Friday, January 15, 2010

Bankruptcy leads to ownership change

MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton announced today that the company has entered into a debt restructuring agreement as part of Chapter 11 proceedings.

Affiliated Media Inc., the holding company for MediaNews, will have their debt load reduced from $930 million to $165 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company's value has been estimated at $200 million.

As part of the agreement, majority ownership of the company has been given to Bank of America and other debtholders. Singleton and MediaNews President Joseph Lodovic now control 20 percent of the company stock. The pair maintain control of all class A shares however, enabling Singleton and Lodovic to elect a majority of the board of directors.

No restructuring of individual properties or newsrooms are planned, according to Singleton, who characterized the move as a blessing for the cash-strapped empire, and perhaps an opportunity to expand further.

“Current shareholders will be losing the value of their holdings. But we believe that adopting this plan will give us a far better platform from which to develop, grow and participate in the consolidation and re-invention of the newspaper industry.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Debunking the 'bias'

Romanesko today has a link to an article from the American Spectator. It makes a lot of bold claims about newspapers and reporters. Few of them are true.

Reviving the tired argument that newspapers have a "liberal bias," American Spectator senior editor Tom Bethell tries to put a new spin on the idea, citing union membership for the supposed leftist slant of U.S. newspapers. He doesn't try to demonstrate that there's a bias however. You'll just have to take his word for it.

From there, Bethell embarks on a long wandering indictment of labor unions, specifically those in the newspaper industry. But none of his criticisms have anything to do with The Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America, or any organized news unit. Instead, Bethell drags out shopworn cliches like the auto workers and the airline industry as convenient stand-ins, warning that newspapers may be doomed just because their employees have the ability to negotiate collectively.

Adding insult to injury, Bethell suggests that Guild units "are disposed to keep on doing their thing out of habit even if it threatens to put their own company out of business." He ignores the glut of stories documenting concessions and back-breaking sacrifice accepted by our members, including this unit.

Here's a very incomplete list of other Guild units that have agreed to concessions, found after just two minutes with Google.

Minnesota Guild approves concessions for bankrupt Star-Tribune

Chronicle workers vote 10 to 1 for concessions

Yakima Herald-Republic Concessions Agreement

Paper handlers union is fourth to approve concessions at Globe

To be fair, the Spectator hit piece acknowledges the holes in its argument - right before it glosses them over. Here's one such caveat:

To be sure, major newspapers are not closed shops, and a reporter hired by the Post has the option of joining the Guild or not. The Guild is moderate, as unions go.

Which sounds nice, until you realize that he's already called us self-righteous, irrational bullies. Nevermind the long list or documented cases of intimidation and illegal firings that face our members. But again, facts don't seem that important here.

Regardless, everyone is entitled to their opinion. We aren't in the business of arguing with people and groups that sacrifice reality for ideology. Disagreement is natural, even healthy, but differences of opinion should be rooted in facts, not lies.

The real question is why Romanesko is linking to an old the article in the first place. It's been out for over a month now. What purpose is served by enabling those who attempt to distort the truth, and do it as a weapon against the industry that Romanesko ostensibly serves?

Like the article, it makes no sense.