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Letter: Alden Capital spells trouble for newspapers

The cover story of the October issue of The Atlantic was titled “The Men Who Are Killing America’s Newspapers.” You can find it at https://bit.ly/3peiDSD. The subtitle of the article was “Inside Alden Global Capital, The Secretive Hedge Fund Gutting Newsrooms and Damaging Democracy.” The article was written by McKay Coppins.

I learned that Alden Capital was founded by two men, Randall Smith and Heath Freeman.

According to Wikipedia Alden Global Capital “is collectively the second-largest owner of newspapers in the United States, ... second only to Gannett.”

According to The Atlantic article Smith “hasn’t ganted an interview since the 1980s. Freeman ... would be unrecognizable in most of the newsrooms he owns.”

When I first read the article, I checked to see who the owners of the Roanoke Times are. Whew, I thought when I saw that it was Lee Enterprises and not Alden Global Capital.

Clearly The Roanoke Times has been enduring their own massive changes, but it appears they are doing the best with what they have to work with. My wife and I are long term subscribers to the print edition so that we can sit across from one another with different sections and recommend what to read to one another. Then as I read the articles recommended by her, she does the crossword puzzle.

On Nov. 23rd, this headline appeared in The Roanoke Times: “Hedge fund seeks to buy newspaper chain.” It turns out that Alden Global Capital already had a small stake in Lee Enterprises and was offering to buy out the remaining shares of the company. A week later another article reported that Lee Enterprises would be resisting the takeover by invoking a “poison pill.”

The Atlantic article is packed with firsthand stories as to what happens when Alden Global Capital acquires a newspaper. Most telling may be this statement from Charlie Johnson, a former Metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune, acquired by Alden in June. He says, “They call Alden a vulture head fund. A vulture doesn’t hold a wounded animal’s head underwater. This is predatory.”

Do we really want our local newspaper to go under? What can we do to stop it?

Ken Conklin, Daleville

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