MediaNews Group (MNG), owned by hedge fund Alden Global Capital, is gutting newsrooms again, reports News Matters. Though no official announcement was made by the company, newspapers from coast to coast have been impacted. In fact, News Matters said that it seems no MNG newspaper has been spared, including the Denver Post, the Boston Herald, San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times. Here is what we know so far.
Denver Post: Thirteen positions were cut from the Denver Post, all represented by the News Guild. Four positions were from the newsroom, while the remaining nine were other positions at the newspaper.
Boston Herald: At least half a dozen employees at the Boston Herald were laid off last week, reports Boston.com.
Kingston (New York) Daily Freeman: Four News Guild employees, including two reporters, were laid off.
Bay Area News Group, including San Jose (California) Mercury News and the East Bay Times: Twenty-one employees at the San Jose Mercury News and 13 at East Bay Times were put on unpaid furlough. Furloughs vary in length between two weeks and one week per month for three months. Two advertising staff were permanently laid off.
The Monterey (California) Herald: A sports reporter and an ad executive were furloughed until the end of April.
Chico Enterprise-Record: Two sports reporters were placed on furlough.
Southern California News Group has laid off numerous workers at four of their newspapers including the Orange County Register, Press Enterprise (Riverside), Pasadena Star-News and the Long Beach Press-Telegram, according to Institutional Investor.
This time last year MNG was attempting a hostile takeover of Gannett, doing anything and everything to gain control of that company. MNG eventually backed off. Gannett has since merged with GateHouse Media and has been laying off employees at newspapers across the combined company.
Meanwhile, MNG is trying to acquire Tribune Publishing. It is not known whether the impact of the coronavirus will change MNG’s position on acquiring the legacy publisher this summer as anticipated.
In related news, Hearst Newspapers announced there will not be any layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts during the coronavirus coverage, reports Poynter. In addition, all employees will get a 1% bonus, and Hearst plans to buy television ads to promote Hearst newspapers and their coverage of COVID-19. Hearst owns 24 daily newspapers including the Times Union on Albany, New York, San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle.
This news does not come as a surprise. MNG/Digital First Media/Alden Global Capital is known for acquiring a newspaper or newspaper group and then stripping it down to bare bones in the name of profit. Like other newspaper organizations across the country, we are sure that MNG-owned newspapers are losing ad revenue too. However, for a company known for its drastic cost-cutting measures, we wonder if the coronavirus crisis is just a convenient excuse to justify their actions.