May 30, 2017 – The people of Chicago are in danger of losing the Chicago Sun-Times, one of the city’s two major daily newspapers, members of the Chicago News Guild report.
The danger is the result of a proposed a sale to the parent company of the Sun-Times’ only real competitor, the Chicago Tribune. The impending sale also will affect The Reader, a free alternative weekly known for its in-depth coverage of Chicago politics and culture.
“If the sale goes through, it will create a virtual news monopoly in one of the nation’s biggest cities,” said NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer.
And the Chicago News Guild is taking action. The local placed an advertisement in the online edition of the Sun-Times on Friday, seeking other qualified buyers.
In addition, the local created an online petition, urging the Department of Justice, which is monitoring the process and investigating the potential sale, to provide adequate time for others to prepare bids to purchase the publications.
“We also urge the department to ensure that any deal will preserve journalistic independence for The Reader and the Sun-Times and position these vitally important community institutions for long-term survival,” the petition says.
“Each publication serves unique audiences within the city’s diverse communities,” it notes. “Sustaining multiple, independent voices in Chicago journalism should be a greater priority than maximizing returns for investors” in Tronc, the owner of the Chicago Tribune; Wrapports, the owner of the Sun-Times and The Reader, or any other potential owner, the petition asserts.
The goal of diverse ownership of media is supported by a long history of rulings by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and by federal court decisions. In 2004, the Third Circuit Court affirmed “the authority of the Commission to regulate media ownership to foster viewpoint diversity, local identity, and prevent under concentration of economic power.”
The court acknowledged that “structural rules limiting concentrated ownership of the media are necessary to protect and promote the free and vibrant press that is so vital to our democracy.”
Staff members of the Chicago Sun-Times and The Reader believe their jobs are unlikely to survive under Tribune ownership.
“We want to be certain that competition and diverse editorial viewpoints continue to be offered in one of the best cities for news in our country,” said Darel Jevens, Sun-Times entertainment editor and co-chair of the Guild’s unit at the paper. “We are concerned that, whatever its intentions, the Tribune will have no long-term incentive to keep these publications going once it gets control of them.”
The NewsGuild is also soliciting support for the effort on Twitter, using the hashtag #NoNewsMonopoly.