Digital First Media
|Digital First Media|
|Traded as||Grey Market: MNGE|
|Steve Rossi (CEO & President)|
Michael Koren (CFO)
Guy Gilmore (EVP, Eastern Region)
Mac Tully (EVP, Central Region)
Sharon Ryan (EVP, Western Region)
|Owner||Alden Global Capital|
Number of employees
MediaNews Group was founded by Richard Scudder and William Dean Singleton. Both had experience in the American newspaper industry. Scudder ran the Newark (New Jersey) News, a newspaper founded by his grandfather. Singleton had begun his career as a reporter when he was 15, for a small-town Texas newspaper and subsequently became the president of Albritton Communications, a newspaper conglomerate in Texas.
Based in Denver, Colorado, Scudder and Singleton purchased their first newspaper in 1983. They incorporated MediaNews Group in 1985, with Singleton as CEO and Scudder as chairman. The company began to purchase small local newspapers that were undergoing financial troubles. In 1987, the company made its first major acquisition: the Denver Post. Ultimately, it became one of the largest newspaper companies in the United States. It operated 56 daily newspapers in 12 states, with combined daily and Sunday circulation of about 2.4 million and 2.7 million, respectively. The company owned KTVA, a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska, from March 2000 to October 2012, and radio stations in Texas.
Singleton was a pioneer in "clustering": developing groups of newspapers that centralized a variety of functions, including production, ad sales, business operations and, in some cases, editorial. For example, the Alameda Newspaper Group in suburban San Francisco in the mid-1990s had a central newsroom in Pleasanton, California, that did all the copy editing, layout and page makeup for five daily papers. Upon acquiring the diverse group of papers, Singleton consolidated several news sections (such as sports and features) to one local office away from the metropolitan area, having a few reporters do the job of many people.
In August 2006, the company took out around $350 million in loans to purchase four newspapers from McClatchy Company. Among those providing the loan was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It came out of bankruptcy in March 2010 under the majority ownership of its lenders. The MediaNews creditors then removed Media News president Jody Lodovic and its chairman, William Dean Singleton, was reassigned to the position of “executive chairman of the board." The Singleton-Lodovic appointees to the MediaNews board were replaced by new directors representing the stockholders group led by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund firm which has acquired a large, though not controlling, stake. Several interim executive positions were also filled by people related to Alden or its parent, Smith Management LLC. MediaNews became managed by Journal Register's Digital First Media.
As of 2012, the combined newspapers and online media outlets managed by the company had 66.6 million readers. In 2017, the company was ranked third-largest among the newspaper groups in the country. Alden Global Capital has been accused of "strip mining" its newspaper holdings.[better source needed] In October 2017, the company's CEO, Steve Rossi, stepped down from his position. In February 2018, Digital First Media put in a $11.9 million winning bid to purchase the Boston Herald.
In March 2016, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of Freedom Communications and its two major newspapers, the Orange County Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise to Digital First Media. The papers were integrated into Digital First Media's Los Angeles Newspaper Group, which was renamed the Southern California News Group on the same day.
In January 2019, Digital First Media acquired 7.5% of Gannett's public stock, and made an unsolicited bid to acquire Gannett for $1.36 billion. On February 4, 2019 Gannett's board "unanimously rejected" the offer, saying "that MNG does not have a realistic plan to acquire Gannett". On February 11, 2019, Gannett issued a press release accusing Digital First Media of engaging in a proxy fight. After a failed attempt to place 3 nominees on Gannett's board of directors through a proxy vote on May 16, 2019, DFM reduced their stake to 4.2%. In August 2019, GateHouse Media ultimately announced its intent to acquire Gannett instead.
