News

“It’s definitely safe to say that there is a trend of some newspapers returning to local ownership,” April said. “… It made sense for these large newspaper companies to build when they did, but now it’s making sense for them to peel off these papers and put them in the hands of people who can really operate them in this day and age.”
The NewsGuild-CWA is enthusiastically supporting a bill that would provide a path to financial stability for struggling local newspapers, digital-only publications and local television and radio stations through a series of tax credits. “The Local Journalism Sustainability Act would provide a much-needed boost to save local news jobs,” said NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss. “Half of America’s journalism jobs have been wiped out in the past decade and the losses have accelerated during the pandemic.
Since 2008, newsroom employment has plummeted at U.S. newspapers while increasing in the digital publishing sector. Newspaper newsroom employment fell 57% between 2008 and 2020, from roughly 71,000 jobs to about 31,000. At the same time, the number of digital-native newsroom employees rose 144%, from 7,400 workers in 2008 to about 18,000 in 2020. Despite this sharp increase, the number of newsroom employees in the digital-native sector remained about 13,000 below the number in the newspaper sector in 2020.
The local news crisis is complicated, and a single citation can’t tell the whole story... We do not have a robust ecosystem. We have this poverty compared to what we had even a decade ago, regardless of whether you measure the loss of news organizations, or whether you measure the loss of reporters, or the loss of news stories.
The ink wasn’t dry, but the hushed deal to finance Alden Global Capital’s takeover of Tribune Publishing fell quickly into place in May. So quickly that the terms for saddling Tribune with hundreds of millions in debt must have been worked out well in advance by Alden and its attorneys. Now that the purchase appears complete, the actions of Tribune’s former board come across as self-serving, while the facts suggest violations of both securities and corporate law.
As the pandemic recedes in the United States, few businesses may emerge so transformed as local and regional newspapers. More than 70 local newsrooms have closed over the past 15 months, with hundreds of media jobs lost, as the already difficult financial conditions in the industry intensified during the crisis. By some estimates, a staggering 2,100 local newspapers, or one in four, have closed in the US since 2005. But into the carnage a new breed of owner has emerged: one that has industry veterans and media observers deeply worried about the future of journalism in America and its ability to act as part of a functioning democracy. According to a recent analysis, hedge funds or private equity firms now control half of US daily newspapers, including some of the largest newspaper groups in the country: Tribune, McClatchy and MediaNews Group.
When Jon Mitchell, the mayor of New Bedford, Mass., delivered his state of the city address in 2019, he made an unusual plea. “Support your local paper,” he said, referring to The Standard-Times, New Bedford’s daily newspaper. “Your city needs it to function effectively.” Owned by Gannett, the parent company of USA Today and more than 250 other dailies, The Standard-Times was getting thin. Like thousands of newspapers across the country, it was taking on the characteristics of a “ghost” paper — a diminished publication that had lost much of its staff, curtailing its reach and its journalistic ambitions. Now, two years later, the mayor’s assessment is more blunt.
Already, steps to strip cash from the business and lay off staff have begun. The Associated Press reports that Alden “wasted little time installing new leadership and saddling the newspaper chain with $278 million in debt it took on for the acquisition.” The new owners also are seeking to reduce staff levels by encouraging employees to accept a voluntary buyout. According to Keith Kelly of the New York Post, the buyout “provides eight weeks’ severance for all staffers with three years or less of service. It provides 12 weeks for staffers with four or more years and then one additional week’s pay for each year of service.”