The media outlet, controlled by New-York-based New Media Investment Group Inc., has been quickly buying up troubled papers across the country over the past few years. It has also gained a reputation for trimming staff and consolidating departments, like design, in the process.
The sale of the two papers, previously owned by Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises since 1969, is expected to be complete by May.
These aren’t the first titles the investment group has purchased this month, either, or even the first Cox property. Earlier, The Austin American-Statesman newspaper and its assets were sold to Gateway for $47.5 million.
The company was also rumored to be the front-runner in the recent Boston Herald sale, but Digital First Media beat them in a last-minute bid. Digital First, which owns nearly 100 local papers, has a similar reputation for buying up local properties, often in precarious financial states, then scaling down staff and consolidating production.
Local newsrooms struggle to maintain readership and compete for dwindling advertising dollars, heralding a journalistic crisis. The consolidation of these trusted news sources is no service to local communities, which have relied on many of these titles for over a century.
While some companies, like Facebook, are looking to solve the local news problem by envisioning ways to send readership their way, the ultimate outcome of a large-scale takeover of journalism cannot be a positive one.
Local news, and the journalists who dedicate their careers to it, is published in the spirit of public service. Often, publishers and editors heading these newspapers have deep ties to the communities they serve.
What’s lost as “media groups” — with no ties to the audiences of their new acquisitions — grow larger? A newspaper is no longer seen as the voice of a community, but another check in the company's roll call of assets.
These deals continue to happen quietly, often reported by the very outlets they have purchased. The answer to the local news issue isn’t clear; the publishing industry is struggling. But what could be lost in the process is both sad and frightening.