Throughout the country, newspaper subscribers are asking questions like: Hey, who took my Saturday paper? What happened to those political cartoons and columns that I liked? Why does it take two days to get election results and sports scores? How did my local paper get filled with filler?
Oh… and who doubled the price?
The cause of all of the above is a Wall Street concept called “financialization” — a euphemism for corporate plundering.
Multibillion-dollar hedge funds like SoftBank Group, Alden Global Capital, and Chatham Asset have bought up thousands of our dailies and weeklies. They extract enormous profits, not by making a better journalistic product for customers and the community, but by eliminating reporters, selling off each paper’s real estate and assets, shriveling and standardizing content… and jacking up the paper’s price.
Like avaricious airlines, the profit strategy of these Wall Street newspapers is to monopolize the market, then charge more for less.
But won’t readers stop subscribing? Of course — they’re leaving in droves. But hedge fund profiteers don’t care. Their plan is to strip-mine the business of every dime it has, take the profits, and leave town.
For example, SoftBank, the Japanese owner of the Gannett chain, has pillaged hundreds of local papers. It’s now making another round of deep cuts in its newsrooms, including dumping more journalists. The financializers are also requiring other employees to take unpaid leave and are suspending payments to their pensions.
SoftBank bosses simply said, “we need to ensure our balance sheet remains strong.”
Sure, take care of Number One! But what about ensuring that local journalism remains strong, providing the information and connections that communities must have for strong democracies? Don’t be silly — that’s not part of the hedge fund business model.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.