Digital First Media

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Digital First Media
Private
Headquarters Denver, CO, USA
Area served
New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico & California
Key people
Steve Rossi (CEO & President)
Michael Koren (CFO)
Guy Gilmore (EVP, Eastern Region)
Mac Tully (EVP, Central Region)
Sharon Ryan (EVP, Western Region) [1]
Owner Alden Global Capital
Number of employees
10,000+
Divisions MediaNews Group & Journal Register Company
Website www.digitalfirstmedia.com

Digital First Media, formerly MediaNews Group, is a management company specializing in newspapers in the United States. It is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.[2] It is owned by Alden Global Capital, a New York-based hedge fund specializing in distressed properties. In 2013, MediaNews Group and 21st Century Media merged into Digital First Media.[3]

It manages the MediaNews Group, Southern California News Group, Digital First Ventures, and 21st Century Media.[4][5][6][7]

History

Old MediaNews Group logo.

MediaNews Group, based in Denver, Colorado, was one of the largest newspaper companies in the United States. It operated 56 daily newspapers in 12 states, with combined daily and Sunday circulation of about 2.4 million and 2.7 million, respectively.[8][9] The company owned KTVA, a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska, from March 2000 to October 2012, and radio stations in Texas. The company was founded in 1983 by William Dean Singleton who served as CEO, and Richard Scudder who served as chairman.[10]

Singleton was a pioneer in "clustering": developing groups of newspapers that centralized a variety of functions, including production, ad sales, business operations and, in some cases, editorial. For example, the Alameda Newspaper Group in suburban San Francisco in the mid-1990s had a central newsroom in Pleasanton, California, that did all the copy editing, layout and page makeup for five daily papers.[11] Upon acquiring the diverse group of papers, Singleton consolidated several news sections (such as sports and features) to one local office away from the metropolitan area, having a few reporters do the job of many people.

Singleton was also a pioneer at developing pooled-asset partnerships. Among the first were papers in California, which included papers from Gannett Co. Inc., Stephens Media Group and MediaNews. Singleton's company contributed Los Angeles Daily News and the ANG operation, as well as other papers, while Stephens contributed papers such as the Vallejo Times Herald and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin of Ontario. A year after forming the partnership, the duo allowed Gannett to enter, with its contributions including the San Bernardino Sun and the Marin Independent Journal. MediaNews also entered into similar partnerships in Texas and Pennsylvania with Gannett and in Colorado with The E.W. Scripps Company.

In August 2006, the company took out around $350 million in loans to purchase four newspapers from McClatchy Company. Among those providing the loan was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.[12] The loan was mostly used to help pay for the acquisition of two significant San Francisco Bay Area newspapers (and some smaller papers), including the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times, the dominant papers in the San Jose and Contra Costa County, California markets; in total, the purchases amounted to roughly $737 million.

On January 16, 2010, the Associated Press reported that Affiliated Media, parent of MediaNews will file Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Under the plan, company debt would fall to $165 million from about $930 million. Senior lenders would swap debt for stock. It came out of bankruptcy in March 2010 under the majority ownership of its lenders.[13] The MediaNews creditors then removed Media News president Joseph Lodovic and its chairman, William Dean Singleton, was reassigned to the position of “executive chairman of the board." The Singleton-Lodovic appointees to the MediaNews board were replaced by new directors representing the stockholders group led by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund firm which has acquired a large, though not controlling, stake. Several interim executive positions were also filled by people related to Alden or its parent, Smith Management LLC.[14] MediaNews became managed by Journal Register's Digital First Media.[15]

As of 2012, the combined newspapers and online media outlets managed by the company had 66.6 million readers.[16] In 2017, the company was ranked third-largest among the newspaper groups in the country.[17] Alden Global Capital has been accused of "strip mining" its newspaper holdings.[18][19] In October 2017, the company's CEO, Steve Rossi, stepped down from his position.[17] In February 2018, Digital First Media put in a $11.9 million winning bid to purchase the Boston Herald.[20]

In March 2016, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of Freedom Communications and its two major newspapers, the Orange County Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise to Digital First Media. The papers were integrated into Digital First Media's Los Angeles Newspaper Group, which was renamed the Southern California News Group on the same day.[21][22]

In November 2018, DFM announced plans to lay off 107 staff from its Colorado Springs, Colorado financial services operations, as it outsources the work to Genpact starting December 28.[23][24]

New England newspapers

In 1995 MediaNews made its first foray into New England, purchasing the Berkshire Eagle and associated newspapers, including the Vermont dailies Brattleboro Reformer and Bennington Banner[25] and Connecticut daily Middletown Press, the last of which it sold soon after to Journal Register Company.[26]

