Grounding our now in then

Who owns your local newspaper? Why should you care?


This morning, I was preparing a diatribe of a post.

It was sparked by news in the local daily about the efforts of one newspaper chain (Gannett) to buy another (Tribune Publishing).

Although Tribune resisted Gannett’s initial offer, the concluding quote of the story predicted eventual success for Gannett because the deal offered such a great return on the investment Tribune’s largest shareholder had made in that company just three months ago. Surely that shareholder, as well as Tribune’s other shareholders, would reach for the money and sell.

And so I began to write this post: Buy. Sell. Make money. Who is minding the long-term effect of such transactions on the communities served (a questionable verb) by the newspapers so traded?

Taking a break from my breathless drafting to search for a fact or two, I stumbled on a treasure, a three-part series from the American Journalism Review archives on the state of the American newspaper.

The articles, written by Mary Walton and published in May 1999, glued me to my screen from the first sentence to the last. Walton did a marvelously thorough job, presenting both broad picture and detail in a masterful fashion. Yes, her piece was written 17 years ago, but many of the players remain active on the giant monopoly board of American journalism.

Whatever I could have written for you pales in comparison — read on, and enjoy, Walton’s articles: “The Selling of Small-Town America.”

Author: TAM

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