Wednesday, February 17, 2021



In the movies we’d have seen scrappy newsboys shouting on the corners, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” In real life I saw it emerge in a tweet, and then another, then proliferating like so many popcorn kernels exploding in a hot pan.

Baltimore Sun Media poised to be acquired by nonprofit from Tribune Publishing Christopher Dinsmore for the Baltimore Sun

In short:

Returning The Baltimore Sun to Maryland hands, the state’s largest newspaper and its affiliates are poised to be acquired by a nonprofit formed by businessman and philanthropist Stewart Bainum Jr. that would operate the media organization for the benefit of the community.

If you have been following the trials and tribulations of the Sun and its affiliated publications, you will already be aware of the profound disrespect with which corporate ownership has treated local journalists. Despite a proven record for award-winning journalism, employees at the Sun are overworked, underpaid, and subject to wave after wave of layoffs and “cost-cutting” measures while those at the top reap massive financial rewards. This has sadly become the modus operandi of the big companies who buy up newspapers and cannibalize them for profits. 

Employees of the Sun, along with area advocates, have been working to establish the groundwork for local ownership by a nonprofit through an initiative called Save Our Sun. Then, last night, on the verge of being swallowed up by yet another corporate cannibalizer, Alden Global Capital, the Sun received a reprieve thanks to the commitment of Mr. Bainum. Though not directly connected to the Save Our Sun efforts, clearly the goals are the same and give the paper an opportunity to make a success of itself as a locally owned publication on a non-profit model.

Why does this matter to you? The success of a free press should matter to all of us. Without it many crucial stories go untold. Ideas and events go unexamined, the workings of government move forward unobserved. But, in a very specific sense, this should matter to you because the Baltimore Sun owns The Columbia Flier/Howard County Times so the coverage of our local stories depends on their success. Bloggers and content aggregators will never come close to the quality of work done by professional journalists. We need them.

This announcement is bittersweet. The completion of the deal is dependent on the sale of many other fine newspapers to Alden. Based on their track record, no one has much optimism for their eventual fate. I saw a reference online last night that described Alden as a company that has “learned how sell the organs out of the body while it is still alive.” They seem very much to be a company that destroys newspapers rather than manages them in any fruitful way.

The future is uncertain but this moment is surely exciting for the Sun and its affiliated publications. Let’s hope that this is the beginning of a new era in local journalism, not just here but around the country. 

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