Local Newspapers Vs. Hedge Funds, Damaging Democracy


As a lifelong reader of newspapers, (starting as a boy with the Stevens Point Journal which came to our home via the mail) and with a firm understanding that reporters and journalism are a foundation of democracy comes this story from Sunday’s 60 Minutes.

I have been posting for years about the woes of the newspaper industry in the digital media age. I have written about the revenue from the industry being cut in half between 2008 and 2018 because of a ruinous decline in print advertising. And to the gut of the matter that means during that same time frame newsroom employment declined 25%. (Pew Research)

We are in fact going to suffer tremendously for the loss of accountability that the papers provide to insure our government has journalistic oversight, a loss of a daily record of events that makes for historical documentation, and a sense of commonality that allows us to have some overall reference point as a nation.

I say this because daily morning newspapers that ferret out corruption and investigate issues untouchable to the average citizen is an essential component for how we are made aware of the world.

Sunday evening this overall story was all brought home to the nation with a segment on the nation’s longest-running newsmagazine type television show.

Newspaper industry in state of decline: not exactly a stop-the-presses headline. For two decades now — owing largely to the loss of advertising revenue to Facebook and Google — fewer and fewer Americans get their news, comics and sports from all those gazettes and tribunes and journals. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s an additional threat: hedge funds and other financial firms that now own nearly a third of the daily papers in America.

And these new owners are often committed not to headlines and deadlines, but to bottom lines. One fund, in particular, has been called by some in the industry a “vulture,” bleeding newspapers dry. It all prompts the question: as local newsrooms and local news coverage shrivel up, to what extent does democracy shrink with it?

Behind the marching band and baton twirlers, at the annual 4th of July parade in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, you’ll find a one-man band: reporter Evan Brandt, snapping photos, taking notes, and gathering quotes.

For the last 24 years, he’s chronicled this community of 23,000 for the local newspaper, the Mercury, which at one time had dozens of reporters. Now, Brandt is literally the last reporter standing in Pottstown.

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