Polish the chrome and you’re OK, right?

Want to buy a newspaper company? No? You’re in good company.

The Chicago Sun-Times is the kind of trophy that once appealed to deep-pocketed buyers. It has a big audience in a big market, a storied name, and stars like Roger Ebert and Robert Novak. The Sun-Times Media Group, owner of the flagship paper and dozens of smaller suburban papers, said in February that it wanted to sell assets or maybe the entire company. The chief executive, Cyrus Freidheim Jr., said May 8 that “a large number of parties” had asked to see the books, and that the company expected to field offers by the end of that month.

Since then, silence.

This is no isolated case. While all publicly traded newspaper companies have seen their share prices fall in the last year — drops of 50 to 70 percent are commonplace — some have tumbled so far that any number of bargain hunters could snap up a controlling interest, despite the credit squeeze. But they haven’t…

The story has changed fundamentally,” said Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst with Outsell, a research firm. “A year ago, the conventional wisdom was, ‘Yep, there are problems out there, but there’s still significant value.’ Now, it’s ‘Run away.’ “

John has focused on the incompetence of beancounters making the decisions which rule at newspapers in trouble: “Losing money? Let’s fire the writers and editors who bring consumers to the paper!” I think he’s got it right.

  1. bobbo says:

    Not having “star” writers on staff, star editors is surely the cause at a few papers “but” you could have said the same thing about makers of buggy whips around 1910. By 1920 it was clear the age of the horse and carriage had passed.

    Looks to me JCD is right about 1915 in his thinking right now.

  2. Improbus says:

    I haven’t read my home town paper (The Kansas City Star) in years. Hell, I only occasionally glance at a Weekend USAToday. I get almost all of my news from the web. If news papers aren’t dead yet they will be soon.

  3. QB says:

    Meanwhile, magazine sales are up.

  4. sinn fein says:

    The problem now is we’re going to have to figure out a way to line the bottom of our bird cages with liberalidiot blogs…bird dropping poop would certainly bump up their value.

  5. Angel H. Wong says:


    And hateful, xenophobic, ethnocentric classist conservative media is better?

  6. Mongo says:

    Except that Robert Novak just retired due to his devastating prognosis and Ebert has been unable to talk for two years due another health problem.

    The Sun-Times still has 2 years left on Richard Roeper’s contract and others great columnists like Neil Steinberg, Mark Brown, Mary Mitchell and Carol Marin, but they all, like most S-T employees, gotta expect the ax could hit them at any time.

    I read the papers on the web, which I know doesn’t put much, if any money, in their pockets. I will not subscribe because I have no time or inclination to deal with a larger stack of paper in the house.

    It’s sad that newspapers can’t seem to figure out a profitable business model. We DO need them. All of the online blogs and snark sites need the papers to initiate the stories.

    I was thinking recently that I would be agreeable to paying a reasonable subcription fee, say $19-$29 a year, for online access to newspaper sites. I know the New York Times tried that and failed but as I recall the fee was a lot higher. The papers should add a tip jar and see if they can get a few bucks that way.

  7. bobbo says:

    #6–Mongo==that is the interesting question. I’ve read before that “news” all comes from the AP Wire service often times word for word and that it is “structured” for short, medium, and long versions of whatever is being covered.

    So–lets imagine a world without newspapers. Whats left? Official reports from our government with a few cable news shows regurgitating same? Gee==thats what I have been experiencing for 10 years now.

    Let her rip.

  8. Dallas says:

    Why they failed? Because biased reporting need to also entertain. Note the success of Fox news. You can’t have a clown show on paper.

    I quit my paper subscription to the Dallas Morning News 6 years ago when they became GOP shills. All of their reporting was Bush and religious opinion shit by way of cherry picked letters to the editor and bigot columns.

    If you want unbiased news, you get it from multiple news sources on the Internet and blogs.

  9. MikeN says:

    Wow, Dallas really is from Dallas!

  10. MikeN says:

    I once cancelled the SunTimes thinking the people I talked to would be like AOL and would try to talk me into continuing(I wanted them to deliver to my door). Instead they just said, OK your subscription is cancelled.

  11. Dallas says:

    #9 Yes! However, I’ll admit that is not my real name but rather an attempt to represent from what part of the country I am from.

    I do not use my real name because I am a liberal coward.

  12. Uncle Patso says:

    # 2 Improbus said:

    “I haven’t read my home town paper (The Kansas City Star) in years. Hell, I only occasionally glance at a Weekend USAToday. I get almost all of my news from the web. If news papers aren’t dead yet they will be soon.”

    My question is how much of the online news you read is about Kansas City and environs? How do you hear about interesting events coming up in your area? How your local schools are doing? How is the city dealing with drainage problems, and how close to the problem areas are you? Who is your mayor and do you know his wife’s name? What are your mayor and governor doing to attract business to the area? What are the trends in crime statistics and how well are the police dealing with it?

    It’s hard to get info like that all in one place on the Web.

    I guess I just don’t understand people who never read a newspaper — I’ve been avidly reading them since I was about six years old. I’ve always seen them as fascinating windows on the world, a much wider window than you get through the monitor screen. It’s like the difference between looking at the world through a plate glass window or through binoculars. You get a closer look at things with the binocs but it’s impossible to get an overview.

  13. MikeN says:

    Most of these newspapers are just spouting liberal viewpoints. It got worse after big chains started buying up local papers, and then insisted on diversity. One chain even said they would grade editors and reporters based on the race of who they quoted in their articles.

  14. Improbus says:

    @Uncle Patso

    I have found that most local news boils down to this:

    blah blah blah
    scare scare scare
    “think of the children”
    blah blah blah
    scandal scandal scandal
    blah blah blah
    scare scare scare
    “criminals are bad”
    “cops are heroes”
    blah blah blah
    spend spend spend

    The same formula is used in print, radio and television. I have just tuned out. Same Shit Different Day.


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