Darth the rat

May 11, 2005 at 12:00 am

Elsewhere on this week’s reading list, we direct your attention to the SF Weekly (sfweekly.com), an alternative paper in San Francisco. The paper has produced an in-depth feature on the new publisher of the daily San Francisco Chronicle. He’s a guy named Frank Vega. Yes, that Frank Vega, formerly the head of Detroit Newspapers and the guy considered most responsible for crushing 1995’s labor strike against The Detroit News and Free Press.

Reporter Tommy Craggs didn’t pull any punches in describing how union members in Motown feel about the man they dubbed “Darth” Vega.

“To virtually any Detroiter with a union card,” Craggs writes, “he is — these are their words — ‘a crook,’ ‘a cocksucker,’ ‘a hatchet man,’ ‘a motherfucker in his own right,’ a man ‘without any conscience’ or any qualms about waging ‘war against working families.’ And with the Chronicle’s labor contracts set to expire in July, Vega’s hire was seen in some quarters as a move against the newspaper’s unions, a call to the bullpen to bring in the closer.”

Craggs’ article, as a whole, is much more balanced than that quote alone. The article notes many admirable things about Vega, including that he is an intense thumb wrestler.

News Hits was particularly interested in Vega’s explanation of why he left Detroit.

“The Detroit market is struggling very badly,” Vega is quoted saying. “A lot of retailers are going out of business there. The automobile industry is in turmoil and losing a lot of its market share. And so it became a maintenance job. It became a job in which there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for new growth. … This area is growing. They’re building a million-square-foot Bloomingdale’s across the street. Across the street from my office in Detroit was a hotel that was for sale the whole 14 years I was there — an abandoned building. Come on, it wasn’t a tough decision.”

News Hits wonders whether we should stop calling him Darth, and give him the nickname Ratso Vega. If Detroit is sinking, he’s jumped the ship.

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