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Journalists Demand Owners Put Quality News Before Profits
Watch video of Pulitzer winner Thomas Peele at the Oakland rally
We are journalists of the Bay Area News Group, which includes The Mercury News, East Bay Times and affiliated news organizations.
Our team won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest honor, for breaking news coverage of the deadly Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland.
We have dedicated our careers to informing the community through high-quality journalism. Every day, we strive to live up to principles enshrined in the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. One of these principles calls on journalists to “expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.”
Today, we the journalists of the East Bay Times and Mercury News, joined by our colleagues throughout the region and all around the country, are taking action in accord with that principle by publicly denouncing the ongoing destruction of our newsrooms at the hands of our company’s owners, a secretive Wall Street hedge fund, Alden Global Capital.
We are distressed by the loss of valued colleagues, forced to depart in repeated rounds of layoffs ordered on behalf of Alden, the majority owner of Digital First Media, the nation’s second largest newspaper chain, which includes the Bay Area News Group. Some of the deepest job cuts came just days after we won the Pulitzer. And the layoffs continue to this day — with more to come.
We understand that a business needs to make a profit. We also acknowledge the challenges facing the entire news industry, particularly the newspaper business, which has forced all of us to invent new ways of gathering, distributing and monetizing journalism.
But the broad industry trends are not what’s driving corporate-level strategy at Digital First Media. DFM is profitable. It’s just not been profitable enough for Alden Global Capital.
Alden’s slash-and-burn policies are gutting newsrooms, undermining the public trust upon which communities deeply depend. Make no mistake; these cuts are not the doing of local managers across the country. They are the fault of Alden’s leaders, whose actions are repeated attacks on democracy by destroying newspapers meant to be a check on government and corporate power. Alden Global is a true enemy of the American people.
The company is making money. “Your company continues to outperform its peers in virtually every category,” DFM COO Guy Gilmore wrote in a company-wide email last month.
Alden’s goal, according to a respected news industry analyst, is to extract maximum profits before shutting down or selling whatever is left of our company in two or three years.
“There is no long-term strategy other than milking and continuing to cut,” said Harvard Nieman Lab’s Ken Doctor. “Their view is that in 2021, they’ll deal with that then. Whatever remnants are there, they’ll try to find a buyer.”
We can’t shrink our way to success.
We are calling for new ownership willing to invest in journalism as we reinvent ourselves for the digital landscape, ensuring our long-term survival so that we may continue to be of service to the public as the framers of the Constitution intended.
Co-Chairs, BANG-East Bay Guild Unit
Co-Chairs, Mercury News Guild Unit