Since Alden acquired his 32 percent stake in Tribune, the tough times have continued. The company has offered takeovers and closed several newsrooms while trying to endure the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on an industry already in dire straits.
In August, after most newspaper workers had worked remotely for months, Tribune announced that The Daily News’ newsroom would be permanently closed. That announcement was quickly followed by the closure of The Morning Call’s physical newsrooms in Allentown, Pennsylvania; The Orlando Sentinel; The Carroll County Times in Westminster, Md .; and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. In December, the newsroom of another Tribune daily, The Hartford Courant, which has been operating since 1764, also went dark.
In the December 14 letter to the Tribune, Mr. Smith von Alden said his company was in talks with Stewart Bainum Jr., chairman of a hotel chain and former Maryland politician, “to hear high levels of investor interest in particular Assets of the Tribune. “
Local newspaper revenue has declined over the past 15 years as readers increasingly preferred to get the news on screens rather than print newspapers. Alden and other hedge funds have found that they have nonetheless been able to generate profits from newspaper chains through strict management practices.
Journalists and the press have voiced alarm at the influx of private equity into the news business, arguing that financial firms are imperfect administrators of an industry based on the work of closely monitoring government and commerce.
In 2019, USA Today’s editor Gannett was acquired by GateHouse Media’s parent company to create a giant that publishes roughly one in five daily newspapers in the country.
In 2020, the last of the big family chains, McClatchy, went bankrupt and was taken over by Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey hedge fund that also has a controlling interest in Postmedia, one of Canada’s largest newspaper publishers. Since Chatham acquired the Canadian company, 1,600 newspaper employees have been laid off and more than 30 publications have been suspended.