Thursday, September 8, 2011

US pseudo-merger points the way to a new journalistic future

Two of the largest newspaper chains in the United States, Journal Register (JRC) and MediaNews Group, have agreed to a merger that isn't a merger. Though they will maintain separate boards they will be jointly managed by a wholly new company - Digital First Media. And it is JRC's chief executive, John Paton,(pictured) who becomes the big boss. But, according to a Nieman Journalism Lab analysis, the non-merger merger has been engineered by a hedge fund, Alden Global Capital. Alden has specialised in buying up pieces of distressed or bankrupt newspaper companies and making substantial investments in a number of leading publishers, such as Gannett, McClatchy, Freedom, Tribune, PostMedia, Philadelphia Media, and Media General. It acquired JRC outright earlier this summer. Now all eyes - in the US and Britain - should be on developments at the Alden/Paton initiative. As the Nieman article says: "We might be looking back on today's announcement as the beginning of a wave that radically changed the US newspaper industry."

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