Dick Polman, a national political columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, tweeted:
What does it say about newspapers that Bosox owner John Henry can buy The Boston Globe for less money than he’s paying his second baseman?
— Dick Polman (@DickPolman1) August 3, 2013
Your Editor responded:
The details, first from THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:
By William Launder and Russell Adams | DEALS & DEAL MAKERS | April 2, 2012, 12:07 p.m. ET Philadelphia Media Network, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, will change owners for the fifth time in six years after a group of local investors bought the papers for around $55 million. Philadelphia Media Network said a consortium of buyers led by Philadelphia businessman Lewis Katz and George E. Norcross III, an insurance executive and Democratic fund raiser, would buy the company, which also consists of the website Philly.com. They have formed Interstate General Media LLC to own and operate Philadelphia Media Network. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell was previously part of the investor group, but he dropped out before the deal. . . . . The sale price underscores the continuing financial struggles of many newspaper publishers as they grapple with persistent declines in print advertising and circulation. The current owners, private-equity funds Alden Global Capital and Angelo Gordon, acquired the newspapers out of bankruptcy two years ago for $139 million.
More at the link. Alden Global and Angelo Gordon sold the Inquirer’s iconic building, seen in the picture to the right, and made serious staff cuts through buyouts and outright layoffs, in the month prior to the sale. From Spotrac comes Philadelphia Phillies Second Baseman Chase Utley’s contract:
- CONTRACT: 7 years / $85,000,000
- SIGNING BONUS: $2,000,000
- AVERAGE SALARY: $12,142,857
- GUARANTEED: $85,000,000
- FREE AGENT: 2014 / Unrestricted
Of course, Mr Utley’s contract is cheap compared to those of Phillies’ First Baseman Ryan Howard, starting pitchers Ray Halladay and Cole Hamels. Mr Utley will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, while Philadelphia Media Network’s deal to buy the Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com is a (supposedly) permanent purchase. Mr Polman might have been commenting on the sale of The Boston Globe directly to the owner of the Boston Red Sox, but his analogy applies just as well to his own city newspapers. The Globe did sell for a bit more than the Inquirer:
By Christine Haughney | Published: August 3, 2013 The New York Times Company said on Saturday that it had agreed to sell The Boston Globe and its other New England media properties to John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, returning the paper to local ownership after two decades in which it struggled to stem the decline in circulation and revenue. Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, confirmed that Mr. Henry would pay $70 million for the paper. That would represent a staggering drop in value for the Globe, which The Times bought in 1993 for $1.1 billion, the highest price paid for an American newspaper. At the time, The Globe was one of the nation’s most prestigious papers in a far more robust newspaper environment. But like other newspapers, it began to lose readers and advertisers to the Internet, and revenue plummeted. The Times Company has taken several write-downs related to the New England Media Group, and in February it said it was putting The Globe and other assets in the group up for sale. For The Globe, the planned sale restores a Boston connection that prevailed for 120 years under the Taylor family, which owned the paper from 1873 until its sale 20 years ago. While not from Boston, Mr. Henry has for the last decade been active in local sports, and his Fenway Sports Group owns the Red Sox, Fenway Park and 80 percent of the New England Sports Network. It also owns the soccer club Liverpool F.C. in the English Premier League.
More at the link. Interestingly enough, when I googled the story on the sale of the Globe, the first page returned ten hits, none of which was from the Globe itself. The Boston Globe website, which I don’t recall ever using before, indicates some of the problem. While the front page had one paragraph on the deal:
The impending $70 million cash purchase will put the 141-year-old newspaper, its websites, and affiliated companies in John Henry’s hands.
none of it could be accessed without paying a subscriber’s fee, only 99¢ for 4 weeks! This is the dilemma faced by all of the print newspapers in this country. The New York Times website, a pretty good one, has a lot of stories listed on the front page, and readers can access up to ten stories per calendar month for free, before they have to pay a fee.1 The Globe’s website shows fewer stories, and there is no free content. That being the case, THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL and other websites wouldn’t normally reference stories from the Globe, because readers couldn’t verify any information from them, other than what shows up in the first paragraph. Philly.com, the website of both the Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, is a bit of a disorganized jumble, but you can get to (some) Inquirer stories through it, while the separate Inquirer website used to be locked away only to subscribers, but now I can access stories directly; I guess that the Inquirer is still trying to figure out how to make money in the internet age. Or perhaps this is the reason:
Free access to http://t.co/r1cEP9JmlE. No promo codes required. Thanks for your patience – we had a power outage at the plant.
— Philly Inquirer (@PhillyInquirer) August 3, 2013
Your Editor subscribes to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL specifically to provide a news source for our readers, so the JOURNAL does make money on its content from this website.
But let’s be honest: print media are 18th century technology, and despite all of the innovations in printing since The New England Courant, the publication of photographs and the introduction of color printing, it still takes several hours for the papers to be composed, the press run to be made, and the copies delivered, whether to your front door or to the Turkey Hill from which I buy my copy of the Inquirer on my way to work.2 The guys at work like the newspaper, and it’s a virtual job requirement that they have the puzzles page, but there are many, many times that I’ll see, in the sports section, “This game ended too late for inclusion into this edition.”