In the next two years, MediaNews expanded its footprint across Massachusetts' northern tier with its purchases of the North Adams Transcript (1996), Sentinel & Enterprise in Fitchburg (1997)[25] and The Sun of Lowell (also in 1997).[27] MediaNews also purchased the Connecticut Post in 2000, paying $203 million.[28]

In 2007, MediaNews expanded in Connecticut, operating the Stamford Advocate and the Greenwich Time, two dailies in lower Fairfield County with a combined circulation of about 35,000. The Hearst Corporation purchased the two papers from the Tribune Company, and MediaNews operated them through an existing agreement between the two companies until August 2008, when Hearst bought out MediaNews' interest in the Connecticut papers.

The New England papers are owned by New England Newspapers Incorporated, a solely owned subsidiary of MediaNews Group. The subsidiary president is Andrew H. Mick.

Newspapers

Daily newspapers

Daily newspapers owned by MediaNews, alphabetically by state and hometown, include:[29]

 

Weekly newspapers

Some of the weeklies owned by the company:[30]

Other properties

Other MediaNews properties include:

Former properties

Controversy

MediaNews Group is known as a cost-cutter in the newspaper publishing industry. The company has a reputation for buying smaller daily newspapers in a single area (examples include Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area) and consolidating their operations, including sharing staff writers and printing facilities. As a result of the cost-cutting, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times,[32] some former employees say that the newspapers are focused on making a profit to the detriment of good journalism.

Former owner William Dean Singleton was quick to point out MediaNews's commitment to print journalism, not diversification into other media. The Berkshire Eagle editor David E. Scribner, two years after MediaNews bought his newspaper, said the staff respected Singleton despite layoffs because of his hands-on leadership and "traditional emphasis on good writing."[25]

However, in recent years similar criticism has been aimed at the new organizational structure under Digital First Media. The Denver Post editorial staff and others have criticized the owners of hedge fund group, Alden Global Capital. Alden has a reputation for cutting costs by reducing the number of journalists working on its newspapers, and March 2018, The Washington Post called Alden "one of the most ruthless of the corporate strip-miners seemingly intent on destroying local journalism."[33][34] Alden has additionally received critical coverage from its editorial staff of the Denver Post and described Alden Global Capital as "vulture capitalists" after multiple staff layoffs.[35]

Antitrust allegations

On July 14, 2006, San Francisco businessman and real estate investor Clint Reilly filed a lawsuit against MediaNews Group and San Francisco Chronicle parent Hearst Corporation, alleging that the two companies have been conspiring to control advertising rates, a violation of antitrust laws. In November 2006, Reilly's attorney presented to U.S. District Judge Susan Illston a letter from Hearst senior vice president James Asher to MediaNews President Jody Lodovic that said the two companies agreed to "offer national advertising and internet advertising sales for their San Francisco Bay Area newspapers on a joint basis, and to consolidate the San Francisco Bay Area distribution networks of such newspapers ...." Illston, suggesting she had been misled by the companies when they said they had not been collaborating, issued a 14-page ruling[36] forbidding Hearst and MediaNews from working together on national advertising sales or distribution.

On December 21, 2006, the San Francisco Bay Guardian and nonprofit Media Alliance filed suit to make the details of Reilly's lawsuit—and MediaNews and the Chronicle's response—public.[37] As a result of the filing, many documents in the case were voluntarily disclosed by the defendants. The judge allowed redacted versions of two more documents to be released. She kept 17 others under seal. One of the documents unsealed was the deposition of Hearst's Asher, who says that as of September 2006, his company had recorded cumulative losses of $330 million on its investment in the Chronicle,[38] which it acquired in mid-2000. He said Hearst proposed selling the Chronicle to MediaNews, but MediaNews didn't offer enough money. Asher also said Hearst and MediaNews have discussed working together for years. Although the trial was scheduled to start Monday, April 30, 2007 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco,[39] the parties announced Wednesday, April 25, 2007 that a settlement had been reached.[40]

