This morning, media blogger Jim Romenesko caught this screengrab from the site of Halifax Media Holdings, LLC, based in Florida, listing among their companies the Press Democrat and other regional papers owned by the NYT.
The arrangement was later announced formally in this NYT press release.
The Times' Regional Media Group consists of 16 small and mid-size newspapers. Forbes' Jeff Bercovici has more:
Why sell? For starters, the Regional Media Group’s fortunes have been trending downward. Its revenues were down 6.7% through the first nine months of 2011, versus a 0.4% dip for the New York Times itself and a 5.5% decline for the Boston Globe, which isn’t part of the sale.
Press Democrat publisher Bruce Kyse broke the news to staff in meetings this morning. No purchase price has been announced.
This cannot possibly bode well for the Press Democrat, especially since Halifax CEO Michael Redding does not exactly seem to have the best reputation. In April last year, he purchased the Daytona Beach News-Journal, slashed staff and immediately replaced the editor; this year, Redding shattered the long-respected firewall between editorial and sales and actually asked News-Journal reporters to sell advertising and subscriptions:
Daytona Beach News Journal Publisher Michael Redding marked the one-year anniversary of the newspaper under his co-ownership with an offer to most of the 400-some remaining employees of the paper, including editors and reporters: Anyone selling a three-month subscription to the paper would get a $25 bonus, or $50 for a six month subscription. Anyone selling $100 worth of advertising would get $50.
This, in brief, is a goddamn crazy, unethical, unheard-of thing.
Best of luck to our many friends over at the Press Democrat, who no doubt are today wishing they'd taken a Times severance package while they had the chance. The only silver lining we can see is that at least the paper wasn't sold to the Bay Area News Group, which basically owns every paper in the Bay Area except for the San Francisco Chronicle; media monopolies are never a good thing.
And one more thing: maybe, just maybe, the Press Democrat will now restore Luther Burbank's "chosen spot" quote to the top of the Empire News section. It was a beautiful local touch that for some reason died with the NYT acquisition.
But with headquarters in Florida, who knows what'll happen?