Daily newspapers owned by MediaNews, alphabetically by state and hometown, include:
- Alameda Times-Star of Alameda, California
- Boston Herald of Boston, Massachusetts
- Chico Enterprise Record of Chico, California
- Contra Costa Times of Walnut Creek, California
- Times-Standard of Eureka, California
- Ft. Bragg Advocate-News of Fort Bragg, California
- Daily Review of Hayward, California
- Lake County Record-Bee of Lakeport, California
- Long Beach Press-Telegram of Long Beach, California
- Milpitas Post of Milpitas, California
- Monterey County Herald of Monterey, California
- The Oakland Tribune of Oakland, California
- Inland Valley Daily Bulletin of Rancho Cucamonga, California
- Oroville Mercury Register of Oroville, California
- Pacifica Tribune of Pacifica, California
- The Daily News of Palo Alto, California
- Paradise Post of Paradise, California
- Pasadena Star-News of Pasadena, California
- Tri-Valley Herald of Pleasanton, California
- Reading Eagle of Reading, Pennsylvania
- Red Bluff Daily News of Red Bluff, California
- Redlands Daily Facts of Redlands, California
- The Sun of San Bernardino, California
- San Jose Mercury News of San Jose, California
- San Mateo County Times of San Mateo, California
- Marin Independent Journal of San Rafael, California
- Santa Cruz Sentinel of Santa Cruz, California
- The Daily Breeze of Torrance, California
- Ukiah Daily Journal of Ukiah, California
- The Reporter of Vacaville, California
- Times-Herald of Vallejo, California
- San Gabriel Valley Tribune of Monrovia, California
- Whittier Daily News of Whittier, California
- Willits News of Willits, California
- Daily Democrat of Woodland, California
- Los Angeles Daily News of Woodland Hills, California
- Daily Camera of Boulder, Colorado
- Brush News-Tribune of Brush, Colorado
- Denver Post of Denver, Colorado
- Fort Morgan Times of Fort Morgan, Colorado
- Lamar Daily News of Lamar, Colorado
- Journal Advocate of Sterling, Colorado
- Sentinel & Enterprise of Fitchburg, Massachusetts
- The Sun of Lowell, Massachusetts
- The Detroit News of Detroit, Michigan
- St. Paul Pioneer Press of St. Paul, Minnesota
- The Nashua Broadcaster of Nashua, New Hampshire
- Park Record of Park City, Utah
Some of the weeklies owned by the company:
- The Beach Reporter of Hermosa Beach, California
- Brooks Community Newspapers, publishing six weekly newspapers in Connecticut
- Colorado Hometown Weekly, serving east Boulder County, Colorado communities of Erie, Lafayette, Louisville, Superior
- Gazette Newspapers, two weekly newspapers in Long Beach, California
- The Greater New Milford Spectrum in New Milford, Connecticut
- Impacto USA, a Spanish-language newspaper in Long Beach, California
- Lake Country Newspapers, several weeklies in Texas
- Mendocino Beacon of Mendocino, California
- Nashoba Publishing, several weekly newspapers in northern Massachusetts
- Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, nine weeklies near San Jose, California
- Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership, including two weeklies in New Mexico
Other MediaNews properties include:
- LA.com, a portal site based in Los Angeles, California
- U-Entertainment of Los Angeles, California
- Woman Magazine of Norwalk, Connecticut
- Charleston Daily Mail, a former newspaper in Charleston, West Virginia
- KTVA television (CBS Affiliate) in Anchorage, Alaska (March 2000-December 2012) Now owned by General Communication.
- Lake Country Radio stations (now owned by High Plains Radio Network, LLC):
MediaNews Group is known as a cost-cutter in the newspaper publishing industry. The company has a reputation for buying smaller daily newspapers in a single area (examples include Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area) and consolidating their operations, including sharing staff writers and printing facilities. As a result of the cost-cutting, some former employees say that the newspapers are focused on making a profit to the detriment of good journalism.
Former owner William Dean Singleton was quick to point out MediaNews's commitment to print journalism, not diversification into other media. The Berkshire Eagle editor David E. Scribner, two years after MediaNews bought his newspaper, said the staff respected Singleton despite layoffs because of his hands-on leadership and "traditional emphasis on good writing."
However, in recent years similar criticism has been aimed at the new organizational structure under Digital First Media. The Denver Post editorial staff and others have criticized the owners of hedge fund group, Alden Global Capital. Alden has a reputation for cutting costs by reducing the number of journalists working on its newspapers, and March 2018, The Washington Post called Alden "one of the most ruthless of the corporate strip-miners seemingly intent on destroying local journalism." Alden has additionally received critical coverage from its editorial staff of the Denver Post and described Alden Global Capital as "vulture capitalists" after multiple staff layoffs.
Pension fund controversy
On July 14, 2006, San Francisco businessman and real estate investor Clint Reilly filed a lawsuit against MediaNews Group and San Francisco Chronicle parent Hearst Communications, alleging that the two companies have been conspiring to control advertising rates, a violation of antitrust laws. In November 2006, Reilly's attorney presented to U.S. District Judge Susan Illston a letter from Hearst senior vice president James Asher to MediaNews President Jody Lodovic that said the two companies agreed to "offer national advertising and internet advertising sales for their San Francisco Bay Area newspapers on a joint basis, and to consolidate the San Francisco Bay Area distribution networks of such newspapers ...." Illston, suggesting she had been misled by the companies when they said they had not been collaborating, issued a 14-page ruling forbidding Hearst and MediaNews from working together on national advertising sales or distribution.
On December 21, 2006, the San Francisco Bay Guardian and nonprofit Media Alliance filed suit to make the details of Reilly's lawsuit—and MediaNews and the Chronicle's response—public. As a result of the filing, many documents in the case were voluntarily disclosed by the defendants. The judge allowed redacted versions of two more documents to be released. She kept 17 others under seal. One of the documents unsealed was the deposition of Hearst's Asher, who says that as of September 2006, his company had recorded cumulative losses of $330 million on its investment in the Chronicle, which it acquired in mid-2000. He said Hearst proposed selling the Chronicle to MediaNews, but MediaNews didn't offer enough money. Asher also said Hearst and MediaNews have discussed working together for years. Although the trial was scheduled to start Monday, April 30, 2007 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the parties announced Wednesday, April 25, 2007 that a settlement had been reached.
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