Right wing media control in San Diego

February 9, 2012

San Diego is having a major event this weekend, that's February 11 and 12, 2012, as described here, Successful Aging Expo. It's sponsored by the San Diego Union Tribune, a paper that's just been purchased by a real estate developer, Doug Manchester. I describe my initial concern over this takeover in this OpEd that appeared on an online journal, as the UT is the only print media in town.

These senior extravaganzas are designed to provide direct marketing to the largest growing demographic, those of us of Medicare age or getting close. This is the sales pitch for renting space at this event. It also shows the reach, the political clout of this organization, now controlled by a single man.

If you want to reach active adults over 40, you need to be here.

Reach up to 70% of San Diego's affluent 40+ market by participating in the Union-Tribune's Successful Aging Expo. This all-inclusive expo combines the power of the region's most widely read newspaper and the region's most-visited local Web site with face-to-face interaction. ............

In person. In print. Online.

In addition to booth opportunities at the event, a special preview section allows you reach more than 670,000 readers leading up to the expo. The section will also be available on utsandiego.com, which receives an estimated 29 million page views a month.

The draw to get seniors to attend this free event is information, preferably from people with some credentials who can assist us in navigating a complex world. They prefer legitimate experts, even if they have an agenda, a product, a service, or something else to market to this older crowd. One important speaker (Sunday at 11) is a highly regarded neuroscientist whom I happened to have had extensive correspondence with over the last few months. Jame Brewer heads a group at UCSD that needs a steady stream of volunteers for his program to refine his personal interest in diagnostic MRIs for dementia.

As I was reading one of the full page promotions of this event something struck me. Among the many speakers, Gerontologists, Psychologists, Pharmacy researchers, and Estate planners was this one. I'll include his bio, which was only inserted in the web site today, which could be because of my letter to the management pointing out its absence:

Mike Slater

Mike Slater is the host of the morning show on 760KFMB. His show is dedicated to preserving freedom, liberty and the principles that made America the greatest country in the world. Slater graduated from Yale University and studied history.

Topic: Liberty, ObamaCare and the Future of Healthcare

Overview: "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," commonly known as ObamaCare, was one of the most controversial pieces of legislation passed in recent memory. Now that some of the fog of politics has lifted, what does ObamaCare mean for you? Should the government have a greater role in healthcare? What would a free market in healthcare look like? We'll separate truth from fiction to make sure that you, as well as your kids and grandkids, age successfully.

"Separating truth from fiction" is based on the premise that those such as Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, mentioned prominently on his website provide such unbiased information to their audiences. You can watch a SlaterCrusader Video of his speech to his usual audience, Tea Party meetings, to form your own conclusion. (see my comments at the end of this essay after listening to his program and talking to him)

I wrote to my contact at the paper, asking him to forward an email to the owner, excerpted here:
The immediate reaction to the new owners statements caused concern throughout the community that this would become a right wing partisan vehicle, and lose the balance that had existed previously. I'm writing this about the Successful Aging Expo this weekend, where with little notice you have included one speaker, Mike Slater, who will reinforce the worst concerns about bias of your organization.

Slater is an avowed "Extremist for Liberty" who's blog and radio show echoes other extremists such as Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Far from having any known expertise on issues of aging or of health care, the title of his presentation, "Liberty, Obamacare and the future of Healthcare" promises to be a one sided vilification of his partisan enemies.

This would be appropriate for the Tea Party gathering where he often speaks, but not for this setting.

If this is really what you want to do, obviously it is your choice. But, if you want to keep to the goal of this exposition, his time slot should be replaced with a one on "How evolving Healthcare laws will affect affect seniors" or "Senior political activism" Any description that will encompass more than one man's singular ultra conservative view will be an improvement.

When I received no response, I wrote to Slater, pointing out the inappropriateness of having one side of the political spectrum represented at this event. He responded courteously with this:

Hey Al,

I appreciate your E-mail and your concern about my talk on Sunday. I assure you that I do not plan on it being a political rally. I plan on presenting some arguments related to liberty and healthcare that I think we all should consider when discussing government involvement in healthcare.

I do not pretend for a moment to present an exhaustive analysis of the pros and cons of a 2,000 page piece of legislation. My goal is to talk about some of the bigger principles of healthcare. I hope people leave with a different perspective on this topic than they've ever heard.

I will talk to the people involved about a potential panel discussion.

Thanks for the note, Al, and thanks for your passion on this important topic,


A day has passed, I must assume that the "people involved" to whom he suggested a panel discussion, that I volunteered to participate in, have vetoed the idea. What the U.T. wants, what Doug Manchester wants, is for this informational event to be shifted to become a vehicle for liberal bashing. In this world, "liberty" become the antithesis of liberal, and with a steady drumbeat of this, several beliefs are implanted. One is the firm conviction, that President Obama, who has continued the militaristic and economic policies of his predecessor, whose top fiscal appointment is wall street favorite, Timothy Geithner, is a socialist, who if re-elected will impose this on America.

I suppose that anyone who chooses to attend his talk knows what they will be getting from the title. Mike's "truth" about the politics of health care will most certainly not describe the effects of Paul Ryan's budget proposal approved by almost every Republican, that would have eviscerated Medicare. It was so outrageous, that it was watered down a few month's latter as it was too much for even this group.

I would have loved to have been part of presenting a balanced picture of how the healthcare law fits into the scheme of fiscal and political realities. I could show up at his talk and ask a question, make a pointed comment, but it's his venue, even though from his email he seemed open to having a real conversation. His elite educational background indicates that he knows that an argument without rebuttal is inherently a distortion. Right wing talk show hosts do get addicted to that squelch button, and I have no intention of being a foil for such a setting. As a Yale man he must understand the concept of dialectic, truth not as a single view, but as a resultant that emerges from open conversation. Another Yale conservative, William F. Buckley, who welcomed genuine dialogue with those of opposite views, should be his model-rather than Beck or Limbaugh.

I sent Slater the link to this, and he mentioned briefly a "dailykos article" on his talk show, that I describe below. I don't really know much about him, but it could be that he aspires to be more than another right wing media figure who gets rich by stoking the passions of an angry, often clueless audience. Maybe he realizes a drumbeat of accusations, even if unintended, beyond a point becomes dangerous, not only for one's partisan enemies but for our very society. Perhaps a part of him wants to do more than preach to his own choir, as I did when I went against the majority here in my blogs such as this summary that focused on the defect of the healthcare bill that was passed.

I just got off the phone with Mike in the middle of his Thursday morning radio show. From listening this brief sample he seems respectful of those who call in, kept the show lively and probably has some interesting conversations. If I had a long morning commute, I just might tune him in.

It turns out he had the same idea as I for a panel discussion a few weeks ago, but was unsuccessful in getting it changed to this format. He is planing to describe the problems inherent in government funding of health care,which is something that I described in my own essay linked above. Unfortunately, he won't get into the excesses inherent when the profit motive controls such a vital resource. What is needed is a balanced approach that only comes from thoughtful analysis, which is not what we usually get out of our political system.

He said that he would mention my name which can be searched for this Dailykos essay on his Friday program, something that would go a long way toward demonstrating his own integrity.

Al Rodbell
Encinitas CA