Thomas Jefferson once said that he would rather live in a society with newspapers but no government, rather than a society with government but no newspapers.
A robust Democracy ABSOLUTELY REQUIRES a DIVERSE MIX OF VOICES. But for a number of years an escalating crisis has been interfering with Americans’ need to be well informed. The U.S. has been experiencing a crisis that destroys our society’s ability to inform itself through honest, diverse journalism.
A few giant business corporations have been buying up newspapers, just like they’ve been buying up other businesses — and consolidating economic (and hence political) power in few wealthy hands. They have been looting those businesses’ assets, laying off workers, and either shrinking them down into smaller companies or destroying them altogether.
NEWSPAPERS ARE SHRINKING AND DYING. This seriously endangers democracy!
The following article from www.freepress.net needs to be read. It includes a petition to save the Gannett newspaper chain from serious abuse or destruction.
The vultures are circling, and they’re coming for a newspaper near you.
Digital First Media — which is notorious for gutting local newsrooms to turn a profit for its hedge-fund owners — is trying to buy Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper publisher.1
The owners of Digital First have been called “vulture capitalists” by journalists in their own newsrooms.2 The company has censored journalists’ work and fired reporters3 who criticize their ruthless tactics — which are designed to pad the bottom line.
Tell Gannett’s board: Support your newsrooms and the communities they serve. Don’t sell to Digital First Media. HERE IS THE LINK: https://act.freepress.net/sign/journ_gannett_dmf_sell?t=3&akid=12033%2E11707813%2ETJ8zJ1
In recent years, more and more private-equity companies have been buying up newspapers, slashing jobs, turning newsrooms into shells of their former selves and spending profits on anything BUT journalism.4
This isn’t just bad for newsrooms: It also spells doom for millions of people around the country who rely on their local newspapers to find out what’s happening. When local news disappears, fewer people participate in their communities.5
And while Gannett itself has a questionable track record when it comes to investing in news, if the company sells to Digital First it will decimate news coverage in thousands of communities across the United States.
As one journalist noted, if Digital First Media is “knocking on the door, you should lock the deadbolt.”6
Shareholders will pressure Gannett’s board to let the vultures in the door. We can’t let that happen. Take action today to support communities around the country by protecting local news.
For the future of local news,
Mike, Heather, Candace and the rest of the Free Press team
P.S. Digital First Media’s bid for Gannett will decimate local coverage of communities around the country. Tell Gannett’s board to reject this bid.
1. “Hedge Fund-Backed Media Group Prepares Bid for Gannett,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 14, 2019: https://act.freepress.net/go/30238?t=8&akid=12033%2E11707813%2ETJ8zJ1
2. “As Vultures Circle the Denver Post Must Be Saved,” The Denver Post, April 6, 2018: https://act.freepress.net/go/30239?t=10&akid=12033%2E11707813%2ETJ8zJ1
3. “Rejected Denver Post Editorial Decries ‘Outright Censorship’ at Digital First Papers,” Columbia Journalism Review, May 7, 2018: https://act.freepress.net/go/30240?t=12&akid=12033%2E11707813%2ETJ8zJ1
4. “Finance Is Killing the News,” The New Republic, April 18, 2018: https://act.freepress.net/go/30241?t=14&akid=12033%2E11707813%2ETJ8zJ1
5. “How We Know Journalism Is Good for Democracy,” Local News Lab, June 20, 2018: https://act.freepress.net/go/30242?t=16&akid=12033%2E11707813%2ETJ8zJ1
6. Los Angeles Times Correspondent Matt Pearce via Twitter: https://act.freepress.net/go/30243?t=18&akid=12033%2E11707813%2ETJ8zJ1
Here is another article on the same subject.
Robert Kuttner wrote an article on the same topic for The American Prospect (www.prospect.org) on January 15, 2019.
More Hedge Fund Predators Buying Up Newspapers. You may have missed it, but an outfit called Digital First Media (DFM) is trying to buy the Gannett newspaper chain. https://www.wsj.com/articles/hedge-fund-backed-media-group-prepares-bid-for-gannett-11547427720
Last year, I wrote a lengthy investigative piece on how private equity and hedge fund companies like DFM are destroying what’s left of America’s metropolitan dailies. You can read about it here: https://prospect.org/article/saving-free-press-private-equity
The basic model is to borrow money, buy a shaky newspaper (or in this case a whole shaky chain), charge the debt to the target company’s own balance sheet, and then cut costs (reporters and editors) to shreds. The distress of the newspaper industry has been widely blamed on the internet, but in fact predatory practices by outfits like DFM are a major contributing factor.
Last year, DFM bought the Boston Herald, and promptly cut the newsroom from 240 to 175. Now the target is to cut editorial employees to just 100. Meanwhile, DFM is shooting for profit margins at the Herald in the 17-percent range. https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2018/10/04/chesto/d3MhJQUbagePhINEYUa7QO/story.html
It’s hard to shed too many tears for Gannett, no slouch when it comes to stripping newsrooms. Gannett’s flagship USA Today is damned thin already. It’s likely to be even worse if DFM manages to take it over.
~ ROBERT KUTTNER