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Newsonomics: What was once unthinkable is quickly becoming reality in the destruction of local news
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Articles by Ken Doctor

Ken Doctor is a news industry analyst and the author of Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get (St. Martin’s Press). He also runs the book’s companion website, newsonomics.com. He is an analyst for the research firm Outsell and a regular consultant and speaker. He spent 21 years with Knight Ridder in a variety of roles, including as managing editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and as a vice president of Knight Ridder Digital.
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The coronavirus pandemic is proving the value of local news to millions of readers, driving up subscriptions. But the advertising collapse is knee-buckling. “If it’s a couple of months, we’ll make it through. If it’s six months, all bets are off.”
The multi-trillion-dollar CARES Act should extend a lifeline to many small local publishers. But for bigger companies and chains, the help they’ll receive is still up in the air — “It’s very unformed.”
It’s generated controversy over its fundraising, its paywall, and its staffing. But it’s also about as close as a major American city has gotten to a digital news site that can go toe-to-toe with the local daily newspaper.
Will Chatham Asset Management, the hedge fund set to gain control of the company, want to operate it after bankruptcy? Or will it look to cash out via merger as quickly as possible?
After ten years of writing for Nieman Lab, Ken takes a big look back and ahead, defining the state of affairs for the troubled world of journalism.
The news industry’s own Doctor Octopus has stuck its tentacles deep into another newspaper chain — and it’s unlikely to be dislodged anytime soon.
Worse, the two left standing could be run by hedge fund guys with little interest in more than the bottom line.
Astonishingly, history might argue that Sam Zell was only the third-worst owner in recent Tribune history.
The nation’s second-largest newspaper company had paid off most of its old debt and still generates positive cashflow. But it might head to bankruptcy anyway so investors can get paid.
What was once expected to be $200 million in annual cost savings has now grown to $400 million or more. But how much blood is left to be drawn from this stone?