And it hasn’t been a very good business for a very long time. Tribune stock sale leaves company vulnerable to hedge fund known for ‘cutting costs to the bone’.
Alden Global Capital, which controls Media News Group, and owns about 100 publications, just bought a 25.2% stake in Tribune Publishing.
While that company no longer owns Tribune Tower (a classic bit of real estate that anchors one end of the Magnificent Mile, at the Chicago River), it does have some control over The Freedom Center. The plant where both the Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times are printed. It was actually part of the site included in Chicago’s bid for Amazon HQ 2.0 (or whatever it was being called.)
In written testimony for the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, NewsGuild [a labor union] President Bernie Lunzer said Alden has slashed employment by 71% at the unionized papers since 2012. Lunzer said Alden “has slashed staff and sold real estate to extract cash from the news organizations without regard to the role news organizations play in communities.”
In other words, “We know newspapers are running out of money, but that doesn’t mean we should stop doing things exactly the way we’ve always done them.”
And some papers are changing. The Chicago weekly The Chicago Reader (which was about 99 percent classified ads when I was in college), and the Salt Lake Tribune are reorganizing as “non-profits.” Which may be a recognition of reality and not a strategy.
“Basically, being nonprofit is a tax status and not a business model,” [Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University] said.
Classified ads (of the print variety) were killed off by Craigslist and Ebay. Other ads were killed off by the internet in general. If you want new tires for your vehicle, would you search out today’s edition of your local paper to see who had what prices, and if there were any sales? When was the last time you read a newspaper? I’m guessing that the kids today would think getting ink on your fingers is gross.