References

  1. ^ "digitalfirstmedia.com Leadership". Retrieved Dec 14, 2016.
  2. ^ "Leadership". Digital First Media. 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2016-04-29.
  3. ^ "MediaNews Group and 21st Century Media Transaction Has Been Finalized - Digital First Media". Digital First Media. 2013-12-30. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  4. ^ Harden, Mark (December 13, 2011). "MediaNews Group manager, Digital First, to invest in tech startups". Denver Business Journal.
  5. ^ Rainey, James (January 15, 2012). "News exec John Paton is out to stop the presses". Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ "Company Overview of Digital First Media Inc". Bloomberg Businessweek.
  7. ^ "Journal Register Company Announces The Creation of Digital First Media Inc" (Press release). Journal Register Company. September 7, 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-07-23.
  8. ^ http://www.medianewsgroup.com/about/ Blurb from the corporate website
  9. ^ http://www.medianewsgroup.com/about/ MediaNews Group About Page
  10. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (2012-11-15). "Richard B. Scudder, Co-Founder of MediaNews Group, Dies at 99". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
  11. ^ "ALAMEDA: FIVE NEWSPAPERS PAGINATE 2300 PAGES PER WEEK". The Cole Papers. Feb 6, 1994. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
  12. ^ ""Gates Foundation Makes MediaNews Loan", Toronto Star. August 22, 2006.
  13. ^ McCarty, Dawn; Bensinger, Greg (2010-01-22). "Affiliated Media Files for Bankruptcy to Restructure (Update2)". Business Week. Bloomberg. Retrieved 2011-02-22.
  14. ^ Langeveld, Martin (2011-01-20). "The shakeup at MediaNews: Why it could be the leadup to a massive newspaper consolidation". Nieman Journalism Lab. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism (Harvard University). Retrieved 2011-02-22.
  15. ^ Journal Register’s Digital First Media will manage MediaNews
  16. ^ Carey, Pete (May 4, 2012). "Digital First Media's chief says newspapers have key advantages in the struggle for readers and advertising". San Jose Mercury News.
  17. ^ a b Doctor, Ken (2017-10-23). "Digital First Media's CEO steps down; what may lie ahead for the company?". TheStreet. Retrieved 2018-02-03.
  18. ^ "Petition | Alden". aldenexposed.com. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  19. ^ "DFM Workers". DFM Workers. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  20. ^ Chesto, Jon (2018-02-13). "Digital First Media wins bidding for Herald with $12m package". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  21. ^ Talking New Media blog: "Bankruptcy judge approves Digital First Media purchase of Freedom Communications assets", by D.B. Hebbard21 March 2016.
  22. ^ LA Observed blog: "Memo: LA News Group now So Cal News Group", by Kevin Roderick, 21 March 2016.
  23. ^ Roberts, Michael (2018-11-01). "How 107 Digital First Media Layoffs Will Impact Denver Post, 96 Sister Papers". Westword. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  24. ^ Heilman, Wayne (2018-10-30). "Owner of The Denver Post laying off 107 at Colorado Springs service center". Colorado Springs Gazette. Retrieved 2018-11-02.
  25. ^ a b c Elfland, Mike. "Sentinel & Enterprise Sale Set," Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), January 8, 1997.
  26. ^ "Business Briefs," Union-News (Springfield, Mass.), August 26, 1995
  27. ^ "Lowell Paper Sold," Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.), July 9, 1997.
  28. ^ Gatlin, Greg. "MediaNews Drops Bid." Boston Herald, August 9, 2000.
  29. ^ MediaNews Group. "Daily newspapers". Our newspapers. Denver, Colorado. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  30. ^ MediaNews Group. "Non-daily newspapers". Our newspapers. Denver, Colorado. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  31. ^ http://www.timescall.com/ci_17152929
  32. ^ Menn, Joseph. "There Are Two Sides to This Publisher's Story". Los Angeles Times. March 22, 2006.
  33. ^ Ember, Sydney (12 April 2018). "Colorado Group Pushes to Buy Embattled Denver Post From New York Hedge Fund". Retrieved 12 April 2018 – via NYTimes.com.
  34. ^ Silber, Tony. "Job on the Line, Denver Post Editor Hears Nothing from Company Owner". forbes.com. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  35. ^ Ember, Sydney (2018-04-07). "Denver Post Rebels Against Its Hedge-Fund Ownership". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  36. ^ U.S. District Court Order Re: Second Application for Temporary Restraining Order, November 28, 2006.
  37. ^ Williamson, Kate. "Weekly, Nonprofit Sue to Open Records". San Francisco Examiner, December 22, 2006.
  38. ^ Said, Carolyn. "Hearst, MediaNews Talks Included Possible Sale of Chronicle", San Francisco Chronicle, February 1, 2007.
  39. ^ "MediaNews, Hearst Trial Set to Proceed", San Francisco Examiner. February 9, 2007.
  40. ^ Egelko, Bob (2007-04-25). "Hearst, MediaNews Group settle Reilly suit". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-05-30.

External links

  • Alden Global Capital
  • Nieman Journalism Lab. "MediaNews Group". Encyclo: an encyclopedia of the future of news. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
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