Good News for Corruptocrats

by Kerry Dougherty

Listen closely.

Hear that?

That’s the sound of champagne corks popping as local corruptocrats and sleazy businessmen celebrate the continued demise of local newspapers.

I’m talking, of course, about The Virginian-Pilot. Or what’s left of it.

And The Daily Press.

Perhaps you heard. On Friday, shareholders of The Tribune Company, which owns The Pilot, The Press, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The New York Daily News, The Orlando Sentinel and about 70 other newspapers, approved a sale of the company to Alden Global Capital — a hedge fund that Vanity Fair once described as “the grim reaper of American newspapers.”

Terrible news for Southeastern Virginia.

This move has been in the works for more than a year. The New York Times raised the alarm this way in 2020:

Alden, a hedge fund that has already amassed a media empire of roughly 200 newspapers nationwide, made its first big move on Tribune Publishing in 2019 when it took a 32 percent stake, making it the publisher’s largest shareholder…

Now Alden’s endgame is coming into sharper focus. In a Dec. 14 letter to the Tribune board that became public in a federal regulatory filing on Thursday, Alden proposed buying the Tribune shares it did not already own for $14.25 apiece. That would be 11 percent more than the Wednesday closing price for Tribune, a publicly traded company…

Revenue for the local news industry has plummeted over the past 15 years as readers have increasingly favored getting the news on screens rather than in print newspapers. Alden and other hedge funds have nonetheless been able to wring profits from newspaper chains through austere management practices, and the finance industry has driven a wave of consolidation in the news media business.

“Austere management practices” is a polite way of saying that hedge funds like Alden buy struggling newspapers, sell off assets, slash costs to the bone and slurp up advertising revenue, vampire-style.

This does not result in good journalism. Then again, that doesn’t seem to be the goal.

The last thing The Pilot needs right now is more austere management. It’s suffered through more than a decade of that.

The Washington Post once described Alden’s business model this way:

Alden has made a business out of gobbling newspapers, ruthlessly cutting costs and gutting the staff and then, cutting even more when the product is invariably damaged.

NPR notes that at unionized papers, Alden has cut staff by 75%.

Uh-oh. Pilot staff writers unionized in 2018.

Hedge funds like to liquidate newspapers, selling them off for parts. Not that there’s much left to sell locally.

The Tribune company sliced and diced both The Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot in the past three years. When The Pilot was sold to what was then called “Tronc” in 2018, staff was assured that there would be no merger with its sister paper on the Peninsula.


It wasn’t long before The Pilot and The Press were sharing editors. When The Pilot’s 84-year-old building at 150 W. Brambleton Avenue was sold in 2019, Pilot staffers were told to report to the Press offices in Newport News. A year later, those, too were closed. Now neither newspaper has office space.

Unthinkable and unsustainable.

And it isn’t just newsroom employees who suffered. Last summer Tribune management closed The Pilot’s Virginia Beach printing plant, moving the print operation to Richmond. That cost 132 jobs.

When I was hired by The Pilot in 1984 the paper not only had the downtown Norfolk newsroom, but maintained bustling bureaus in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk. The newspaper also had a good-sized operation in Richmond, an office in Washington and bureaus in Raleigh, Ahoskie, Elizabeth City, Nags Head, Hampton and on the Eastern Shore at one time or another.

Pilot reporters blanketed the military, the statehouse and local cities with unrivaled coverage.

At its peak in the late 1990s, full-time employees in the Pilot newsroom numbered about 298. Layoffs and buyouts began around 2008 and one by one the bureaus closed. By 2014, the most recent year for which I can find a newsroom headcount, there were only 105 workers.

There are far fewer today.

The reporters who remain on staff are working from their homes. If they can afford homes, that is. They may be working out of their cars.

Yes, I hear from many of you who are disgusted with the liberal editorials in The Virginian-Pilot. You lament the lack of timely, comprehensive local coverage. Many of you have cancelled your subscriptions.

I hear you. And your complaints are valid.

But what do you expect from a small staff of mostly young reporters who lack the sort of experienced, crusty editors that trained, berated and toughened up reporters of my generation? Those old-timers made us write and rewrite copy. They sent us back to conduct more interviews, find more documents, ask more questions. They made us stay late at night until we got it right. Nothing got in print until they were satisfied.

How can a newspaper operate when most of its experience and historical knowledge was pushed out the door years ago in a series of blockheaded cost-cutting moves?

For those who remember The Pilot when it was one of the great dailies in America, the place where all of Tidewater went for in-depth reporting about everything from city halls to the military to shenanigans in Richmond, this latest development is catastrophic.

