Seven Questions for… Dean Nelson

A respected media observer weighs in on the sale of the “Union-Tribune,” Bono and good ol’ Mike Aguirre.

Dean Nelson is the founder and director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University. He is frequently on UCSD television interviewing famous writers as part of PLNU's Writer's Symposium By The Sea. He's written for the “New York Times,” “Boston Globe” and many local media outlets on topics that have taken him around the world. Until recently, he played competitive ice hockey (you can take the boy out of Minnesota...). His newest book, “God Hides in Plain Sight” (his 14th), comes out in September 2009.

Ron Donoho: What's the pace (months, years?) of the media changeover from print to Web; what's going to happen to the for-sale “San Diego Union-Tribune”; and how are college kids going to impact the new media world?
Dean Nelson: The changeover to the web has been going on for several years. It's the pace of print giving up the game that has quickened dramatically in recent years and even weeks. A difficult economic climate has sped up the abandonment of print even more rapidly…It seems like the sale of the “Union-Tribune” is near, but I can't be confident in how long the paper version will exist. Its Web site will do fine. It's a good site…College kids will thrive in the new media world. They already do. The problem will be whether they'll be able to sort out verified truthful information from some crackpot's rant that poses as verified fact. That's the dangerous water we're headed into.
RD: What is the city of San Diego desperately lacking?
DN: Excellence in something. ANYTHING. I like what George Mitrovich said: "San Diego discovered mediocrity and declared it excellence." We have average leadership, average civic involvement, average responses to big problems, average events. Those who call it America's Finest City haven't been anywhere else.
RD: Finish the sentence: Mike Aguirre is a...
DN: Prophet. I actually like Mike and respect him for bringing so many things to light while he was San Diego’s city attorney. What he was saying about water shortages, the screwy pension arrangement, the shadowy city government, were all correct. He did his share of grandstanding and was rude to some people, but I thought he was appropriate and correct most of the time.
RD: What's the best concert you've ever seen?
DN: I went to see Santana in the Tijuana Bull Ring. It was breathtaking on so many levels—the international experience, the quality of the music, the energy, the joy… In San Diego, it was the most recent U2 concert at the Sports Arena. The crowd was still singing a call and response to each other long after the band left the stage. It was the best church service I've ever attended.
RD: What three people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
DN: Bono, Flannery O'Connor and Wayne Gretzky. Now THERE's some conversation!
RD: What's the craziest thing you've ever done in a car?
DN: After a college class, a bunch of us piled into a car and I got mashed down to the floor in the front seat. I decided to operate the pedals with my hands. The driver tried to tell me when to slow down and speed up. We ended up crashing and getting impaled on a fire hydrant. The class we had just exited was a philosophy class. Draw your own conclusion.
RD: What is your greatest fear?
DN: Irrelevance.

Ron Donoho, formerly executive editor of "San Diego Magazine," is a regular contributor to who covers local news, sports, culture and happy hours.

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