Tuesday, December 24, 2013

State of the Press: Is being dumped by your owner a good thing these days?

I don’t quite know what to make of the newspaper business these days.

How long until it becomes WGN Tower?
On the one hand, so much of the actual content that fills the airwaves of broadcast outlets and the pages of assorted websites continues to originate with the work done by newspaper reporters.

THEN AGAIN, EVERYBODY seems way too eager to dump on those actual publications.

By dump, I mean literally.

The Tribune Co. has made it clear it wants to get into the broadcast business exclusively – and views its newspapers (including the Chicago Tribune) as a drag on the company.

To the point where they plan to break off the newspapers into a separate business entity – which they will then try to sell off to someone else in the near future.

WE’RE AT THE point where the Chicago Tribune will now have to pay rent for the office space it has occupied for nine decades at Tribune Tower – which probably should be renamed WGN Tower and thought of as the place where the radio and television interests named for the one-time World’s Greatest Newspaper (even though it never was) are headquartered.

For all I know, the Tribune newspaper interests may wind up some day having to rent space in the Willis Tower. Or maybe they’ll wind up getting office space in the same building on the Chicago River as the Chicago Sun-Times?

Will NW Herald be better sister ...
That would be the ultimate tacky joke!

The point is that the current ownership on Michigan Avenue no longer views the idea of a media entity that controls a major metro newspaper, a television station, a radio station with a signal powerful-enough to reach across the Midwestern U.S., a local cable news outlet and assorted other properties as being worth the hassle.

WE WILL GET to the day when the concept of WGN being both the Tribune’s all-powerful television and radio station that bolstered the newspaper's influence will be an alien concept. Future generations will get the same blank look at the concept just as much as the youth of today don’t get the point of how overwhelming Larry Lujack was in his heyday – and probably think WLS-AM always spewed a batch of political nonsense in between its commercial spots.

... to Joliet newspaper than Chicago Sun-Times was?
The times change, and I suppose we all have to adapt with them. Even if it means becoming something that gets dumped upon. Although the New York Times reported a story that speculated the Tribune Co.’s moves to maintain the broadcast properties may wind up hobbling any chance of the newspaper properties’ long-term survival.

Of course, we can always float down the Chicago River just a few blocks to the Sun-Times situation, where officials in recent days made it official that they’re selling off one of the suburban newspaper properties they acquired in the past couple of decades to strengthen the overall company.

Now, they need whatever cash they can get ahold of.

SO THE HERALD-News newspaper of Joliet goes from being a sister publication of the Sun-Times to being the sister of the Northwest Herald newspaper of Crystal Lake and the Kane County Chronicle of St. Charles. All are owned by the Shaw Media company that will take over Joliet. Although it seems Crain’s Chicago Business deserves credit for breaking this story.

Being dumped on by the Sun-Times may be a good thing here, because the sense was always that the Sun-Times company people were more interested in gutting the suburban properties they acquired to bolster the status of the downtown paper.

Now, the Herald-News may wind up with ownership that will care about it as an individual entity. Although whether they’re in a position to build it back up to a publication that can provide adequate coverage of Will County (the county that had the largest population growth during the past decade) is questionable.
Does remembering 'Superjock" make me old?

Could Sun-Times ownership have hobbled the paper to the point where nobody could rebuild it? We’ll have to wait and see.

THERE COULD BE one negative in this (or a plus for the Tribune, depending on how one wants to perceive it). Sun-Times people have claimed they are now the largest-circulation newspaper entity because they were adding in all the circulation of their suburban properties into one mass – and the total came to a figure barely bigger than the Tribune’s circulation.

Could the loss of the 25,000 or so copies of the Herald-News sold daily be just enough to dump the Sun-Times back into Second Place behind the Tribune?


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