By T.J. Simers
It’s about as bad news as you can get in the newspaper business while still employed.
Alden Capital, a hedge fund based in New York, has bought the San Diego Union-Tribune from LA Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong.
Given recent layoffs and changes, is Patrick getting ready to dump the Times?
Alden has a well-earned reputation for getting rid of employees and bleeding a newspaper dry.
If you have a strong stomach and want to read about the complete devastation of the San Diego newspaper before it happens, check out a story in the Atlantic online in Nov. 2021 entitled, “Secretive Hedge Fund Gutting Newsrooms.”
I know about Alden because I went up against Alden in LA Superior Court. Alden was on the hook for the LA Times legal debt and Alden paid my attorney more than $1 million after nearly 10 years of litigation and three trial victories. They still owe millions in legal costs, which they are appealing. I hope they do well in San Diego.
But they are also known for not paying their bills, showing up at the papers they own, or having any problem firing successful journalists.
Alden will now be running the San Diego newspaper, undoubtedly putting an end to the journalism careers of some real pros. Two days after Alden bought the Chicago Tribune, employees were offered buyouts.
Between 2015 and 2017, Alden owning nearly 200 newspapers, laid off 36% of the workforce. I don’t know up to date numbers because I was in court.
As for Soon-Shiong, is this the beginning of the end for the LA Times, selling off a piece like the U-T, or a chance to focus on the Times’ property now? He still doesn’t own a press to print the Times, is in negotiations with the newspaper’s union for a new contract and no one seems to be throwing him a parade.
He has reportedly said he would like to have his daughter, who already works at the newspaper, run the show. The way editor Kevin Merida has fallen down on the job the prevailing opinion inside is he’s just going through the motions. Times for a change in leadership?
Many of the Times’ employees have feared the day when Patrick runs out of patience or realizes the Times is a money pit, fearing the unknown or Alden more than Patrick.
I know I regularly pass on my blogs to the laboratory where Patrick works on the cure for cancer to help as much as I can even though he’s registered as a tjpage2.blog follower. I wish he would also work on the cure for dying newspapers in his spare time.
If improving the newspaper is something that matters to Patrick, I would tell him former sports editor Bill Dwyre is contemplating a move elsewhere. And as messed up as sports is in the Times, Patrick ought to swoop in and try to keep Dwyre here a little longer to steady things.
As for the near future, you will get a front-page story in the newspaper tomorrow on the number of Black baseball players in the major leagues, tied to MLB’s move to take baseball out of Oakland, which has the largest Black representation city-wise. The story is written by Bill Shaikin, who writes about Dontrelle Willis, and I love Shaikin’s work, but I have a problem with this.
If the newspaper runs Shaikin’s story as the main piece on the front of sports that will be more than 18 hours after it was posted on the newspaper’s web site. The sports editor is urging newspaper readers to go online and get what they missed, but an 18-hour head start on the newspaper’s showcase story neuters the impact of getting it so bold and big on the front of the sports page a day later. Sports is now dull enough without taking away its daily splash.
Just my opinion.