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The [Thursday] Papers

"Michael Ferro, majority owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, has become the largest shareholder in Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, parent company of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other major daily newspapers," the Tribune reports.

Layoffs begin immediately.

No, seriously, this is not good.

*

"Tribune Publishing sold more than 5.2 million shares of newly issued common stock to Merrick Media, a Chicago-based investment firm controlled by Ferro, in a $44.4 million deal announced Thursday.

"The purchase gives Ferro, a successful technology entrepreneur and nascent media baron, a nearly 17 percent stake in Tribune Publishing and a significant say in the direction of the legacy newspaper company as it navigates its digital future."

The Tribune's website is already loading 17 percent slower.

*

Ferro is less a "successful technology entrepreneur" than someone who made a good investment once in a company that had something to do with technology. If he himself is a technologist, he's got to be the worst technologist in the city. Seriously, Michael, turn the Sun-Times website over to a hack night - or a college class - before it crashes the whole Internet.

*

As far as navigating the digital future of Tribune Publishing, I wouldn't trust Ferro to navigate the digital future of a garage door opener, a device, by the way, that is smarter than Jenny McCarthy, who should be showing up for work at Tribune Tower any day now.

Meanwhile, the paper's political reporters should be polishing their resumes. The governor must be ecstatic.

*

To put it another way, Michael Ferro got it backwards: he hired Jenny McCarthy and screwed Dave McKinney.

*

Sun-Times publisher and editor Jim Kirk, by the way, has never answered for his role in McKinney's departure. If McKinney didn't have confidence in Kirk's ability to keep Ferro out of the paper's political coverage, why should any other reporter? More importantly, why should any reader?

In the rearranging of roles, Kirk now ascends to a seat on the board of Wrapports, the Sun-Times' parent company, so he continues to be amply rewarded for not standing with reporters and readers in safeguarding his paper's integrity. I'm sure Kirk will have no comment because he never does - he stiffs the press more than Rahm Emanuel when asked about his kids' school while on his way out of town to an overseas vacation.

*

"Wrapports bought the Sun-Times and its portfolio of suburban newspapers for about $20 million. His big plans mostly fizzled, and the newspaper and its staff have been substantially downsized amid steady losses."

But thanks for what Tribune Publishing CEO Jack Griffin calls "a vote of confidence in our strategy!" More like, thanks for the money and I'll just hold my nose here while you hand me the check. It's like Coldplay - without the record sales - giving AC/DC a vote of confidence. (Not that Tribune Publishing is AC/DC, outside of being a dying legacy; Nickelback?)

Among the failed initiatives was Grid, a glossy Sunday business magazine launched in early 2013 that disappeared within months, along with much of the newspaper's local business coverage, which has since been farmed out to USA Today.

In 2013, the Sun-Times directed reporters to snap photos with iPhones and fired the paper's photographers, a move that drew national attention and became symbolic of the head winds facing the newspaper industry.

Its digital initiatives also have fallen short, notably the low-budget Sun-Times Network, an aggregated national news site resembling BuzzFeed and Gawker.

The Sun-Times Network bears absolutely no resemblance to BuzzFeed and Gawker. It's does, however, bear a resemblance to a ripoff content farm representing the worst practices of digital "journalism."

Lingering question: Is there anything good that Ferro has brought to the editorial operation? (Or even the business operation?)

*

"In an October interview on Bloomberg Markets, Ferro was decidedly upbeat in his assessment of journalism. 'By the way, journalism has never been bigger in the world,' Ferro said. 'There's more journalists than there's ever been.'"

Not at the Sun-Times!

"There's more content than there's ever been."

Not at the Sun-Times!

"So we think this is a great time to be a journalist, it's a great time to be in media, and there's a huge growth trajectory."

Not at the Sun-Times!

*

For that matter, has the Reader gotten better or worse under Ferro/Kirk?

*

Here's that Bloomberg Markets interview (note that Bloomberg Markets has learned through reports that Ferro owns the Sun-Times):

*

His automated clipping service is a terrible idea, by the way.

*

"Griffin said he welcomes Ferro's investment and involvement in Tribune Publishing. 'He brings vision and energy and commitment and capital.'"

Here's the right way to read that: "He brings vision and energy and commitment and capital."

Though the Sun-Times newsroom might wonder why they didn't see that $44 million for themselves. (Wait, is $44 million all it takes to gain a controlling interest in Tribune Publishing? My God. When I was at Chicago magazine, Tribune bought us for $35 million.)

*

"This transaction supports key elements of our ongoing strategic plan and provides our company with additional capital to accelerate our growth strategies," said Griffin in a statement. "We continue to evaluate growth opportunities where we can achieve measurable, value-enhancing synergies that drive financial contribution and maximize shareholder value."

Translation: We needed the money. Bad.

*

"I see tremendous upside to create value and put Tribune Publishing at the forefront of technology and content to benefit journalists and shareholders," Ferro said in a statement.

Translation: I am delusional.

*

"Ferro - who led the acquisition of the Sun-Times in 2011 after the death of late Sun-Times owner James Tyree - moved out of the Sun-Times building on Wednesday. He is expected to move in to Tribune Tower, which is up for sale," the Sun-Times reports.

Was he escorted out - and in - by security?

-

Previously in Michael Ferro:
* Item: Media Mogul's Message.

* Item: Digital Dungeon.

* Still waiting for Capital Fax impresario Rich Miller to tell us what Ferro and/or the Sun-TImes did to him.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #28: The Sun-Times Is A Hot Mess.

* The Beachwood Radio Hour #30: ILGOV2014.

From the Show Notes:

Feder: "In recent weeks, sources said, Ferro has been exerting pressure on editors regarding coverage of Rauner."

* Item: Accountability.

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Fantasy Fix: The (Tied At The ) Top 40
Three Cubs, two Sox.

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BeachBook

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Now with vaccination.



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Posted on February 4, 2016


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