Dan Barry’s recent New York Times piece about the lone reporter for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa., struck home.
The Mercury is owned by the same hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, that gutted The Saratogian, where I worked for 38 years, along with The Record in nearby Troy, and virtually every other newspaper it’s acquired, large and small. Alden also owns significant shares in big newspaper chains and is salivating for more.
Newspapers are distressed properties that vultures like Alden will mercilessly squeeze to death. Alden’s newspaper division made $160 million in the 2017 fiscal year, with double-digit profit margins from some of its newspapers, Barry reported, while the hedge fund continues to strip its newspapers bare. Its motto could be: All the news we print’s for profit.
The focus of Barry’s story is reporter Evan Brandt, whose beat in Pottstown includes more than a dozen local governments and school districts.
Here, a handful of writers and editors are attempting to cover an impossible number of communities in and around Saratoga Springs, Troy, and southern Saratoga County for online and print editions. It’s tempting to call this a fool’s errand, but the journalists are no fools, just people who believe that knowing what’s going on in your town is important — even though their bosses could not care less.
These and other local newspapers, as Barry writes, are “operating on fumes and the idealism” of their own Evan Brandt.
This may not convince you to pay for your local news, but I hope it will help you to understand and appreciate what the less than barebones staff is up against.