The NewsGuild-CWA is urging shareholders of Lee Enterprises to rebuff the latest moves by Alden Global Capital to take control of the company.
In a March 1 letter, NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss urged “fellow shareholders” to vote for three nominees to the board of directors recommended by Lee’s current board — and to reject a campaign by Alden Global Capital against two of them, Mary E. Junck and Herbert W. Maloney III. Alden’s campaign against Lee’s candidates follows a February ruling by the Delaware Chancery Court rejecting Alden’s attempt to nominate its own candidates for the board in violation of Lee’s bylaws.
Alden “pretends that it is pushing for better corporate governance, greater corporate transparency, and better options for Lee shareholders,” Schleuss wrote. “This could not be further from the truth… In our opinion, Alden has done more to damage the news industry and undermine our democracy in the last decade than any other force.”
The NewsGuild represents more media workers than any other union in North America, including at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Buffalo News, Omaha World-Herald, Roanoke Times, and six other Lee newsrooms, Schleuss pointed out.
“Our members stand for journalism and organizations that create quality, fact-based journalism, which is vital for political accountability and democratic governance at all levels. That gives us one reason to oppose actions by Alden, since they have demonstrated time and again a consistent policy of profiting from liquidating rather than building news publishers,” he said.
“We are also shareholders who seek maximum value from our investment.”
Alden’s disregard for the long term in favor of short-term results can best be seen in newsrooms, Schleuss said. He quoted journalism expert Penny Muse Abernathy, who observed, “The loss of journalists always results in a loss of journalism, as editors have to make hard decisions about which stories to cover and which to ignore.”
Between 2010 and 2019, Lee reduced headcount by 46%, compared to 74.4% for Alden-controlled MediaNews Group news outlets organized by the NewsGuild. The percentage is likely higher at Alden news organizations without union representation. According to the Pew Research Center, the news industry lost 37% of jobs on average over that same period.
“Within a few years of acquiring a news organization, Alden hollows it out, taking a liquidation approach of selling off historic offices, shutting down printing plants and slashing staff, while hiking subscription prices,” Schleuss wrote. “Each of these steps reduces the access to important information and takes money and jobs out of our community. As the Vanity Fair correspondent Joe Pompeo remarked, Alden is indeed ‘the grim reaper of American newspapers.’”
The NewsGuild-CWA opposes Alden’s efforts to take control of Lee Enterprises “because we believe that quality journalism is essential for American democracy and that news publishing can still bring value to shareholders,” Schleuss concluded.
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