“Stephanie,” a City College student, questions if she will ever receive her Union-Tribune (U-T) newspaper service that she paid for.
“The gentleman introduced himself as a student from the San Diego City College journalism department,” Stephanie said, “and is fulfilling a part of his course by working with the San Diego Union-Tribune subscriptions [department].” She said at approximately 2:30 p.m. on April 14, she and her neighbor paid $20 apiece for a $19.92 subscription (per apartment).
(Stephanie requested that her name be changed for the article, and her exact 13th Street address on the U-T receipt be blurred out.) She said that three sales reps somehow bypassed their security guard on the first floor, made it to their floor, and solicited door-to-door selling subscriptions.
“Thank you again for bringing this to our attention,” said Kelly Rizzi, regional sales manager of the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune. “This was an isolated instance and clearly not how we want our vendors representing the Union-Tribune.”
Inquiries were also made within the City College journalism department regarding the sales rep’s identity which was handwritten on the bottom of the invoice. “Nope, I never heard of him,” said Angelica Wallingford, a digital journalism student at City College. “Student journalists should always be carrying a City Times (campus newspaper) issued press pass at all times. The press pass has your name, photo and position such as staff writer, section editor or editor-in-chief.”
“It is confirmed that he (the sales rep) is not a student here at City College,” said Lt. Lou Zizzo from the San Diego Community College District Police Department. “What he did is not illegal, however, if you suspect that they are not on the up and up; ask if there is a website that you can donate [or pay] to.”
Stephanie said that after a couple of minutes of being sales-pitched, the sales rep asked if she could donate to him. She handed over the $20 bill, and he gave her a receipt.
“After calling several of this rep’s orders we learned that he used a donation angle in his sales pitch in at least two sales,” Rizzi said. “He was suspended last week and as of today (April 25) is no longer working for our vendor.”
Wallingford was the editor-in-chief for the City Times and Legend magazine (campus magazine) from 2014-2015. She still visits the campus newsroom to check in with the current staff. “It’s our job to fact-check and question things when they aren’t adding up,” she said, “we’ve never had a student go out [door-to-door] and actively sell anything, including advertising.”
Many of the journalism students on campus aspire to work at a newspaper like the U-T one day; but generally as writers, editors, photographers and videographers.
“I think [he used the ‘City College journalism department’ angle] because it makes it look like the money is going to fund a local program,” Wallingford said, “more people are probably going to give if they feel like they are going to give back in some way.”