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New York Daily News makes a plea for local ownership as hedge fund takeover looms

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The latest plea for a break-up of Tribune Publishing’s newspapers is coming from inside the pages of a Tribune publication.

In Wednesday’s edition of the New York Daily News, reporter Larry McShane practically begs someone local to “step up and save New York’s Hometown Paper.”

McShane and many of his colleagues fear that Tribune’s current path, a takeover by Alden Global Capital, will cause further harm to the paper.

McShane’s column calls Alden a “notorious hedge fund known for decimating newspapers like the Denver Post before picking the bones for profit.”

He writes, “To folks like me, veterans of local journalism, and for people like you, who appreciate what local journalism offers, this constitutes an emergency.”

Indeed, the New York City-based Alden has become known for buying up troubled newspapers and then subjecting the staff to deep job cuts. The Denver Post made national news in 2018 for revolting against such cuts.

It is quite an unusual sight: A headline that says “Please buy this newspaper” right in the pages, reporters at Tribune-owned papers have been fighting against Alden for more than a year now.

Alden already owns about a third of Tribune, making it the company’s largest shareholder. In February the Tribune board accepted a bid for Alden to acquire the rest of the company in a deal valued at $630 million.

Since then, there have been numerous twists and turns, as the Maryland real estate mogul Stewart Bainum Jr. maneuvered to make his own bid for the newspaper publisher.

But time is running out, and the Alden deal appears to be on track. The New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, and other local stalwarts are all affected.

“My colleagues across the country in Tribune Publishing have warned about Alden buying our company since November 2019. We are near the end,” Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt wrote on Twitter last week. “Chicago, we need help to save the Chicago Tribune.”

Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss had signaled interest in taking over the Chicago Tribune earlier this year, but he dropped out of the process last month.

McShane is the latest reporter to add his voice, in a rather remarkable way, right in the paper. He offered up a snappy tabloid headline for the story: “DAILY NEWS NEEDS NEW OWNER.”

He said the Daily News deserves “a New York owner, someone who knows the city and embraces the paper’s 102-year legacy, who hears the voices of the five boroughs shouting from every page and our website. Someone who can treat the newspaper as a public trust, not simply as a property from which to squeeze every last bit of possible profit.”

Jennifer W. Sheehan, a reporter at another Tribune title, The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania, tweeted in response, “All of us have been working for months to get new owners that can help us escape ownership by the worst hedge fund in America. It may be down to the wire but we will not stop.”

Spokespeople for Tribune Publishing and Alden did not respond to requests for comment.

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