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Barry Jantz

San Diego better without the NFL? — It’s certainly better to be able to ask.

Local political watchers generally fall into two camps when it comes to the tenure of the immediate past ownership of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Some believe Doug Manchester and John Lynch at the reins (or reign) was a refreshing return to the paper’s conservative roots, a philosophy that had been lost since the Helen Copley days. They also now fear what the SDUT’s political leanings are to become under new, liberal-leaning ownership.

Alternatively, others are glad to see the recent change, at least from a political if not geographical perspective. They strongly believe the paper under Manchester was too stridently conservative, pointing to its unabashed support for Carl DeMaio’s mayoral campaign in front page editorials as a prime example.

What strikes me as not fitting within the simplified context of those polarized views is one significant issue. Manchester and Lynch at the outset in late 2011 basically threw down the gauntlet when it comes to the need for a new football stadium in San Diego, saying the newspaper would be used as a mouthpiece to achieve such a goal, in essence adding they would ride roughshod over any “obstructionists” standing in the way.

Longtime sports columnist Tim Sullivan may have even been dismissed for his lack of comfort with that approach.

Let’s be very clear about this. First, as a newspaper owner, you have a right to do as you see fit with your asset, despite any criticism. You have a right to hire and fire as you like. Of that there is no doubt.

Saying the paper will be used to achieve the interests of one large business owner in San Diego, without foresight or knowledge of what a stadium deal will even look like or how it might impact or benefit the city, the region, or its taxpayers (which Sullivan described as endorsing “a new stadium without wondering whether that’s good public policy, a justifiable expense or a good deal”), well, that’s also an owner’s right.

Yet, it is not conservative. At best, it could be corporate welfare. At worst, corporate cronyism. Perhaps there is no difference.

I simply note this in reaction to today’s gutsy SDUT analysis by Business Columnist Dan McSwain, in which he writes:

Yet all the money for a new stadium, public and private, however it’s sliced and diced, would probably buy little or no regional economic growth after construction is done, according to a slew of careful studies over the last two decades. Sports venues certainly generate sales, but the overall economic activity is generally the same — and often less — than what would have happened anyway.

And this:

But what about the inevitable studies from stadium boosters showing gains? A 2001 Federal Reserve paper was polite: “The assumptions that are made in these studies — such as how much of the newly generated income will stay in the region and how many ‘secondary’ jobs will be created — often cannot be substantiated by economic theory.”

It’s worth reading the entire article.

Despite the philosophical direction of the current SDUT ownership, it’s a fair question to ask whether a commentary like McSwain’s would have even seen the light of day only a couple of years ago.