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.