On World Press Freedom Day, NewsGuild warns of danger to local news; Urges shareholders to reject Alden’s hostile bid for Gannett
May 2, 2019 – On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, The NewsGuild-CWA will warn of the danger to local news coverage in communities across the United States and urge Gannett shareholders to reject a looming hostile takeover bid by Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund.
Alden, reviled as a “destroyer of newspapers,” owns Digital First Media, the second largest U.S. chain by circulation. Alden is backing a slate of three “hopelessly conflicted” candidates running for Gannett’s board at the company’s May 16 shareholder meeting.
NewsGuild members at DFM and Gannett newspapers nationwide will mark the day with rallies in Denver and Detroit and on social media using the hashtag #SaveLocalNews to focus on the threat Alden’s bid poses to local and regional news. Gannett is the nation’s largest newspaper chain and owns the second largest chain in the United Kingdom.
The Detroit rally will begin at 2 p.m. on May 3, outside the offices of the Free Press, which is owned by Gannett, and the Detroit News, which is owned by Digital First Media a subsidiary of Alden Global Capital.
The Denver rally will begin at 11:45 a.m., outside the office of the Denver Post, a DFM paper.
“On World Press Freedom Day, we highlight the crucial role that newspapers play in our democracy, in cities large and small across the country,” said NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer. “Our campaign has placed a spotlight on the devastating effect that hedge funds in general – and Alden in particular – have had on local and regional news coverage. Gannett shareholders should reject Alden’s attempt to profit from its destructive, asset-stripping strategy at the expense of Gannett’s newspapers and the long-term future of the company.”
Hedge fund ownership of Digital First Media newspapers has resulted in staff cuts at more than twice the national rate. Alden’s cost-cutting has helped spark a new, albeit grim, vocabulary in the newspaper industry: “news deserts” and “ghost newspapers.”
The Washington Post recently reported that Alden is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor for investing more than $250 million of employee pension money into its own accounts.
“Journalists at DFM newspapers continue to do outstanding work, but Alden’s brutal cost-cutting diminishes the scope of coverage and causes incalculable harm to communities,” Lunzer said. “The work done by our members is vitally important for our democracy, and we continue to call for new, responsible owners who will invest in the work our members do each day at DFM.”