Join more than 11,000 others demanding transparency from Alden Global Capital, the secretive owner decimating Digital First Media newspapers: “The public has a right to know about who owns the news outlets we depend on. Make your investments, investors and political donations transparent to the public.”
When billionaire Randall Smith bought a $3.6 million mansion at 341 Hibiscus Avenue in Palm Beach County, the ownership papers traced back to a prestigious address in midtown Manhattan: Suite 1940 at 885 Third Avenue, better known as the Lipstick Building.
Suite 1940 has served as the real estate command center for Smith’s Alden Global Capital, a so-called “vulture hedge fund” that specializes in buying distressed newspapers, then stripping them of assets and staff to make the deals pay off.
Inside the Alden–Fred’s pharmacy $100 million debacle
In the book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, author Michael Lewis asks:
“What are the odds that people will make smart decisions about money if they don’t need to make smart decisions — if they can get rich making dumb decisions?”
Less than a year ago, Alden Global Capital, the owner of the Digital First Media newspaper chain, made a losing bet. But like all creative hedge fund investors, Alden has managed to make up for its losses in an unlikely arena: America’s newspapers.
At the time of its gamble, staff at DFM papers across the country were suffering through ever-steeper cutbacks, layoffs and buyouts — with the company’s newsrooms shriveling at twice the national rate. Through it all, Alden demanded the papers keep producing profits. And they did.
Editor’s note: The following is an open letter to Digital First Media’s Philadelphia-area publisher Edward Condra from Evan Brandt, an award-winning reporter from the Pottstown (Pennsylvania) Mercury. It has been slightly shortened from the original version.
From: Evan Brandt Date: 8/13/17 2:03 PM (GMT-05:00) To: Edward Condra Subject: I am ashamed ….
… to look at our front pages today.
Ed, you once chided me for venting on Facebook about our failures and poor judgement as a company and said I should give you a chance to fix it first.
This is it.
As you may know, certainly not from reading any of our papers or visiting most of our web sites, there was a major incident in Charlottesville Virginia that an entire nation is talking about.
There is no morning mention of it anywhere on the front pages of the majority of DFM’s proud properties.
Last-minute layoffs target long-time workers, hit newsrooms hard
OAKLAND — More news workers have been laid off at Digital First Media newspapers as the company approaches its new fiscal year on July 1.
The layoffs appear to be targeting long-time newsroom employees as well as management in the newspapers’ human resources departments.
After three people in an already bare-bones newsroom were given two weeks’ notice at The Monterey Herald, five more California news workers were let go this week from the Bay Area News Group (BANG), which includes the East Bay Times (Oakland) and the Mercury News (San Jose). Four of the five were women.
The news hit BANG employees hard as they were still reeling from last month’s copy desk layoffs that followed a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.
UPDATE: At least two other DFM papers laid off workers this week: the Denver Post announced the layoffs of four Guild-covered employees and at least two managers in inside circulation, while the East Bay Times — whose staff was recently hit with layoffs days after winning the Pulitzer Prize — has laid off two advertising employees.
MONTEREY — The Monterey Herald laid off three news workers Wednesday, leaving an already minimally staffed newsroom stripped to bare bones.
The layoffs come just weeks after The Herald’s staff won five awards and two honorable mentions from the California News Publishers Association for environmental and business reporting, writing, photo illustration and best front pages.
The workers — two longtime newsroom employees and the paper’s obituary clerk — were given two weeks’ notice.
“When I miss a meeting, these days most often due to a threadbare staff, officials literally say ‘The Mercury’s not here, what should we get done?’” —Evan Brandt, reporter at the Pottstown (Pa.) Mercury
November will mark the 20 years since Evan Brandt came to Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
It was November, 1997 when he was hired as a reporter for The Mercury, the smallest circulation daily ever to win two Pulitzer Prizes.
Both Pulitzers were awarded long before Brandt arrived in this economically hobbled rust belt town on the banks of the Schuylkill River, but it does indicate the quality and initiative of the newsroom he joined — at least at the time.
In my first week at a new reporting job in 2004, I received a shock while covering a city council meeting in Pacific Grove, California. The city was unveiling a proposed low-income housing plan. The stunning part came when I realized I actually qualified under the salary my newspaper was paying me. I, a college-educated professional working full time, was officially “low income.”
Things haven’t gotten any better for my colleagues in the news business.
A new report by an online rental listing service says that as journalists’ wages have fallen, rents have “increased steadily.” The report, published in the “Rentonomics” section of ApartmentList.com, looked at 10 years of Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census data, from 2005-2015.