The future of local journalism in Indianapolis and beyond could be in danger if a vulture hedge fund gets its hands on Gannett, IndyStar’s parent company.
Digital First Media, otherwise known as MediaNews Group (MNG) owned by the Alden Global Capital hedge fund, has gained a reputation in recent years for buying newspapers and stripping them of their already scarce resources.
Earlier this year, MNG attempted a hostile takeover of Gannett, which failed. Since then, they’ve nominated six members to Gannett’s eight-member board of directors in another attempt to takeover the company.
Although DFM’s recent reduction from six nominees to three was good news for Gannett in the company’s efforts to resist a hostile takeover by DFM, it’s unlikely the three remaining nominees would help the cause of the Indianapolis NewsGuild, IndyStar, or local journalism in more than 100 cities across the country.
The three remaining nominees have strong ties to Alden and MNG. Heath Freeman is Alden’s president. Steven B. Rossi is MNG’s former CEO. The third nominee, Dana Goldsmith Needleman, serves on the board of directors for Fred’s discount stores — a company that’s seen its share price fall 80 percent since Alden’s handpicked directors joined Fred’s board in 2017.
As the Communications Workers of America wrote in a letter to Gannett shareholders, Freeman, Rossi and Needleman “are hopelessly conflicted by close professional ties to MNG … If elected to the board, these nominees could not credibly negotiate a transaction with Alden, given that they would stand to benefit personally from a deal that unfairly favors MNG/Alden.”
What happens to newspapers acquired by Alden/MNG/DFM? Workers are greeted by a sharper staff-cutting knife than we’ve encountered in Indianapolis.
From 2016 to 2018, Digital First Media laid off workers at twice the rate of other national newspaper chains. The New York Times has labeled Alden “the destroyer of newspapers.”
The publisher at The Denver Post resigned abruptly, saying he was “ready for something a little less stressful” after working under DFM.
Wait, there’s more. In April, we learned the Department of Labor is investigating accusations that Alden took almost $250 million in employee pension assets and channeled the funds into its own accounts.
And now, Alden Global Capital is facing heat after the collapse of Payless Shoes. In court filings, a committee called the Payless catastrophe an “18-month free fall … into one of the largest liquidations in retail history,” according to industry press.
If you care about local news and the value it brings to your community and our democracy, we urge you voice your opposition of a board with MNG-backed members.
Here’s what you can do:
- Sign The NewsGuild’s petition to oppose Alden Global Capital’s hostile takeover bid for Gannett and, in so doing, join the launch of our broader effort on World Press Freedom Day to #SaveLocalNews – an essential pillar of local democracy: https://actionnetwork.org/forms/save-local-news
- If you are a Gannett shareholder, vote FOR ALL on the WHITE proxy card, which includes Stephen Coll, the dean of the Columbia University graduate school of journalism and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. Forget about the blue proxy card, where you’ll find the folks who dismantled Payless shoe stores and Fred’s.
- Share this post with the hashtag #SaveLocalNews on Twitter or Facebook.