The Virginian-Pilot was the largest newspaper in Virginia with aggressive investigative reporters who collected scalps without regard to politics or special interests. The journalists won awards and put people in prison with their excellent reporting.

Corrupt politicians and businessmen — and Lord knows there are plenty of them — can breathe easy.

It won’t be long until a hedge fund is running the newspaper.

This column is republished with permission from Kerry; Unemployed & Unedited.

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51 responses to “Good News for Corruptocrats”

  1. John Martin Avatar
    John Martin

    it is just plain wrong

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      It is, of course, the ultimate end of capitalism. Price of everything, value of nothing.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    The thing about hedge funds and the like is that they are fiscal vultures that are doing what has to be done when a business entity dies.

    I think it’s a HOOT that Kerry is invoking quotes from the NYT and WaPo to describe the issue!

    I would think as much as Kerry rails against the media these days, that she would be singing “good riddance” but something inside her might be warning that the “replacement news”, like FOX, and Facebook, and far-right blogs and talk radio that spew disinformation and conspiracy theories might not be a good thing longer term.

    The thing is – ALL OF US – for decades – were more than willing to let the media be the gatekeeper of information.

    And now, we actually have to hunt down the facts ourselves… but we are often not up to the task… given the fire hose of “alternative news”.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        Personally love that song. Banned! Offensive lyrics. Better substitute this one instead.

  3. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    That’s the free market for you… alas…

  4. vicnicholls Avatar

    Kerry needs to get a clue. This is not 1980’s. This is nothing but propaganda. I don’t see anything local, and even when the paper was here, the deal was, access to the elected officials, etc. would be lost if the VP or any one else told the truth on them. Where is the VP with the handicapped discrimination at Chesapeake City Council? They’ve never been there.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Uh oh. Is this a feet of clay thingy?

  5. tmtfairfax Avatar

    I think the downsizing is great. When a company holds many of its customers in contempt be they African Americans or conservatives, you must expect big declines in readership, which, in turn, drives down advertising revenues, that causes the needs for more retrenchment.

  6. DJRippert Avatar

    Let’s see … a badly run and backwards industry was unable to keep up with the times. Customers fled, losses mounted and companies in that industry went under. Then along comes evil capitalism to finally put an end to a dumpster fire of an industry. How sad. Better that Slow Joe Biden pushes for yet more taxes to artificially prop up an industry fewer and fewer people find relevant.

    As far as being good news for corruptocrats … the media hasn’t chased down corruptocrats in decades.

    Ralph Northam’s blackface / klan / Coonman yearbook?
    Justin Fairfax’s multiple accusations of forcible rape?
    Cuomo’s endless accusations of harassment?
    Terry McAuliffe’s absurd GreenTech flim-flam?
    Roy Moore’s sexual assault of teens when Moore was in his 30s?
    John Conyers multiple accusations of sexual harassment?
    Elliott Spitzer’s involvement with a prostitution ring?

    How many years did these scandals lie dormant while America’s superhero press corps wandered around in a haze?

    One reason people stopped reading newspapers is because they missed some much of the corruptocrats bad behavior over the many years.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Youngkin… Trump AND Cruz.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        McAuliffe …. Hillary AND Alexandria Occasional Cortex

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          What do you care? If I recall you claim to be a Libertarian, or as is better known, “a not-my-fault wasted vote”.

          1. DJRippert Avatar

            I supported McAuliffe when he ran against Cuccinelli. I voted for McAuliffe. That was a mistake. Won’t happen again. Unless something disastrous comes out – you know, like appearing in blackface with a date in klan robes – I’ll be voting for Youngkin.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            yeah, this guy will win those NoVa votes for Youngkin !


            If I were the Dems – I’d be tying Youngkin to Trump – kiss of death!

          3. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            You can’t “tie” Youngkin to *rump and Cruz. They’re surgically attached.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            I think it says something about Youngkin that he brought in Cruz in the first place and worse, he’s going to send him away come the general election.

            MUCHO bad judgement! Won’t win him votes from non-base voters.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            yeah, this guy will win those NoVa votes for Youngkin !


            If I were the Dems – I’d be tying Youngkin to Trump – kiss of death!

          6. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            A mistake compare to the Cooch? Gimme a break. It was a sad choice, but comparatively it was the mistake of stepping out of the way of the bus and being hit by the bicycle.

  7. emjak Avatar

    Hedge funds may be acting as vultures by preying on ailing newspapers, but it is important to also consider why so many newspapers are ailing so badly that they become vulnerable and attractive to the vultures.

    There has been some reporting on the role of Big Tech (e.g., Google and Facebook) in contributing to the decline of ad revenues to print newspapers that warrants consideration.

