In August, when most newspaper employees had been working remotely for months, Tribune announced that it was permanently closing the physical newsroom of The Daily News. That announcement was quickly followed by the company’s shuttering of the newsrooms of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.; The Orlando Sentinel; The Carroll County Times in Westminster, Md.; and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. In December, the newsroom at another Tribune daily, The Hartford Courant, which has been in operation since 1764, went dark.
In the proposal letter to the Tribune board, Mr. Smith of Alden said that his company had engaged in conversations with Stewart Bainum Jr., a business executive and onetime politician in Maryland, to gauge his “interest in respect of certain assets of Tribune.” Tribune’s Maryland publications include The Sun, The Capital Gazette and The Carroll County Times of Westminster.
Mason Slaine, a former chief executive of Thomson Financial who owns roughly 7 percent of Tribune’s shares, has publicly suggested that Tribune try to sell individual newspapers to interested buyers. Mr. Slaine, who has a home in Boca Raton, Fla., has expressed interest in buying a Tribune paper, The Sun Sentinel of South Florida.
Revenue for the local news industry has plummeted over the past 15 years as readers have increasingly favored getting the news on screens rather than in print newspapers. Alden and other hedge funds have nonetheless been able to wring profits from newspaper chains through austere management practices, and the finance industry has driven a wave of consolidation in the news media business.
In 2019, Gannett, the publisher of USA Today, was acquired by New Media Investment Group, the parent company of GateHouse Media, to create a behemoth (called Gannett) that publishes approximately one in five of the country’s daily newspapers. The supersized version of Gannett was created thanks to nearly $2 billion in financing from Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm.
In 2020, the last of the major family-owned chains, McClatchy, emerged from bankruptcy as the property of Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey hedge fund. Chatham also owns a majority stake in Postmedia, one of Canada’s largest newspaper publishers. Since it took over the Canadian media company, 1,600 of its employees have been laid off, and more than 30 publications have been shut down.