Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Who’s to say what becomes of Chicago's one-time 'Bright One'?

Wednesday was supposed to be the day that the corporate entity that owns the Chicago Tribune would be able to finalize a deal to purchase its long-time competitor; the Chicago Sun-Times.
Who knows how long there will be two?

It would have seen the city’s two ayem newspapers combine into one corporate entity, even though there were promises that two separate publications would be maintained at least for the short-term.

BUT THE POINT of not permitting the deal to be immediately approved when it was announced two weeks ago was to allow for any potential buyers to come forth who could keep the one-time “Bright One” as a truly separate and independent entity.

Not that anybody expected to. It seems the tronc, Inc. types who now run the Tribune (coincidentally, the same people who used to operate the Sun-Times) were confident no one would come forth.

As it was, Crain’s Chicago Business came out with a report indicating that owners of the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald considered a Sun-Times purchase, but backed off. Along with the company that owns suburban daily newspapers in Crystal Lake, Geneva and Joliet, and Gannett – the founder of USA Today and operator of many other daily papers across the country (including in Des Moines, Iowa, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, Ky., and Milwaukee – to name a few).

So who’s going to be crazy enough to want to operate a newspaper whose best days appear to be in the past, and has the drawback of being a Number Two paper in a two-paper town? Most people intrigued enough to buy a newspaper (because they think its newsgathering assets can somehow be used to serve other purposes) would want the Number One paper – or preferably a monopoly operation. Anybody who expects (which owns the Washington Post) to swoop into Chicago for the Sun-Times is being delusional.

BUT NOW, VARIOUS reports are cropping up saying there may be a buyer after all. Although we’re not being told who it could be.

Officials with the Chicago Newspaper Guild are saying they are aware of two entities that are expressing interest in taking over the Chicago Sun-Times. While it seems the Sun-Times chapter of the guild that represents news reporters is making statements saying it would like to see more time beyond Wednesday’s deadline to consider the newspaper’s future.

It’s hard to say whether there’s really someone with interest capable of running a newspaper that would be worth a damn. Or if this is just wishful thinking from people who see the idea of being the junior partner in a two-paper combo as being about as dreadful an outcome that could possibly occur.

It could turn out that we’ll learn by week’s end that there is NO ONE else out there willing to plunk down some token fee to buy the publication.

WHOSE TOTAL PRICE paid may wind up becoming an embarrassment for the Sun-Times; because it could be such a low figure that it would be interpreted as evidence of just how far the ship has sunk!

Of course, I can’t help but remember my former employer, United Press International, which in 1992 was sold for $3.95 million to Middle East Broadcasting Centre. Eight years later, they sold it for nearly $40 million to News World Communications – which operates it these days as an affiliate of the Washington Times and its other right-leaning publications around the globe.

It may be possible that someone could come in, take the carcass of the Sun-Times and figure out a way to dredge some bucks out of its remains. Similar to what billionaire investor Sam Zell intended to do when he bought the Chicago Tribune nearly a decade ago.

Although it’s possible that any new purchaser of the Sun-Times would wind up resembling Zell more than the Saudi royal family that had UPI for a few years a couple of decades ago.

MY POINT IS to say I’m not sure how all of this is going to turn out.

Except for the fact that it’s always a loss whenever a newsgathering organization of any type is diminished. Even for those people who want to believe that the Internet now contains a slew of places where one can find much more information than you ever could in an ink-on-paper medium.

For the reality is there are so many places that rely on the existence of newspapers and their assets to generate the content they publish. Even with the Sun-Times, which remains an entity capable of covering a news story and picking up pieces that otherwise would be missed.

One less newspaper means less content; and the eventual outcome of websites whose business models are predicated on the concept of being able to aggregate copy from elsewhere winding up with nothing but blank space to try to fill our minds.


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