June 7, 2016 Last Updated 8:02 am

Gannett refuses to give in, continues to call for negotiations with Tribune Publishing

Morning Brief: The end of primary season means the US press can turn to Brexit as its lead story, assuming Donald Trump lets that happen

The Associated Press yesterday declared the race for the Democratic nomination over, with Hillary Clinton reaching the magic number of 2,382 delegates needed to secure the nomination on the first ballot.

RealClearPolitics has Clinton at 1,812 pledged delegates, far short of the mark, so it is when the superdelegates are added in that Clinton reaches the threshold – and those superdelegates are not committed to voting for anyone. So why the declaration yesterday? Because California votes today and a win for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would be a major embarrassment to the Clinton campaign. Call it a dirty trick worthy of Dick Nixon if you like, or merely good luck on the part of the Clinton campaign if you are of a different frame of mind.

Gannett is not officially giving up on its effort to acquire Tribune Publishing, continuing to argue publicly that the publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune should negotiate a sale with them.

TPUBs-2-300“Gannett continues to believe that the Tribune Board should engage constructively with Gannett toward negotiating a merger agreement that benefits both companies’ stockholders. Gannett also believes it is imperative for due diligence to occur soon given the apparent rapid series of changes taking place inside Tribune that may diminish the value of Tribune to Gannett,” the publisher of USA Today said this morning in a statement.

It’s a little sad, however, as Tribune Publishing chairman Michael Ferro is clearly not interested in a sale, going on CNBC yesterday to tell viewers who think Jim Cramer is a serious person that he has the secret sauce that will turn around the newspaper publisher’s fortunes.

“There’s all these really new, fun features we’re going to be able to do with artificial intelligence and content to make videos faster,” Ferro told Andrew Ross Sorkin yesterday morning. “Right now, we’re doing a couple hundred videos a day; we think we should be doing 2,000 videos a day.”

Ferro also promised raises: “We’re going to take out almost 50 million this year of costs while raising journalists’ salaries. That’s been announced across the board.”

So, a massive dump of videos, raises for the newsroom staff. It’s all so magical, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, shareholders are apparently less than thrilled with the prospects of the company under current management, as more than 40 per cent of the company’s shareholders withheld support for the board. This bit of shareholder resistance, combined with Ferro’s dog and pony show, has been enough to drive up shares of TPUB to over $13 a share (a good time to sell, don’t you think?)

Returning to politics:

Today is not the day for the final presidential primaries, despite most media coverage. Next week Washington DC holds a primary on the Democratic side but is getting the shaft from the media, as usual. That they are holding it so late is, of course, crazy – sort of a million-to-one gamble that the races will still be close and the primary will matter. It won’t, DC lost again.

But the end of the primary season, and the wait until the conventions means the US press can turn its attention to the UK, where a rather important vote will be held on June 23 regarding whether the UK stays or leaves the EU.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, here is a checklist of where things stand (at least to my mind’s eye):

  • The media is split, with The Daily Mail, the Daily Express, The Daily Star, The Sun and The Daily Telegraph firmly in favor of leaving, and with The Daily Mirror, The Guardian and The Financial Times looking to be for remain winning.
  • The Tories, or Conservatives, are split, with the Prime Minister weakly leading the remain side, and politicians such as former London mayor-now MP Boris Johnson on the leave side.
  • Labour is theoretically in favor of staying, after all, it is supposed to be a socialist party. But it really isn’t and many working class supporters are also nationalists. This puts party leader Jeremy Corbyn in a tough spot – he’d love to see the Prime Minister defeated, but should be seen as strongly in the stay camp. Because of this, many have accused Corbyn of waffling.
  • Scotland will likely vote stay in large numbers, England to leave. Polls show the leave side gaining strength and now there is a real chance it could win. That would likely lead to another vote in Scotland to leave the UK.

It’s all a bloody mess. But the media will now have both Donald Trump to cover and Brexit. It sure beats war, wonder of Murdoch is smiling about it all?

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