Tribune Publishing’s chairman accuses Gannett of being ‘ungentlemanly’; the NYT to shutter Paris print operations
Morning Brief: Gannett is pushing the publisher of the LA Times and Chicago Tribune to accept its buyout offer, while Tribune Publishing’s Chairman Michael Ferro talks up community newspapering
They are trying to steal
my our company. So says Tribune Publishing’s Chairman Michael Ferro in an interview with LA Times economics reporter Michael Hiltzik
“I believe 100% in my heart that this is completely a manipulation, that they’re trying to steal the company, bum-rush us,” Ferro said to Hiltzik, referring to Gannett’s offer to buy Tribune. “It is ungentlemanly, it is not what we do in this industry. It is not the way we do business.”
That’s an odd thing to say from an executive who has himself only been associated with the newspaper industry for a handful of years. When I think of the newspaper industry gentlemanly is not one of the terms that comes immediately to my mind.
In the interview, Ferro says that Tribune Publishing is not trying to avoid having a conversation with Gannett, but claims the publisher of USA Today wants to rush his company into a quick decision, one that would come before Tribune reports earnings next week. Actually, both Tribune and Gannett report earnings next week, and it might be wise to have something to talk about like an acquisition or merger instead of the usual subject – falling print ad revenues.
It’s been a tough couple of months for Tribune Publishing. It looked like the company was about to snag the Orange County Register and Riverside Press Enterprise for $56 million which would have given Tribune a monopoly on metro daily newspapers in Southern California, but the Department of Justice stepped in for that very reason and Digital First Media ended up with the prize. DFM, which has its own debt issues, has since then sold off The Salt Lake Tribune and New England Newspapers Inc. in order to help pay for the deal.
Gannett, meanwhile, finalized its deal for Journal Media Group, grabbing a whole new portfolio of titles including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Ventura County Star, The Knoxville News-Sentinel and The Commercial Appeal, among others. Scooping up the Chicago Tribune and both the LA Times and San Diego Union Tribune a few months later must have seemed a great idea.
For LA Times readers, journalists and community leaders, the idea of their paper joining the McNewspaper chain must feel like the worst possible result from all this musical chairs among newspaper owners. For years the paper was the proud possession of the Chandler family, and while LAers have not been thrilled with Tribune’s ownership and management of the paper, hoping and praying for local ownership, a move to Gannett would seem like the worst thing to happen to the newspapering in LA since Hearst and Chandler agreed to merge their four newspapers into just two titles back in the early sixties (a move that eventually resulted in Hearst leaving the market).
Ferro, his interview, described the Times as “a sleeping giant.”
“Of course shareholders are very important in good governance, but we also have to look at the communities we serve and our employees,” Ferro told Hiltzik. “Journalism is a different business. It’s not all about the money.”
Last week the NY Post, the tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, said that The New York Times would be implementing a big series of layoffs near the end of this year, following the Summer Olympics in Brazil and before the November election.
“There’s a goal of a couple of hundred people,” the Post quoted an anonymous source. “They don’t want to pay out big packages, and they’re having negotiations with the unions.”
Well, layoffs are never out of the question at any newspaper property, but this story seemed like just the kind of thing one publishing rival would say about another. But yesterday the Times itself reported that it would be closing its Paris print production operations, with the move costing about 70 jobs. After the move, the Times would rely on its print facilities in NYC and Hong Kong.
“Only by moving ahead with this proposal can we assure our ability to maintain our international print presence for the coming years and do so in a way that will best serve our international readers,” NYT international management said in a memo.
“I think we need to free up resources to build a digital report, and I think that’s what it boils down to,” Dean Baquet said in the report.
He then tried to tamp down that Post report. “There are no layoffs planned this year for the newsroom.”
The NYT Co., like Tribune Publishing and Gannett, report earnings next week. Should be an interesting week, no?