Newsonomics: “Everything I believe about the news business is being violated” at The Denver Post

It might only seem that the walls are tumbling in at The Denver Post. Or it might be reality. In a stunningly quick series of events, the Post has continued to shed staff — not by firing or layoff, but by what might best be described as resigned resignation. At the same time, I’ve learned, a fresh round of budget cuts in the range of 10 to 15 percent is being planned for the paper, along with other Digital First Media properties. Meanwhile, controlling owner Alden Global Capital — the Post’s much-derided disassembler — is reacting in real time to both the mushrooming community protest and the new financial challenges that protest is generating. Sources tell me that financial pressure includes at least one lender withdrawing from the refinancing of its $225 million credit facility, one apparently due to be repaid or refinanced before the end of 2018. Meanwhile, five key Continue reading "Newsonomics: “Everything I believe about the news business is being violated” at The Denver Post"

Newsonomics: Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism it might not want to stop anytime soon

Is there any chance Alden Global Capital might change course? The majority owner of Digital First Media — publisher of The Mercury News, The Denver Post, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, 11 Southern California dailies, and 49 others from California to Michigan to New Jersey — has faced a rising tide of protest over the past month. Today we can reveal some key financial numbers from the very private company that shows just how successful Alden and DFM have been at milking profit out of the newspapers it is slashing to the bone. DFM reported a 17 percent operating margin — well above those of its peers — in its 2017 fiscal year, along with profits of almost $160 million. That’s the fruit of the repeated cutbacks that have left its own shrinking newsrooms in a state of rebellion. Now, as the company decides if and how to move against
Continue reading "Newsonomics: Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism it might not want to stop anytime soon"

Newsonomics: Still another Tronc drama, as John Lynch re-enters the business

Tronc doesn’t do anything by the book. Even as much of the company’s turbulence looks to be clearing, new questions are emerging about who will next lead the big metro chain. Softbank and Apollo Global Management have reportedly expressed real interest in buying the company, but much more likely is the reemergence of one of the many characters who have have upended business as usual in the roiled daily newspaper industry. Tronc’s newspapers, staff, and readers may soon be subject to a whole new round of strategic rethinks and re-deployments. Let’s first focus on the potential impact of Michael Ferro’s sale of his dominating Merrick Media 25 percent share in Tronc. That surprising sale prompted all kinds of speculation about the future, including mine. The sale looked like a homecoming story: A McCormick had bought back into the Chicago Tribune’s parent company, Tronc. Sargent McCormick, described as a distant relation Continue reading "Newsonomics: Still another Tronc drama, as John Lynch re-enters the business"

Newsonomics: The news world will miss Michael Ferro

On Friday afternoon, Tronc announced that its lead shareholder Merrick Media, led by just-resigned board chairman Michael Ferro, was selling its entire stake in the company. McCormick Media — managed by Sargent McCormick, a distant relative of the McCormick family that controlled the Chicago Tribune for most of its long history — is the buyer of Ferro’s 9 million shares. As we sort out the impact of the sale on the Chicago Tribune and the rest of Tronc’s remaining newspapers, we offer this publishing obit for the would-be impresario who grabbed so many headlines of his own in the last two years.
Michael Ferro loved nothing better than entertaining a room of people with his wit and wisdom. Many of those entertained tell stories about how no one else had to even worry about coming up with their own tales; they only had to sit back and take it in. Continue reading "Newsonomics: The news world will miss Michael Ferro"

Newsonomics: 8 questions as Michael Ferro leaves the stage ($100 million richer)

Michael Ferro has left the room. Tronc announced Friday that Merrick Media, the Ferro-led, Chicago-based investment firm had sold its 25% stake in Tronc. The hometown Chicago Tribune tries to tell us more about Sargent McCormick, the buyer of Merrick’s stake. We do know of his interest in the family legacy and in art, but not yet much about what he will do with the stake he bought through his McCormick Media. We also know that Ferro’s exit from the newspaper industry spotlight again changes the dynamics of the industry. As we pay our respects to Mr. Ferro, this new story will unfold over the next several weeks. With a closing of the sale to be scheduled, let’s assess what the repercussions could be. What’s the half-life of Justin Dearborn? Colleagues describe Dearborn as the perfect complement to the boisterous Ferro. He’s quiet and non-inflammatory, but one issue has Continue reading "Newsonomics: 8 questions as Michael Ferro leaves the stage ($100 million richer)"

Newsonomics: The Denver Post’s protest should launch a new era of “calling B.S.”

What are we to make of The Denver Post’s “extraordinary display of defiance”? As the paper’s editorial board, led by Chuck Plunkett, fired a fusillade of public protest on Sunday — publishing six pages decrying the paper’s owner, to the social congratulations of the news world — we may have reached a new point in local American journalism’s descent into oblivion. Despite almost a decade of newsroom cuts, which have left no more 25,000 journalists in the more than 1,300 dailies across the country, journalists have been remarkably accepting of their buyouts and layoffs. We haven’t seen the kinds of mass strikes or work actions that have happened from time to time in Europe. We’ve seen instead an acquiescence to what’s been seen as the inevitable toll of digital disruption. Sadness, rather than spirited action, has marked the trade. That’s understandable, in part: No one wants to risk the lifeline Continue reading "Newsonomics: The Denver Post’s protest should launch a new era of “calling B.S.”"

Newsonomics: Will Facebook’s troubles finally cure publishers of platformitis?

That Facebook’s fall from grace will be twinned in history with the rise of Trumpism seems poetic. It’s a digital Frankenstein fable, one even Mel Brooks might have a hard time satirizing: a perhaps uncontrollable phenomenon escaping from the laboratory (or, in the modern case, Room H33). Listen to The Daily’s interview with Zuckerberg when he broke his fast of Facebook silence, when the scope of blowback to Cambridge Analytica’s work on his platform could no longer be ignored. You hear, in the awkward silence and hesitant replies, the sense that the digital age is now doing as much to us, as it is for us, quite beyond anyone’s control. The new reckonings appear day after day — some of them echoes of what Facebook critics have been saying for years, some of them new understandings. We have yet to really reckon with how completely transformed our worlds have Continue reading "Newsonomics: Will Facebook’s troubles finally cure publishers of platformitis?"