Media. Who is killing American newspapers?

A vulture perched on a newspaper distributor where the Chicago Tribune : this is what shows The Atlantic on the cover of its November edition. The American magazine looks at an opaque New York hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, which controls more than 200 newspapers in the United States. Its way of operating, says the cultural periodical, harms democracy.

The men who kill American newspapers ”, title The Atlantic. The influential American magazine publishes a long article on the hedge fund Alden Global Capital and its two co-founders, Randall Smith and Heath Freeman, “Who have spent years emptying the newsrooms”.

Recent and striking example, the magazine notes: the Chicago Tribune. The daily founded in 1847 “Who had supported Abraham Lincoln” and a “Collected dozens of Pulitzer Prizes” no longer housed in the Tribune Tower, a neo-Gothic-style skyscraper erected in 1925, but in modest premises located in an industrial area. Two days after acquiring the Chicago Tribune, last May, without having bothered to speak to the employees of the newspaper, Alden Global Capital began a series of job cuts. “When it was over, a quarter of the editorial staff was gone.”

Profit at all costs

The Atlantic traces the rise of the hedge fund that began to acquire newspaper titles at the end of the 2008 economic crisis. It now controls more than 200, including some of the most influential in the country, such as the Chicago Tribune or The Baltimore Sun where the New York Daily News.

Little is known about the septuagenarian recluse Smith and his 41-year-old protégé, Freeman ”, writes the magazine. Their way of operating is simple, according to experts: Cut staff, sell real estate assets, increase subscription prices, […] to get as much money as possible ”.

The periodical traces the story of journalist John Glidden, from Vallejo Times-Herald, acquired by the hedge fund. After becoming the sole reporter for this Californian newspaper, Glidden was fired last spring after confiding in the Washington Post.

Serial security closings

It’s easy to get a romantic take on journalism’s past eras, analyze The Atlantic. The families who controlled the publications could be conceited, clumsy, even corrupt. But most of them also had an interest in the communities their newspapers served. ”

More than a quarter of American newspaper headlines have disappeared in the past fifteen years, and “Today half of the dailies are controlled by financial companies”, indicated The Atlantic, which concludes:

When a local newspaper disappears, research shows it tends to correspond to lower voter turnout, increased polarization, and widespread erosion of civic mobilization. ”


Anticipation is one of the strengths of The Atlantic since its creation in 1857. This venerable publication, where write the most prestigious pens of the moment, knew better than any other American magazine to take the


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Media. Who is killing American newspapers?

Hank Gilbert