    See, e.g., Joanne Lipman, “Tech overlords Google and Facebook have used monopoly to rob journalism of its revenue”, USA Today (June 11, 2019) available at


    Johannes Munter, “FTC’s Google memos underline the need for legislation to balance online marketplace (March 30, 2021) at

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      The biggest problem for American newspapers is a lack of readership, especially among younger people.

      “U.S. newspaper circulation fell in 2018 to its lowest level since 1940, the first year with available data. Total daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) was an estimated 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday in 2018. Those numbers were down 8% and 9%, respectively, from the previous year. Both figures are now below their lowest recorded levels, though weekday circulation first passed this threshold in 2013.”

      Newspapers aren’t losing readers because they have too few ads. They are losing readers because they have too little to say that interests people.

      Facebook and Google are guilty of a lot of sins but diverting people away from newspapers is just life in the fast lane.

      Can you point to one innovative newspaper in Virginia?

      1. emjak Avatar

        You are correct that poor quality is a contributing factor in the current plight of newspapers. But, I didn’t say that Facebook and Google were diverting people away from newspapers.

        I pointed to some reporting that Facebook and Google were contributing to the loss of ad revenue by newspapers, which would contribute to their financial weakness. I used to word “contributing” specifically because I did not want to say or imply that Big Tech was the sole cause of the loss of ad revenues. And, the word “contributing” does not deny, exclude or rule out the presence or existence of other, additional factors.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        If all of this is true – then how come BR – and you – quote WaPo, NYT and Va Mercury almost every other day?

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          They are the last of what’s left. I don’t want to start even more of a brouhaha here but I personally think the Millennials (with minds warped by a lousy education system) just aren’t interested enough in the world around them to be bothered with news.

          Maybe as they mature and have kids they will become interested in politics, foreign affairs, news, etc.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      It’s not that people don’t want “news”. They do but they get it from other means than traditional paper media.

      No big secret – they’re “reading” their freaking phones while they drive! FB, and a plethora of blogs and folks can say what they want about media “bias” but anyone who has read stuff on FB or some of these blogs or right wing media – “bias” is the least of what they do?

      We have people who believe conspiracy theories, lies, disinformation, you name it even as they blame conventional media for “bias”.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        Conventional media is biased. There are a few exceptions. Lester Holt does his best to just tell the truth. The Wall Street Journal tries to present both sides of the story. But after that … ? Not much. You have to read at least two sources and then try to strip off the bias. Too much work for most people.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          If conventional media is biased (and it is), then what is right wing media?


          Just about every right wing “media” I’ve seen does 10 times as bad on “bias” – just out right misinformation, lies and conspiracy theories…. I think they compete against each other to see who can be the best at it.

  8. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Yes, but maybe they can do for newspapers what they’re doing for hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and nursing homes… oh wait.

    Hmm, busineses whose only product…. Henry Ford, methinks.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      What do you expect? They’re ALL Corruptocrats!

      The world is going to hell in a hand-basket:

  9. DJRippert Avatar

    Another example of why people don’t care about newspapers ….

    The Washington Post goes out of its way (in July 2020) to discredit a State Department cable that says Coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan rather than from somebody eating a bat.

    The Post wanted to discredit Trump more than it wanted actual investigative reporting about the origins of COVID-19.

    Now there is evidence that personnel from that lab were getting sick in November, 2019.

    The Post had no interest in following up on the possibility that the virus came from a lab studying coronaviruses rather than a market serving cooked bats. Why? Because self-loathing liberals are committed to hating the United States and loving America’s enemies. The possibility that the virus escaped a virus lab would throw shade on the Chinese Communist Party and that’s contrary to the Post’s editorial board policies.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      It seems that you are going out of your way to dis the Post. The State Department did not release the full text of the cable until the Post filed sued with its FOIA requests were not responded to. So, instead of going out of its way to discredit the cable, the newspaper went out its way to get the text of the cable. And, when it got the text, it turns out the cable did not say ”

      Coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan rather than from somebody eating a bat.” Rather, it said that that the lab “has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.” That is serious, but it is not the same as saying that COVID-19 originated from this lab.

      Furthermore, the genetics of the virusues being studied at the lab were different than those that showed up in sick people in Wuhan.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        The Post is my hometown newspaper so it gets the honor of lots of my disrespect.

        The problem I have with the Post is that they put the question of the origin of the Coronavirus on the backburner. They have endless time to pursue unsubstantiated claims of systemic racism at VMI but no time to keep pressing on the origin of Coronavirus. Now evidence is coming to the fore that the lab may well be the source.

