By Kate Jackman-Atkinson
Neepawa Banner & Press
The newspaper industry has a problem, but it’s not what most people think. More than anything else, the newspaper industry in North America has an ownership problem. Long known by those in the industry, the public watched this story explode a little over a week ago. The spark? A series of editorials in the Denver Post blasting their owners, a hedge-fund called Alden Global Capital.
What most readers forget, or don’t know, is that many of the papers they read are owned by hedge funds or investment companies. It could be outright, like the Denver Post, or by extension, like Postmedia, which has borrowed so much to fuel its expansion, it is effectively beholden to its lenders. This ownership structure favours profitability at any cost— they are investors looking to make money through newspaper ownership, not newspaper owners looking to make money.
The Denver Post editorial was accompanied by a photo of the paper’s staff in 2013, with the people who have been lost to cutbacks blacked out. Only about a third of the people remain. These cuts are deeper than those faced by other papers in similar markets and come even as the company reported profits within its newspaper division.
Denver isn’t the only place where the staff is fighting back. Last month, journalists at two other Alden papers, the San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times, held a public rally at which they distributed fact sheets about the “pillaging” of their papers; this month, staff at the Gannett-owned Knoxville News Sentinel sent a letter to all of their subscribers outlining the cuts their owners have taken since purchasing the paper in 2015.