Digital First Media
|Headquarters||Denver, CO, USA|
|New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico & California|
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
|Divisions||MediaNews Group & Journal Register Company|
Digital First Media, formerly MediaNews Group, is a management company specializing in newspapers in the United States. It is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. It is owned by Alden Global Capital, a New York-based hedge fund specializing in distressed properties. In 2013, MediaNews Group and 21st Century Media merged into Digital First Media.
MediaNews Group, based in Denver, Colorado, was 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 approximately 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. The company was founded in 1983 by William Dean Singleton who served as CEO, and Richard Scudder who served as chairman.
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. An example of this was the Alameda Newspaper Group in suburban San Francisco, wherein the mid-1990s, a central newsroom in Pleasanton, California, 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 what had been many individuals.
Singleton was also a pioneer at developing pooled-asset partnerships. Among the first were papers in California, which included papers from Gannett Co. Inc., Stephens Media Group and MediaNews. Singleton's company contributed Los Angeles Daily News and the ANG operation, as well as other papers, while Stephens contributed papers such as the Vallejo Times Herald and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin of Ontario. A year after forming the partnership, the duo allowed Gannett to enter, with its contributions including the San Bernardino Sun and the Marin Independent Journal. MediaNews also entered into similar partnerships in Texas and Pennsylvania with Gannett and in Colorado with The E.W. Scripps Company.
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. The loan was mostly used to help pay for the acquisition of two significant San Francisco Bay Area newspapers (and some smaller papers), including the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times, the dominant papers in the San Jose and Contra Costa County, California markets; in total, the purchases amounted to roughly $737 million.
On January 16, 2010, the Associated Press reported that Affiliated Media, parent of MediaNews will file Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Under the plan, company debt would fall to $165 million from about $930 million. Senior lenders would swap debt for stock. It came out of bankruptcy in March 2010 under the majority ownership of its lenders. The MediaNews creditors then removed Media News president Joseph 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. 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.
New England newspapers
In 1995 MediaNews made its first foray into New England, purchasing the Berkshire Eagle and associated newspapers, including the Vermont dailies Brattleboro Reformer and Bennington Banner and Connecticut daily Middletown Press, the last of which it sold soon after to Journal Register Company.
In the next two years, MediaNews expanded its footprint across Massachusetts' northern tier with its purchases of the North Adams Transcript (1996), Sentinel & Enterprise in Fitchburg (1997) and The Sun of Lowell (also in 1997). MediaNews also purchased the Connecticut Post in 2000, paying $203 million.
In 2007, MediaNews expanded in Connecticut, operating the Stamford Advocate and the Greenwich Time, two dailies in lower Fairfield County with a combined circulation of about 35,000. The Hearst Corporation purchased the two papers from the Tribune Company, and MediaNews operated them through an existing agreement between the two companies until August 2008, when Hearst bought out MediaNews' interest in the Connecticut papers.
The New England papers are owned by New England Newspapers Incorporated, a solely owned subsidiary of MediaNews Group. The subsidiary president is Andrew H. Mick.
Daily newspapers owned by MediaNews, alphabetically by state and hometown, include:
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, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, 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.
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 Corporation, 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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