  10. DJRippert Avatar

    Another example of American news BS:

    The Washington Post commenting on recent attacks on Jews has this to say –

    “Borgen, the New York man attacked last week, likened the assault on him to violence targeting Asian Americans, which appeared to increase after President Donald Trump and other elected officials began referring to “the China virus” as the cause of the coronavirus pandemic, which experts say probably originated with an outbreak in Wuhan, China.”

    Must be White supremacist Trump supporters I guess.

    Fortunately for us, the British newspaper Daily Mail isn’t afraid to publish the actual videos, pictures and name those arrested. It doesn’t seem like Trump supporting white supremacists at all.

    American newspapers are failing because they can’t be trusted to report the facts. People don’t like to be deceived and that’s why the newspapers are dying.

    1. But the WaPo Obits described Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as an imminent Islamic scholar, of course….what’s not to like…..

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        Exactly. People stopped reading newspapers (even online) because newspapers stopped providing value. They are inconvenient, overpriced, biased, etc.

        Larry actually got one right. Hedge funds and PE firms are like vultures. They show up over sick, dying and dead animals to scavenge the remains. But they didn’t kill the animals. In the case of US newspapers, it was suicide.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          But you’re STILL quoting WaPo. You’ve not stopped reading, obviously just got more and more critical but still reading!

          Same with other critics here. Slam WaPo one day, quote the dooda out of them the next. kinda hypocritical, no?

          1. DJRippert Avatar

            I don’t have a subscription to the Washington Post. Every so often I get access to a few free articles. I usually quote the Post to show bias. Or to help set up a progressive argument to debate.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            You KNOW , there is at least 4 articles on the wuhan institute in the last few days.

            You accuse WaPo of bias and/or ignoring news – like the Wuhan thing…

            But you almost never QUOTE other news sources that you would claim are better than WaPo and instead quote WaPo.

            Same with Bacon and company – ya’ll rip WaPo left and right – then on the next blog quote the wazoo out of them!!

          3. DJRippert Avatar

            I saw it first on the Wall Street Journal, which, as I have said … seems willing to present both sides of a story.

            WSJ <> Washington Post


  11. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    This is a death knell for those two newspapers. I have to agree with Kerry–a healthy newspaper is needed to keep the politicians honest, or, at least, to expose the corrupt and shady dealings. I agree further with her comments on the quality of the Pilot. At one time, it was the best newspaper in the state.

    The newspaper industry was caught flat-footed with the advent of digital and was slow to respond. In fact, for a long time, it was allowing free access to its content. The hated (on BR) New York Times and Washington Post have adapted and are doing well. I despair for other newspapers.

    Speaking of hedge funds and greedy corporate owners, I just got another notice from the Richmond Times-Dispatch of a rate increase–the third such increase in a little over a year. The cost for home delivery of a paper, along with digital access, will be $74.96 per month! That is a 31% increase over the current cost. Since the sale of the RTD by Berkshire Hathway to Lee Enterprises in 2020, the monthly subscription cost will have increased by 170% with this new announced rate. I really like settling down with a cup of tea and reading an actual physical paper, but I don’t like being a sucker for a greedy company in Davenport, Iowa. I called today and cancelled the delivery and switched to just digital access.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Yep. The renewal for the print version of the Free Lance Star was $440. Same folks that own RTD. Wife was able to talk them “down” to $300 and some.

      I don’t buy that people are not reading the “news”. Hells Bells, 3/4 of the right wing outrage is what they read in WaPo and NYT!

      Like the Shapiro thing…They can’t “NOT” read his articles! 😉

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Yes, they may read the Post and the Times, but those papers cover the national news, along with New York and some Washington suburb coverage. But they don’t the city council in Virginia Beach or the Board of Supervisors in the rest of Virginia. The local coverage will be what is lacking.

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      “The newspaper industry was caught flat-footed with the advent of digital and was slow to respond.”


      And then they tried to respond by becoming biased social media type sites, in both directions … right and left.

      The Australians tried an interesting approach of making the social media giants pay a fee anytime one of their users posts material or a link to a newspaper.

      I kind of like that idea.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I like the Australian idea, too.

  12. Paul Sweet Avatar
    Paul Sweet

    I cancelled my RTD subscription several years when they started posting state employee’s salaries on-line. 8 page local weeklies aren’t much of a substitute.

    The problem with on-line newspapers is that the last thing I need is another password to remember, and signing up for even more spam.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Paul – you need a password manager my man!

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I will probably have more time after I stop getting the paper delivered. I find that I read much more of a “real” paper than I do of the on-line version.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar

    All this “talk” about ‘investigative” journalism and holding local and state officials “accountable”.

    Yep – local news is as useless as a teat on a warthog!

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Democracy Thieves in Sunlight

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Conservatives -” everything sucks, we need to tear it all down and start over, starting with government”!

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