September 18, 2017 Last Updated 9:59 am

Jann Wenner to sell majority stake in Rolling Stone; Staff cuts at tronc and Gannett newspapers

Morning Brief: Wenner Media earlier this year had sold both US Weekly and Men’s Journal to American Media Inc. in separate transactions, and last year a 49 percent stake in its music magazine to BandLab Technologies

The co-founder the music magazine Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner, said he is selling his controlling stake in the iconic title. The move was brought on by the failing fortunes of print magazine publishing, and the magazine’s own mistakes such as its story regarding a gang rape at at the University of Virginia which the magazine had to retract.

Launched in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and jazz and pop music critic Ralph Gleason, the magazine was the flagship of Wenner Media, which has been selling off assets this year (both Us Weekly and Men’s Journal were sold to American Media Inc. in separate transactions).

Compared to many of its counterparts, Rolling Stone circulation has held up fairly well, though its single copy sales have fallen dramatically as newsstands have disappeared. Is total circulation in its June 2017 reported showed 1.47 million.

One factor that could complicate a sale is that Wenner last sold sold a 49 percent stake in Rolling Stone to BandLab Technologies. Any buyer may want to see if the Singapore tech company will sell its stake as part of a deal.

The New York Times, Sydney Ember:

Rolling Stone, Once a Counterculture Bible, Will Be Put Up for Sale

“Who lives through the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and cannot be somehow wistful at this moment?” said Terry McDonell, a former top editor at Rolling Stone who also ran other Wenner magazines.

Rolling Stone filled its pages with pieces than ran in the thousands of words by standard bearers of the counterculture, including Hunter S. Thompson — whose “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was published in the magazine in two parts — and Tom Wolfe. It started the career of the celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, who for many years delivered electrifying cover images, including an iconic photograph in 1981 of a naked John Lennon curled in a fetal position with Yoko Ono.

Music coverage in all of its forms — news, interviews, reviews — was the core of Rolling Stone, but its influence also stretched into pop culture, entertainment and politics. A bastion of liberal ideology, the magazine became a required stop for Democratic presidential candidates — Mr. Wenner has personally interviewed several, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — and it has pulled no punches in its appraisal of Republicans. In 2006, Rolling Stone suggested George W. Bush was the “worst president in history.” More recently, the magazine featured Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, on its cover with the headline, “Why Can’t He Be Our President?”

The sale of its suburban newspaper group in 2014 to crosstown rival Chicago Tribune helped the Chicago Sun-Times stave off the wolves at the door for a while. Back in 2014, Jack Griffin was still CEO of Tribune Publishing, while Michael Ferro was with Wrapports LLC, the owner of the Sun-Times.

Move forward a couple of years, and Ferro invested in Tribune Publishing, ousted Griffin, changed the name of the company to tronc, and then attempted to buy the Sun-Times. That effort was stymied when the Chicago tabloid was bought by an investor group. But the wolves are still at the door, and even though tronc was able to scoop up the New York Daily News (by paying only $1 and assuming the company’s debt), things are still not well in the Chicago newspaper market.</strong>:

Tronc to cut 25% of Pioneer Press staff

Tronc has disclosed plans to eliminate one-quarter of the reporting jobs at its Pioneer Press suburban newspaper group through buyouts and layoffs.

The parent company of the Chicago Tribune and 33 Pioneer Press weeklies notified the Chicago News Guild this week that it intends to cut five positions from the 20-person editorial staff represented in the Guild bargaining unit. If a sufficient number of employees do not accept the company’s buyout offer by October 6, layoffs are expected to follow.

“Clearly this was a huge shock to everyone, especially seeing as how management’s team appeared ready to give a little ground following the July negotiation session,” Guild leadership told members in an email. “The company would not elaborate upon its financial woes, but did say that other cost-cutting strategies are already in motion or being considered.”

Then there is Gannett, the Rembrandt of cost cutters…

NY Post, Keith Kelly:

Gannett stages ‘mini bloodbath’ at New Jersey newspapers

About a dozen people were laid off Thursday at papers including the Bergen Record, which is the second-largest daily in the state, according to a source.

One insider said that when Gannett announced earlier this week it was laying off “less than 1 percent” of its employees nationwide, insiders at North Jersey were expecting maybe two or three would be let go locally. The cuts were apparently deeper in New Jersey.

“Not sure what they were thinking, but it’s been a downward spiral here at the North Jersey Media Group,” said one insider.

It is hard to believe that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are now gone and right behind them are two more storms, both of which could be a serious threat to the US and the Caribbean islands still trying to recover.

Naples Daily News, Jigsha Desai:

Hurricane Jose is stronger than expected; Tropical Storm Maria expected to become a hurricane

Hurricane Jose is stronger than expected according to a 2 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center. The weather service warns to expect dangerous surf and rip currents along the east of the United States in the coming days.

According to the NHC, interests from North Carolina to New England should monitor the progress of the Category 1 storm as tropical storm watches may be needed for portions of the area…

…Tropical Storm Maria is moving toward the west-northwest at about 15 mph. The tropical storm is expected to become a hurricane later today or tonight.

The forecast track shows the center of Maria will move across the Leeward Islands Monday night. Maximum sustained winds are near 65 mph with higher gusts. The tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center.

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