That’s the weakness: in a time where news and information are almost instantaneous, print media are always delayed. I can get The New York Times or The Philadelphia Inquirer or The Wall Street Journal delivered directly to my computer or Tablet or Kindle, if I pay for them, but there’s not much that they have that I cannot get for free if I google search around. Your Editor pays for The Wall Street Journal specifically to provide material sources for The First Street Journal, but for most people such a need simply does not exist, and the people who grew up with newspapers, the ones who tend to think of newspapers first, are, like your Editor, starting to become eligible for senior citizens’ discounts. Younger people, those who grew up with CNN and the internet and instantly available news, won’t have the prejudice in favor of newspapers which still exists and still helps print media sales and subscriptions.3
But if the new media provided by the internet are spelling the death knell for print newspapers, something which does sadden me, they have created an explosion of new information availability. Donviti, through whose retweet I first saw Mr Polman’s original, responded to me:
— Donviti (@donviti) August 3, 2013
Nope, sorry, but that’s absolutely untrue. In 1975, if you were not privileged enough to be a member of the professional media, you had no public voice unless it was allowed by the gatekeepers of the professional media to be published or broadcast. The print newspapers and television news departments were our sources of information, period, and only those things that those media decided to publish or broadcast were allowed to be seen or heard by others. When The New York Times debuted their motto, in the upper left corner of the newspaper on February 10, 1897, they declared two things: that they would be the newspaper of record, printing more information than anyone else, but also that the news had to be “fit to print,” and that means that someone — namely: the editors of the Times — would have to determine just what news was fit to print. Donviti, formerly one of the bloggers with the Delaware Liberal, ought to appreciate that, because he was taking advantage of the new media just as much as I am.4 Someone like Robert Stacey Stacy McCain would have had to have stayed with The Washington Times, where he slaved away from 1997 to 2008.5
It was just the freedom allowed by the new media which is disciplining the older media to be more responsible. In 2004, CBS News tried to intervene in the presidential election by broadcasting a false story concerning President George W Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard; CBS was, at the very least, duped by Bill Burkett, and failed to authenticate obviously forged documents provided by Lt Col Burkett, in a story which might have harmed the President’s re-election chances. Were it not for Scott Johnson of Powerline and Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, and what the latter Mr Johnson called:
CBS News false story might have gone unchallenged and uncorrected and changed the outcome of the 2004 election. The resulting job losses at CBS News due to the broadcast6 carry a strong message to professional journalists that they cannot play fast-and-loose with the truth.7
That the new media are slowly killing the print news medium seems undeniable; the newspapers will have to try to find a new distribution and revenue model to survive, or they will be worth less than someone who can turn a 6-4-3 double play. But the fact that the new media are forcing more honesty and responsibility from the professional media is probably the best thing that has ever happened to journalism.
- The Lonely Conservative: NYT sells Boston Globe at massive loss. Karen referenced Da Tech Guy, who noted that the Times turned down an offer of $300 million in 2011, from a politically conservative owner.
- Matthew Sheffield at NewsBusters: Boston Globe Sold by New York Times at Massive Loss:
According to Businessweek, Kushner offered more than $300 million for the Globe in 2011 but was rejected since he did not include enough up-front cash.
That is at least the ostensible reason. It is worth recalling the situation with Newsweek, another left-leaning media property which put itself up for sale in 2010 but refused to entertain offers from Newsmax Media due to its “conservative political ideology.” Ironically, it was the New York Times which first reported this.
Ultimately, Newsweek was sold for $1 and the assumption of at least $50 million in liabilities to Sidney Harman, liberal businessman who was married to former Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman. He died in 2011 and his estate decided to combine operations with the website Daily Beast.
- Since I sometimes write using a computer at work, and the website tracks only by IP addresses, I can get twenty stories a month. ↩
- The Philadelphia Inquirer also makes money from The First Street Journal, in that most of the Inquirer stories referenced on this site come from the fact that I first read them in the print edition. ↩
- From the seventh through eleventh grades, I delivered newspapers, the morning Lexington Herald and afternoon Lexington Leader, in my hometown of Mt Sterling, Kentucky, which give me even more of a prejudice in favor of newspapers, but that prejudice is not so strong that I can’t see that the medium is dying. ↩
- Though I pay for this website, because I want to have my own url and more control over it, blogger.com and wordpress.com provide website space for free, so there’s not even a monetary gatekeeper standing in the way, other than whether someone has access to a computer and the internet. Donald Douglas’ American Power website is an example of a free blogger.com site to which we link here frequently. ↩
- I shall have to point out to Wombat-socho that this part qualifies as a Rule 2 post. ↩
- CBS terminated Mary Mapes and demanded the resignations of 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard and Howard’s top deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy, as well as Senior Vice President Betsy West, who had been in charge of all prime time newscasts. Murphy and West resigned on February 25, 2005, and after settling a legal dispute regarding his level of responsibility for the segment, Josh Howard resigned on March 25, 2005. News Anchor Dan Rather moved up the date of his retirement, though that cannot be conclusively said to be a result of the false story. ↩
- One thing I have noticed is that Robert Stacey Stacy McCain, who is no longer a professional journalist, takes great care to document all of his sources, even though, as an independent blogger who owns his own site, he can’t get fired from The Other McCain. Patterico does the same thing, and I have tried to pattern The First Street Journal after Patterico’s website to some extent. ↩