Seattle Times: Three tough lessons are emerging from efforts to restore local ownership of the Chicago Tribune
April 6, 2020
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Reporter David Jackson and his colleagues’ campaign to preserve the Chicago Tribune’s legacy of local news excellence isn’t over but it already offers three sobering lessons for free press advocates trying to restore local newspapers to local ownership.

  1. Public-spirited investors big enough to buy a controlling interest in a company like Tribune Publishing aren’t eager to step in when a hedge fund is circling your publicly traded company. Troubled waters are the happy place of market sharks like Alden Global Capital.
  2. Newspaper company directors aren’t automatically your allies in an effort to unplug one paper from a newspaper chain and sell it back to the hometown. The whole point of being a chain is to take advantage of scale economies. Reduce scale and you reduce the economies that shareholders love.
  3. Jeff Bezos’ experience as owner of the Washington Post discourages ultra-rich families who might be inclined to buy a newspaper and operate it as a civic asset. Watchdog journalism by the Washington Post has made Bezos a target of hackers and of the U.S. president.

When you consider the Los Angeles Times’ owner, Patrick Soon-Shiong, is the second-biggest owner of Tribune Publishing shares, Chicago journalists can be forgiven for hoping he’ll bring to Chicago some of the invest-in-journalism ethos he has brought to the LA Times. Jackson said it’s still possible a big investor could step in to block Alden Global, but that hasn’t happened yet.

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