NewsGuild-CWA Denounces Alden Stake in Tribune Publishing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 20, 2019

Washington, D.C. – The purchase by Alden Global Capital of a 25.2 percent stake in Tribune Publishing is a source of deep concern for NewsGuild-CWA members.

“Alden has single-handedly hollowed out the news organization it controls,” said NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer. “It has liquidated assets – both real estate and employees – solely for its own benefit and without regard to the effects of its policies on news reporting in towns and cities across the country,” he said. Between 2012 and 2019, Alden cut 71 percent of Guild-represented jobs at MediaNews Group newspapers (aka Digital First Media) it controls.

Alden’s effect on the news industry have been so egregious that Lunzer provided written testimony to the House Financial Services Committee on Nov. 19, 2019, outlining its devastation. Reporters at Alden-owned papers in the Bay Area protested the gutting of their newsrooms and dismal pay.

Don’t just take our word for it. According to The Washington Post headline, Alden’s activity in the news industry can be summarized as, “A hedge fund’s ‘mercenary’ strategy: Buy newspapers, slash jobs, sell the buildings.” A New York Times headline recalled that Alden has been labeled “the destroyer of newspapers.” And Bloomberg’s Joe Nocera compared Alden President Heath Freeman to Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street. “His papers are intended not so much to inform the public or hold officialdom to account, but to supply cash for Freeman to use elsewhere. His layoffs aren’t just painful. They are savage,” Nocera wrote.

News industry analyst Ken Doctor reported that, “By selling to America’s worst newspaper owners, Michael Ferro ushers the vultures into Tribune.” He asked, “Is it the apocalypse, or just an unreasonable facsimile?”

Alden’s disastrous management has not been limited to the news industry. Two retail companies that it controlled – Payless Holdings and the pharmacy chain Fred’s Inc. – filed for bankruptcy and liquidation in 2019. Alden representatives on the boards of both companies walked away with handsome paychecks. Unfortunately, 22,472 retail employees lost their jobs.

And Alden Global Capital has been under investigation by the Department of Labor for the management of the pension plans it controls. In 2015, for example, 89.5 percent of the assets of the San Jose Mercury News Retirement Plan were invested in Alden-managed funds.

“We call on the Tribune board and shareholders to reject Alden’s approach to news: stripping staffs and assets to bare bones and abandoning their obligation to fully report the news and hold the powerful to account,” Lunzer said.

“We take to heart the stated commitment of Tribune Chairman David Dreier to ‘valuable journalism for our customers and communities,’” he added. “The NewsGuild believes that goal can only be attained by employing sufficient number of employees at decent wages to ensure that papers can properly report the news and tell the stories of the communities they serve.”

Along with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, The NewsGuild-CWA reached out to shareholders to stymie Alden’s proxy fight with Gannett in the spring.

“We will continue to fight for news, news industry workers, and the communities they serve,” Lunzer said.

About The NewsGuild-CWA
The NewsGuild-CWA is the largest union of journalists and other communications professionals in North America, representing more than more than 20,000 workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico and over 650 employees at Tribune Publishing. The Communications Workers of America represents working men and women in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, and manufacturing.

To arrange an interview with NewsGuild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer, contact Sally Davidow, (202) 368-3324 or email sdavidow@cwa-union.org.

 

Photo: Members of the several Alden-controlled NewsGuild units in the Bay Area rallied in Oakland on Nov. 19. They called on Alden Global Capital to invest some of the millions of dollars they’ve made in profits from their newspapers back into local journalism.