Another Media Merger in the Works

Virginia’s commercial news media continues its consolidation and self-cannibalization. Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that owns the Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press, has proposed purchasing Lee Enterprises, the chain that owns the Richmond-Times Dispatch, Roanoke Times, and newspapers in Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Danville, Martinsville, Waynesboro, and Bristol.

If the offer is accepted, almost the entire news-collecting apparatus in the Rest of Virginia will belong to a single entity. So reports Virginia Business. And if Alden’s management style in Hampton Roads is any predictor, we can expect to see more newsroom consolidation. As advertising and subscriptions continue to erode, Alden executives have little choice. Legacy cost structures will not support larger organizations.

In Virginia that will leave the Washington Post, supported by the deep pockets of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and endowment-backed Virginia Public Media, as the main alternative sources for news, supplemented by digital publications such as The Virginia Mercury, Cardinal News, and the Virginia Public Access Project; blogs of varying editorial consistency and quality; and niche publications such as Virginia Business and Lawyer’s Weekly.

Uh, oh, I’m displaying my own bias in favor of print media. I suppose I should add television and talk radio to this list of media outlets. 

As I’ve often said, the only thing worse than a biased media is no media at all. Liberal media have huge blind spots, and they deserve repeated ass-kicking. But for all their failings, they do provide a measure of accountability for government officials. Even with skeletal news teams, they have broken important stories in the past year that the political class would have gladly kept quiet.

I am heartened by the proliferation of independent digital outlets, but I question whether they’ll ever have the resources and staying power to fill the void left by the old mainstream newspapers.

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23 responses to “Another Media Merger in the Works”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    It’s not like there is no media on the right. There is a ton of money supporting Conservative media including the Virginia Star, or Washington Examiner, Daily Signal and dozens of others, which certainly have the ability to function as an objective news organizations with a Conservative perspective, local perspective and investigative reporting but for the most part they choose not to and instead function mostly as mouthpieces for Conservative activism which compared to WaPo and biases puts WaPo to shame.

    Every day , 90+% of what WaPo publishes is honest and objective news without a political slant, and, in fact, WaPo is regularly cited by Conservatives for fact-based reporting when it suits their narrative.

    So why can’t Conservatives develop and fund a legitimate and credible newspaper? Not because of a lack of money, it’s a lack of interest.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Agreed. They want a steady drumbeat of confirmation of their biases (like Fox and MSNBC viewers). Virginia Star is a Trump campaign organ. Washington Examiner has merit but doesn’t do much Virginia coverage that I’ve seen. This place? Real news coverage gets buried in the rants; I’ve stopped trying. If I want readers, they want raw outrage. Favorite topics: masks and vaccines!

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        I don’t get a lot of comments here on the series I have written about K-12 public education in Virginia, but it feels good to report it. It also appears that some people who might actually change the vector of public education have read them.. They tend to contact me directly. Hope springs eternal.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Once again – to point out that Virginia does rank fairly high in national ranking of K-12. (top 10) A high percentage of Virginia kids go to college.

          Having said that, there are clearly equity problems that need to be addressed and yes, some of them are long-standing.

          But I don’t think tearing down public education and condemning it is reasonable at all and I don’t believe for a minute that Charter Schools are a legitimate answer.

          Even in places where there ARE charter schools, like Success, the vast majority of kids are still educated by public education and with a high percentage getting good enough educations to go into college and other jobs in the economy.

          And the stuff about CRT is pure BS that worked quite well as an election ploy but is not the truth in Va K-12. And CRT is not DE&I as claimed.

          DE&I is part of k-12 in states across the US and is found in NOGOs and even Corporations that want to attract diverse demographics.

          Polls of most blacks, Hispanics and other people of color confirm that there are still continuing issues in our schools , in society and in institutions and businesses…

          People that care about it want to do more about it. Others just reject it as if it does not exist. Some of it goes overboard, I agree, but the core of it is that it is real and there are people in leadership positions who feel that we need to make progress on it.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar

            “Once again – to point out that Virginia does rank fairly high in national ranking of K-12. (top 10) A high percentage of Virginia kids go to college.”

            Again, another poster with the mantra “if you repeat a lie often enough people will beleive it”

            Virginia doesn’t rank in the top 10 for K-12.

            Outside that, your incoherent rambling just makes people less intelligent for having to read it, as per usual.

          2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            You still don’t understand that charter schools are public schools. They are, whether you get it or not.

            If you reject the only proven solution to the problem of POC achievement in the public schools, successful charter management organizations, what is your proposed solution?

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            I do get it but the expectations for them exceed the realities of their ability as well as how they’d operate different from non-Charter schools.

            My solution? Includes Charters and even private but held to the same standards as public schools in terms of the demographics they serve as well as their academic standards and performance.

            Tell you what. How about you looking at the Hillsboro Charter and let me know what demographics they serve and what their academic performance is for Math and Reading and get back and tell me what you think in terms of that Charter being a model for more in Loudoun…

            how about it?

          4. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            I would never recommend Hillsboro as a model for any charter. I have already answered your other questions in earlier columns.

            If you want charters “held to the same standards as public schools in terms of the demographics they serve as well as their academic standards and performance.”
            you simply have not been following my work

            They serve by design the most challenging demographics and fare exceed any academic standards and performance. Done here.

  2. The Democrats and globalists didn’t like the outcome of the VA governors race. I am cynical. Put these two together and I come up with more consolidation of message. Like the memes everyone has seen where personality after news personality is parroting verbatim the party message.

