Feb. 13, 2020 – McClatchy, a large chain owner of many local newspapers, announced today it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections to shed a large pension obligations and help it pursue a “digital transformation.”
The NewsGuild-CWA represents approximately 150 employees at six McClatchy publications and is working with our local leaders to protect jobs and fight for strong job protections across our industry. The Guild also represents some employees who are covered by the old Knight Ridder Pension Plan, which was taken over by McClatchy in 2006.
The announcement said the likely new owners of McClatchy would be Chatham Asset Management, a hedge fund with an estimated $4.4 billion under management. Chatham also owns American Media Inc., which formerly owned the National Enquirer and other tabloids. It also owns Postmedia, publisher of The National Post, The Toronto Sun and 14 other Canadian newspapers.
“Continued financialization of local news will destroy our democracy,” said NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss. “It’s time for communities across America to stand up and fight to save local news.”
Sarah Blaskey, vice chair of the Guild unit that represents the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, said, “One Herald Guild unionized to protect and preserve our newsroom and the strength of our local journalism. We are committed to standing up for these principles no matter what. We are grateful for the support we have received from members of our community and newsrooms around the country.”
Chatham is not the first hedge fund to takeover a news organization. The secretive hedge fund Alden Global Capital has been buying up newspapers for more than a decade, stashing money in tax havens, and operating a complex web of funds and business structures that hide their investors from public view.
Under Alden’s management, newspaper staffing levels have been slashed to the bone, laying off the very journalists who otherwise would investigate and expose this kind of business conduct.
Journalism is vital to a healthy democracy, and transparency is essential to accurate, independent reporting and public trust in the news media.