Philadelphia papers sold to business consortium

A
group of business investors with no newspaper experience is buying two
of America’s best-known papers, the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the
oldest papers in the country, and its tabloid sister paper The Daily News.

Although
both papers have been losing circulation, the group has agreed to pay
$563 million (around £300 million) for the papers, both of which were
part of thee recent big sell-off of the Knight Ridder group. Although
the group headed by Bruce Toll, the owner of a large local home
construction company, has pledged to honour all the two papers union
contracts and other commitments, it said it will try to make the
papers more profitable by running more local news, especially about the
city’s business community, and by expanding the papers’ website. It
might also spin-off some business-oriented weeklies.

Although
welcomed by the papers’ unions, who were uncertain about their members
future, the news has created some disquiet in the American publishing
world. One former editor of The Inquirer, Robert Rosenthal, who worked
for The Inky as the paper is popularly known for more than 22 years and
is now managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, thought the idea
was very problematic. “Interesting, but dangerous” he told Editor and
Publisher. And not necessarily a great idea for journalism. He fears
the influence the investor-businessmen, many of them big political
contributors, might have on the news the papers would carry – even
though the group has publicly pledged not to interfere with the papers
news coverage or editorial outlook.

At
one time The Inquirer won more awards than most other newspapers in the
US – 17 Pulitzer Prizes between l970 and the early 90s.

It
was owned for around 30 years by the family of Walter Annenberg who
gave up his interest when he was appointed US Ambassador to Britain in
1969. Their joint circulation has dropped 30 per cent in the past 20
years – a much steeper fall than the industry average..

The
two papers were included in 32 newspapers bought recently by the
McClatchy Corp from Knight Ridder for $4,500,000,000. Because they
didn’t fit the McClatchy “business plan” they were among l2 the
corporation decided to sell . Although heavily advertised, offers were
slow. .One of the bidders was reported to be Mort Zuckerman, the New
York real-estate tycoon and owner of the New York Daily News. Also the
Black Press Group of Canada, and an investment group working with a
newspaper union.

The
sale is expected to be concluded in June when the McClatchy deal with
Knight Ridder is scheduled to be consummated. When that happens
McClatchy will become the second largest newspaper group in the US
after the Gannett Corporation, which owns USA Today, the largest
selling daily in the country – as well as many UK regional newspapers.

 

 

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