    Expect more of the same from the Bezos news conglomerate and the locals as there becomes less options in print news.

    I hope smaller newspapers retain some independence and ability to speak truth to power but color me dubious as consolidation generally means tighter control of message.

  3. tmtfairfax Avatar

    It’s not the editorial pages. It’s the deliberate attempt of the news side of the house to manipulate what’s reported. Numerous outlets have reported that the New York Times suppressed an article on the Kenosha Riots until after the 2020 election. The Post won’t report on anything that is contrary to its editorial positions. Any stories on waste in Virginia state and local government? The great “we didn’t know about Ralph Northam’s blackface conduct.” And sometimes the editorial staff violates fundamental company policies by pressuring the news side what not to cover.

    When I moved here in 1984, I subscribed to the Post. I continued to do for years despite the editorial stance. But more and more I saw the news slanted or not reported based on how it related to editorial positions. We will decide what to report because we the news staff are much more important than customers. So when my wife said cancel the Post because it was getting too expensive, I agreed.

    I want news sources to report on the news irrespective of what the media outlet’s view on the issue. If papers started doing that, I’d certainly start subscribing to an online newspaper. No business that purposely ignores the needs and desires of customers will survive, unless it has a multi-billionaire owner.

  4. James Kiser Avatar
    James Kiser

    My local paper the News Virginian in Waynesboro generally runs stories from the Bozo’s Post and AP. Very few local stories.

  5. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    That is horrible, horrible news. “Alden executives have little choice” to consolidate in light of eroding subscriptions and advertising. That is a simplistic and misleading conclusion. Alden has a reputation of cannabilizing its acquisitions, selling assets and laying off staff to reduce expenses and increase profits. When staff get laid off, there is less news coverage, and, hence, fewer subscriptions. In other words, Alden creates the conditions that it then says have led them to close or consolidate papers. Lee Enterprises was bad enough, doubling the already-high print subscription price over the period of a year.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Remember what happened before Lee, it was BH Media.
      Berkshire Hathaway, Berkshire Hathaway Credit Corp.

      Too many people PREFER their “news” from other sources, shall we say….

      We’re in a mell of a hess as they say.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Berkshire was not bad. Warren Buffet supposedly had a soft spot for newspapers, having delivered them when he was a boy. He kept the RTD and others for awhile, then the finances overwhelmed that soft spot.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          He could not or would not do what Lee Enterprises did and probably had to do.

          To this point, from what I see – these Virginia papers have continued to maintain a local perspective and not become what the Virginia Star and it’s ‘star’ brothers are.

          I think the papers will survive – but with much smaller footprints, with administrative and similar positions consolidated to the top-level owners.

          Both the FLS and RTD now come in a PDF format – that still has some ADs but the reporter names are all over the articles… must be a crazy work life for them.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Business, Dick. Strictly business. Unless, it’s a hobby.

  6. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    File a complaint with the FTC about this sale and monopolization of news coverage in Virginia. It might actually work in this case.

  7. This is bad bad bad. I’ve always liked the RTD and RT, Jeff Schapiro at RTD is better than 1/2 of the columnists at the Post. The Atlantic did a really good deep dive into Alden Capital and their practices. If history is a guide, the late Baltimore Sun is the future of the RTD and RT.

  8. Donald Smith Avatar
    Donald Smith

    “But for all their failings, [liberal media outlets] do provide a measure of accountability for government officials.”

    That’s a fair point. But the leftist-leaning media is so biased that its credibility is not only tarnished but damaged. We’ve reached the point where we expect the MSM to not only ignore certain stories, but even distort them. (E.g; Kyle Rittenhouse, Russia collusion). Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald—none of them are Trumpers. All are former stars of the MSM, who will now tell you in detail how unreliable and biased it has become.

    The MSM seems to be threatening us: “If we close up shop, you’ll have no media at all—-what will you do then?” Well, we’ll create new news sources, like Bacon’s Rebellion. And, given the poor quality of the product the current MSM is generating, it might be a good thing if certain newspapers go out of business. If a newspaper decides that its goal is to mold and shape the news, instead of report it, it runs the risk that, at some point, their readers will catch on, and realize they’re being manipulated.

    Any business that chooses to sell crap deserves to go out of business. Think of it as Adam Smith’s invisible hand clenching into a fist and dealing a knockout blow to a business that deserved it.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      supposed to be a competitive market. What happened to the competitors on the right such that the “only” choice is MSM or nothing? No media on the right that is fair and objective and credible? No… and BR is not that by a country mile!

    2. tmtfairfax Avatar

      And look at what a great job the Post did in holding Northam accountable in two straight elections for his wearing blackface as an adult ready to practice medicine.

      To borrow from Bill Clinton “It all depends on who you mean as government officials.”

  9. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Bezos. Hearst. Bezos. Hearst. Meh. Time moves on.

  10. tmtfairfax Avatar

    Most people want local news. What’s going on in the community, city or county or region where they live? Yet, the media reports on what it thinks it wants to tell people. What’s going on in an Alabama election is more important than what’s going in Virginia elections. Darn, how did we miss Northam’s blackface for two election cycles?

    Later today, I have a call with a new client that contacted me about a specific problem. If I were the media, I’d tell the client – No, let’s talk about a different legal issue. The client would hang up and go elsewhere. I cannot figure out why media owners don’t get this.

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