WI Newspaper Uncovered Deaths Of Migrant Workers, Chicago Tribune Faces Hedge Fund Owner


This is one of those days when the news, and news of the ones who provide that information make for a timely, but sad, post.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel undertook an investigation into the deaths of migrant workers in Northern Wisconsin from COVID. They discovered that 1 in 14 migrant workers at a green bean plant died of COVID. The investigation also shows that the deaths occurred after company officials along with government regulators failed to take critical measures to protect employees during a pandemic.

Before I go forward with the story about the migrants I want it noted that a newspaper did the investigation. It underscores another reason why that profession matters. Very much.

The Journal Sentinel investigation shows that neither Seneca Foods nor local health officials tested all workers—even those living in company barracks — or interviewed them to do contact tracing. That is simply appalling, given the ferocity of the virus and the science behind both testing and tracing. As if that all is not enough it was also reported that the company did not monitor for obvious symptoms or isolate all those who became ill.

To top off the indefensible actions of one of America’s largest packaged vegetable companies, which produces Green Valley and Libby’s brand green beans it was reported that many of the affected workers were in their 60s or 70s.

That newspaper investigation demonstrates why reporters and journalists in that profession matter so much to our society. Information and background that we otherwise would not be aware of, and insight into the workings of a large corporation during a pandemic.

But as that news was being published in Wisconsin there was another news story taking place across the Illinois border.

Tribune Publishing, owner of some of the biggest metropolitan newspapers in the United States, including the famed Chicago Tribune, is poised to be acquired by a hedge fund with a reputation for slashing costs and cutting jobs after the company’s shareholders voted to approve the deal.

That news is simply awful.

Hedge funds are akin to those who once sold cure-all elixirs door-to-door. They are best termed as “vulture capitalists”. It also should come as no shock Alden has done great harm to other papers around the nation. Chopped them up after purchasing for the all-consuming zeal to make money.

But there is also a more fundamental issue to consider with the amassing of properties in large media companies. When papers are owned in such a fashion opposing views are marginalized and Op-Ed pages are watered down.

The Tribune newsroom has already shrunk roughly 30% since November 2018, from about 165 journalists in the union to 118 presently. Those are not just jobs, but news reporters who head around neighborhoods to gather the stories which inform readers.

Today we can see why newspapers matter. And also why we need to be very concerned about their future health.