June 6, 2016 Last Updated 8:42 am

San Francisco Chronicle hides their primary endorsements behind paywall, Union-Tribune goes with dead man over Trump

Both Tribune Publishing Southern California newspapers have endorsed Hillary Clinton in tomorrow’s Democratic California primary, as have the MediaNews Group papers in Northern California

The Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle has decided to put their clout behind a number of candidates appearing on the ballot of the California primary on Tuesday. But the newspaper has decided that their opinions are so important that web readers will need to pay them to see the list, placing their editorial behind their paywall.

The Chronicle uses a unique, and frankly absurd paywall strategy: it publishes the open website SFGate, then also publishes a paywalled URL for its print newspaper. In some ways the strategy mirrors that of the Boston Globe. Both papers have been bleeding print subscribers, with the Chronicle’s daily circulation almost 50 percent below the level it had a decade ago.


Meanwhile, down south, the Tribune Publishing owned Los Angeles Times has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President, and was not so embarrassed as to hide away its editorial saying so behind a paywall.

“Clinton has her liabilities as a candidate, including a penchant for secrecy and self-protection that was reflected in her decision to maintain a private email server as secretary of State and her continued refusal to acknowledge that it ran afoul of State Department policy,” the newspaper stated. “In a year in which many voters crave novelty, she is a familiar face. But she has formidable assets that would be especially important in a general-election campaign against Trump: steadiness, seriousness and a commanding grasp of issues about which the blowhard businessman is dangerously ignorant.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune, a paper acquired by Tribune Publishing last year, has also endorsed Clinton for President, but they also had an endorsement on the Republican side; Ronald Reagan.

“This editorial board is torn about advising our Republican readers. We can’t endorse Trump for reasons we’ve documented repeatedly: belligerence, casual cruelty, incoherence on policy issues. We can’t recommend voters don’t vote at all because that’s a waste, and we can’t suggest voting for another candidate because it accomplishes nothing,” the paper’s editorial board said.

“So what do Republicans who don’t accept Trump’s style or substance — including all three Bushes, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, George Will and Charles Krauthammer — do?”

The paper’s solution is for Republican voters to write in the name of Ronald Reagan, saying “Maybe Trump will get the message.”

Most readers comments are negative (though as of today there were less than 100 of them, about a tenth the number seen on the typical cat video on YouTube), though one reader was informed enough to spell out the papers that have endorsed Trump (there aren’t many).

“Those of you that think that this paper should have endorsed Trump can study this list of the papers that have endorsed him and tell me if the UT belongs on this list: The National Enquirer, The New York Post, and the New York Observer,” the reader said in the comments.

Both papers will have to make some changes to their print and website staff boxes soon as the publisher announced that beginning on June 20 the company will no longer be known as Tribune Publishing but will be called tronc – short for… well, something, and beginning with a lower case “t” just because. No one thinks it is a good idea except those who thought it up, who most likely were off their meds at the time.

In the East Bay, MediaNews Group has consolidated many of its papers down to the East Bay Times, killing off many of its community titles, as well as the Oakland Tribune. This group has endorsed Hillary Clinton, though the editorial refers to the Mercury News, the group’s San Jose paper that once was a giant in the region before being scooped up by MediaNews Group. The papers made no endorsement on the Republican side.

The MediaNews Group papers in Southern California, however, made no endorsements in the Presidential contests.

Many newspapers across the country have decided not to endorse during the primaries, but those who have have overwhelmingly gone with Clinton and John Kasich, further proving that as newspaper readership goes down, so does any influence they appear to have over their readers. Of course, this opinion may change should Reagan win the Republican primary on Tuesday.

Disclosures: I used to work for Hearst in Los Angeles, but they closed the paper two years after I left; I used to work for Copley in Santa Monica, but that group of papers were sold to MediaNews Group after I left and the paper has since been closed; I used to work for the Valley Times in the Bay Area, but that chain was sold off twice and now is owned by MediaNews Group, and the paper I worked for closed, as well.

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