The New York Daily News was acquired by single-syllable, Gryzzl wanna-be, Tronc in September 2017 to much gnashing of teeth and concern amongst fans of local journalism (of which I am obviously one). Tronc, whose name is an idiotic attempt to slap a Silicon Valley-style name on a business model that the Associated Press does better anyway, is just like other corporate robber barons. They acquire the assets and brand of respected local journalism institutions, gut it, and use it to repackage crap from other places.
The Daily News made nationwide headlines this week because Tronc began the pillaging by laying off half of the Daily News’ staff, which was accompanied by very admiring eulogies from New York’s other, better-known newspaper, The New York Times. And like most corporate raiders, they can’t be straight with their staff about what the plan is. The Daily Beast is perhaps more credulous than I — of course there’s a plan. The key is to not publicly acknowledge the true horror of the plan. The plan is to turn a respected institution into a husk of its former self while stripping it for parts and putting as much money as possible into the pockets of the owner. The public interest be damned.
Local journalism in Colorado is faring poorly this past year. The Denver Post, formerly a bastion of robust investigative journalism holding to account Colorado’s powerful, laid off 1/3 of its staff in March. As in other examples, the hedge fund in charge “has no plan.” Also owned by Alden Global Capital is the Longmont Times-Call, which despite its name isn’t even in Longmont anymore. It shares an office with the Boulder Daily Camera, which if you haven’t sensed the theme, is another asset of Alden Global Capital.
Alden Global Capital is based in New York City, and could give a damn about Denver, Boulder or Longmont except as places somewhere in flyover country that can further line their own pockets. The hedge fund has acquired so much ire from former journalists that the union representing their employees has started to buy ads demanding that Alden divest itself of newspapers that won’t commit to robust investigation of local issues.
And let’s be clear, lots of beloved brands that I use for home and work are the subjects of complex corporate masters. But vulture capitalism has no place in an industry deemed so important that it is specifically mentioned in the Bill of Rights. The point of the free press is to examine carefully the actions of our nation’s powerful and hold them to account for their actions. That becomes very challenging when the investigators can no longer feed their families.
Longmont deserves better than the Longmont Times-Call. For one thing, a paper with the name of a town had better actually be based there. It should be accountable to Longmont, not some far-flung owner interested only in extracting money from our community so that he can buy another mansion in Florida. It needs leaders, editors and journalists that are residents of and in touch with Longmont. In every way, the Longmont Observer is more of those things than the Times-Call ever will be again. I’ve been proud to write in this space, and to tell friends and family about it.
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