The Death of Newspapers
Today the NewsGuild rallies against hedge funds taking out news as we know it
16 mansions on Palm Beach in Florida, all owned by shell corporations and paid for with pink slips from some of the most important local newspapers in the country. This is the reality for one hedge fund billionaire who is coming under scrutiny for his vulture capitalist tactics.
Across the country, small local newspapers are being bought up and closed by national companies. Often times the local reporters and staff don’t even know who bought the newspaper or who is firing them. Instead, an army of Wall St. suits walk in, strip the news room down to bare bones, extracting all of the wealth they can from the company and then leave. One such company, Alden Global Capital, has bought up newspapers under the name Digital First Media, and then either closed or radically downsize them. Some of the papers that this occurred at include the San Jose Mercury News, The Denver Post and the Oakland Tribune.
The impact of these papers shutting down is enormous. Without local newspapers, there is no one to cover City Council meetings, to investigate local politicians, or report on local high school sporting events. As more and more papers have been bought up by these companies, staff has dropped. In 2009 there were 46,700 full time journalists, but by 2015, that number had dropped to 32,900. There are now less and less people who are reporting the news and holding powerful people accountable.
On October 19th, hedge fund billionaires, including reclusive Alden CEO Randall Smith, met at a Robin Hood Investors Conference to discuss new ways to destroy the free media in the United States. They were met with protests, both online and in person, that were being led by the NewsGuild. Smith is being targeted since he is the founder of Alden Capital and has bought 16 mansions with the wealth that he has extracted from bleeding these newspapers dry. The message is simple, stop being vulture investors that buy up newspapers for their assets so that they can buy another multi-million-dollar mansion. According to the NewsGuild, Smith’s plan is a simple one, buy a bunch of newspapers, pillage them, fire reporters, so no one will be left to report on it. Then they use their ill-gotten gains to buy another mansion. One has to wonder how many more newspapers must die to fund another mansion for Smith and his Wall St. cronies.
The NewsGuild will be keeping their campaign going through tomorrow. You can join the campaign by tweeting with the hashtag