Hedge fund buys McClatchy newspaper chain amid worries over fate of journalism

A New Jersey hedge fund submitted the highest bid in the bankruptcy auction for the family-owned McClatchy company, one of the major newspaper companies in the United States. Chatham Asset Management was one of McClatchy’s largest creditors. The chain will now go private with its 30 newspapers intact. Mayors in several cities with McClatchy newspapers had urged a sale to local, civic-minded ownership, but Chatham representatives said they were dedicated to providing robust news coverage to serve the company’s communities. (The New York Times, July 12, 2020, by Marc Tracy)

Media critic Margaret Sullivan and former CBS anchor Dan Rather said that the public is not informed about the dire straits of the local news industry. But with one fourth of the newspapers disappearing along with one half of the reporters since 2005, there is a deep crisis. The press needs to address the public admitting faults and looking forward to new solutions. Writes Lauren Harris, in the Columbia Journalism Review, July 15,2020, “In order to do better, journalists need to focus on the fundamental strengths of local news that are worth preserving—localized beat reporting, informational accountability, civic sense-making—and stop preaching to the choir.”

In her new book, Ghosting the News, Sullivan writes that the nation’s communities need reporters’ accounts that keep local official responsible without which democracy is not sustainable. Plus local news bonds people. “It’s the way a local columnist can express a community’s frustration or triumph,” Sullivan writes, “the way the local music critic can review a concert, the deeply reported feature stories, the assessment of a new restaurant, the obituaries, the letters to the editor. The newspaper ties a region together, helps it make sense of itself.” (The Atlantic, July 11, 2020, by Megan Garber)

For related FAC coverage, click here, here and here.

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