As Vultures are a Sign of Death, Hedge Fund Alden is a Sign of Demise for News Publishers
It was easy to overlook another blow to the journalism industry last week amid the flurry of news regarding Facebook blocking Australian news websites and Google doing a massive deal with News Corp. It came with the news that vulture hedge fund Alden Global Capital has agreed to buy Tribune Publishing for $630 million — a deal that would make Alden one of the largest and definitely the *greediest* newspaper operator in the U.S.
Alden assured Tribune in an email after the deal went public that their “commitment to ensuring the sustainability of robust local journalism is well established and this is part of that effort.” But anyone familiar with Alden’s mismanagement and avarice knows that Alden can talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk when it comes to remaining true to its hollow promises of preserving the journalism industry.
Its track record is clear; Alden’s “pattern of profiteering” devastates local newspapers and the communities they serve by stripping them down to the studs and gutting them. Even 21 U.S. Senators signed a letter to the hedge fund managers noting: “First, you lay off large portions of the newspaper staff. Then you combine or eliminate parts of the newspaper portfolio…leaving the skeleton of the paper incapable of meeting the basic information needs of its community.”
Alden’s acquisition of Tribune also spotlights the need to focus on the little guys when looking ahead as to who should benefit from the recent financial regulations to Big Tech. It should not be the big national newspapers such as The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, or The Wall Street Journal — which are already financially stable. Nor the conglomerate media institutions such as News Corp, Gannett, or even Tribune. At the head of the line for remedy or reparations — call it what you will — should be regional, local, and hyperlocal media, which have borne the brunt of the ad monopoly by Big Tech.
The following is a statement from Laura Bassett, former Senior Politics Reporter for HuffPost who was laid off in January 2019, and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project:
“We wouldn’t be in this situation if the journalism industry was financially stable. A thriving free press is necessary to uphold the pillars of democracy. Tech giants like Google and Facebook have decimated the journalism industry’s business model, creating the environment for hedge funds like Alden to pick them apart. The market for news and information has never been stronger, but Google and Facebook have rigged the digital ad marketplace and siphoned off all the revenue that supports the journalism business. It looks like one Tribune publication, the Baltimore Sun, has been acquired by a public charity and will be spared from Alden’s clutches. But not every community has such a non-profit even though every community needs its local news outlet. The solution to the crisis facing journalism must focus on all regional, local, and hyperlocal outlets and not just the global media conglomerates.”