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L.A. Times Sells Union Tribune to Right-Wing So. Cal News Group-Alden Capital-‘Vulture Hedge Fund’

July 11, 2023

Alden is known for gutting newsrooms, a memo to workers stated we will need to ‘make some difficult staffing decisions’

By Brian Hews, Publisher/Non-Corporate Owner

Yet another non-newspaper executive runs another valued newspaper into the ground.

Right-wing Southern California News Group has bought the San Diego Union-Tribune from Los Angeles billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, “don’t call me Sam Zell,” for an undisclosed amount.

I bet SCNG publishers Frank Pine and Ron Hasse can’t wait to spew their right-wing vitriolic, homophobic opines at San Diego residents.

Alden Global Capital, owner of SCNG, and known for gutting newsrooms, purchased the paper and now will own 11 papers in So Cal.

NPR wrote in 2021 about Alden, “When this hedge fund buys local newspapers, democracy suffers.”

As newspapers vanish, so does civic engagement. Research shows that when local newspapers disappear or are dramatically gutted, communities tend to see lower voter turnout, increased polarization, a general erosion of civic engagement and an environment where misinformation and conspiracy theories can spread more easily.

Many cities almost operate assuming that at least one local newspaper will be acting as a check on the authorities. Where newspapers have been scaled back or even closed, there really is no comparable product in place to do what local newspapers have done for hundreds of years.

The Atlantic called Alden a “vulture hedge fund.”

It has figured out how to make a profit by driving newspapers into the ground since Alden’s aim is not to make them into long-term sustainable businesses but rather maximize profits quickly to show it has made a winning investment.


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Case in point, the memo sent out to U-T workers, “the Union-Tribune will need to make some difficult staffing decisions as we assume management. Reductions will be necessary to offset the revenue slowdown as economic headwinds continue to impact the media industry.”

You always get the argument from Alden, “Some of these papers likely would have been liquidated if the fund had not stepped in to buy them.”

But that’s not true for all of them.

When it bought the Chicago Tribune, Alden did the same thing. Atlantic reporters visited the Tribune’s office and were “shocked by how grim the scene was.” It’s traded in a prestigious downtown newsroom for a “Chipotle-sized office” near the printing press.

“A quarter of the newsroom took the buyouts Alden offered, and while some great reporters remain on staff, it’s nearly impossible for them to fill the journalism gaps.”

The Tribune Company, which owned The Chicago Tribune, was still turning a profit when Alden bought it. Still, the hedge fund immediately offered aggressive rounds of buyouts and shrunk its newsrooms in the name of increasing profit margins.

Like an efficiency robot, Alden wrote in the U-T memo, “We will seek efficiencies in business operations, distribution, and production while striving to support and prioritize the robust, local newsgathering needed to serve the communities that rely on the Union-Tribune for excellence in journalism.”

The U-T has San Diego roots that date to 1868. It was bought by Tribune Publishing in 2015 and then acquired along with the Los Angeles Times by Soon-Shiong three years later. The Times recently announced it was eliminating 74 positions in its newsroom or roughly 13% of the staff.