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Chicago Tribune Guild Seeks Local, "Civic-Minded" Ownership

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021   

CHICAGO - A hedge fund's purchase of the Chicago Tribune is in the works - but until it becomes official, members of the Chicago Tribune Guild are hoping local, civic-minded owners will step in.

Even before announcing the agreement, Alden Global Capital had become the largest shareholder of Tribune Publishing, and already had begun to reduce staff, offering buyouts to reporters who worked at the newspaper for at least eight years.

Charlie Johnson, vice president of the Tribune Guild, said he thinks the hedge fund would prioritize profit over quality of journalism.

"I think people are concerned that with Alden fully in command, that headcount of the newsroom will continue to decline, either through cuts or attrition," he said, "and Chicago won't have one of its truly great news organizations for all that much longer."

Tribune Publishing isn't the first newspaper company Alden Global has sought to take over. Last year, the Denver City Council called out the hedge fund for gutting numerous newspapers, including the Denver Post, citing its "devastating impact on local journalism across the nation."

Johnson said the deal hasn't yet passed anti-trust muster. He added that he hopes the newspaper can follow a similar path as the Baltimore Sun, which also is owned by Tribune Publishing and being acquired - not by Alden Global, but by a nonprofit started by local Maryland philanthropist and businessman Stewart Bainum, Jr.

"They're local Baltimore backers, people with wealth who think that the Sun is really an important part of civic life there," he said, "and they're gonna buy it and set it up so that it can operate there in the future and serve the citizens of Baltimore."

He said Chicago is stronger with local journalists telling the stories of its residents, watchdogging its politicians and justice system, and checking on where its tax dollars are going. He said he wants any potential owner to share that commitment.


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