of many unions in fact has a union is one of the universes great jokes. That the police expect people to respect their union while helping others rent other unions limb from limb is a travesty that displays nothing but the true motivations of police policy in the United States.

    They are the policy enforcers of the rich, and powerful. They receive preferential treatment and a free hand on enforcement in exchange for turning on their own. Most laws passed to assist in policing our streets seem to be geared at removing the rights of the many, while making ineffectual gestures at the law breakers. I took the two year course at a community college in Law Enforcement as an “Opposition study course”. It was geared entirely to circumventing laws, and the Constitution to enforce local policy. Period.

  36. heh! Time was they would talk about the difficulty the police had with the ethnic Chinese immigrant community in getting them to report crimes, coming from “a society where the police were viewed as security guards for the rich”. Heh! Who laughing now, stupid gweilo?

  37. Yes, it is absolutely possible for public servants to be paid excessively. It is a public service to point out how much they’re collecting for salary, overtime, benefits, and pensions. I don’t care that they are “putting their lives on the line”, especially since it has been statistically proven that police work and FD work are not really that much more dangerous than a lot of other fields. and I am particularly appalled at how many of them retire on “disability” when they are demonstrably not really physically disabled. It’s a public trough from which they’re feeding.

  38. .
    Isn’t this pretty much what Rupert Murdoch did recently with the Wall Street Journal?

    Oh, no, right, they always agreed with him and supported everything he did. No need to fire them. Speaking of wh*res & censorship, Craigslist prosecutor never prosecutes actual ho’s. And there’s a LOT of them in his State’s Yellow Pages!

    Guess he’s more of an online john. Oh, wait, the Yellow Pages are online too!

    Ah, technology…

  39. #38 Tak:

    I stand by what I said: BB is a place of comfort for left wingers. That is a simple, glaringly obvious fact.

    What you describe is the freedom to comment. May I remind you that the same freedom exists for any comments addressed just about anywhere, from Conrad Black’s National Post to Are you now going to tell me that the former isn’t right wing and the later isn’t left wing?

    AFAIK and can estimate, none of the Boingers comes from the right, none of the moderators and extremely few of the most frequent commentators.

    As I said, I believe that bias is inherent to human nature. Condemning it is contesting the human condition itself and makes no sense whatsoever. The real problems start to rise whenever anyone tries to hide that fact. It is only possible for each of us to gather the information that we need for our own purposes if we know exactly through what filters it passed first.

  40. I think “left and right” are sufficiently abused as to be useless. Plenty of idiocy on both “sides”. I’ll have no truck with such unhelpful labels.

    As to “bias”, bias must be insupportable to be bias. If a position is based on truth, it isn’t bias.

  41. “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” – Benito Mussolini

  42. I have said it before and I will say it again — there are too many police in the US. The nation-wide count of police officers needs to be halved.

    Anonymous, ’cause I ain’t crazy.

  43. As another San Diegan (been here for about 5 years), I have to agree with GeekD. The Union Tribune is one of the worst run, badly managed newspapers I’ve ever seen. I’ve worked for college papers that had a more balanced editorial policy (and WAY better writers).

    So, while it is appalling that the LAPD is coming off as wanting to flex its muscles and act like fascist, their people have a point. Almost no one in San Diego (left, right, ambidextrous) thinks that Bob Kittle or his writers have an ounce of journalistic integrity, and the public has been making the same complaints (and being ignored) as the LAPD is for years.

    To be honest, it is nice to see ANYONE that owns any part of that newspaper taking an interest in the integrity and balance of its editorial page. Even if it is (gods help us), the cops from LA…

  44. #53 Takuan:
    stop agreeing with me!

    That is the last thing you’ll ever have to worry about coming from me.

  45. There’s also too many independent security guard companies for hire? Where are these companies from? How did they learn to assert authority and weild a pair of handcuffs? Where are all these people coming from?

  46. BB is a place of comfort for left wingers.

    I think “left and right” are sufficiently abused as to be useless. Plenty of idiocy on both “sides”.

    Indeed, the left-right political spectrum is an arbitrary collection of prejudices that are worse than useless, and philosophically irreconcilable within each “wing” such that they cannot even be considered opposing ideologies.

    What in fact has been created? An international community. A perfect blueprint for world order. When the sides facing each other suddenly realize that they’re looking into a mirror, they’ll see that this is the pattern for the future.

    the new Number Two

  47. “label” is lazy. Something pasted on to avoid the work of seeing and understanding. Just see things as they are. When you see things as they are, they may have Names.

    Calling something “right wing” or “left wing” is only a shorthand to summon defense or attack. Go read Breakfast of Champions again, it will help.

  48. Of course you’re right – I just wanted a little fun. I work with people a lot and I discovered long ago how quickly someone can instantly like/dislike you if you happen to disagree with them politically. I’ve seen sweet little old ladies snarl and hiss when, on asking, they find out you’re voting for that horrible man that wants to take her retirement checks away.

  49. ‘Left’ and ‘right’ are totally useless labels, as are ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’. I’m opposed to the death penalty but think that we should have longer jail sentences for violent offenders. Am I on the left or the right on that issue? I want to conserve nature. Does that make me a conservative? There are lots of people who ally with conservatives on fiscal matters and with liberals on social issues. There are lots of people who have absolutely no opinion on some issues, which I think is just hunky dory, but seems to horrify political proselytizers. We should dispense with political parties and elect leaders based on their ideas, not their alignments. It’s just tribalism.

  50. Ya-ya-ya, sure, wiggle all you want: I still think that, at the very least, I was in the ballpark.

  51. let the record show, let the record show Mr. Chairman, that the poster styling himself as “Innocent” openly admits to frequenting ballparks. Ballparks that the House Committee has found in the past to harbour fellow travellers! Just answer the questions “Innocent”, just answer the questions!

  52. Hmm…methinks this be how da Nazis began their excusion into prime time a few yarns back…methinks.


  53. Just goes to show that the LAPD is just best financed gang in the city. The MS-13 and 18th street peddle dope and intimidate residents who object. The LAPD peddles political influence and is now corrupting and extorting legitimate businesses who are critical of them. Same thing, they ought to change the motto they plater on the black and whites from “To protect and to serve” to the more appropriate “To protect our interests and to serve ourselves”

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