The long-proud Chicago Sun-Times takes the newspaper industry’s stunning decline to a frustrating low this morning: It runs an ad for its own sale.
Wrapped around the front page is a letter to readers from publisher-editor Jim Kirk that it’s looking for new ownership to keep “the Sun-Times publishing as an independent news source for Chicago.”
The reality is that it has already looked, come up short and entered into a tentative, non-binding deal with the owner of the rival Chicago Tribune, the company long known as Tribune Company, Tribune Publishing and now the inelegantly retitled Tronc.
After discussions with Tronc, it notes that it has informed the Justice Department’s antitrust division. Once upon a time, that would have been an ambiguous request. Now, with the industry in freefall, and the department under the more free market supervision of the Trump administration, a desperation-filled request for approval of such a deal would seem likely.
“We believe an ownership that can bring substantial digital resources can help and is the best path for the Sun-Times to succeed long term,” writes Kirk, who asks readers to offer their thoughts, questions and concerns at email@example.com.
The full-page advertisement comes on page 15. Interested parties “may contact Bulkley Capital at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Brad Bulkley is a Dallas-based investor and consultant with extensive newspaper experience, including being on the board of Creative Loafing, which once was a major player in the alternative weekly field.
It’s all pretty straightforward and bleak, a vivid example of a media entity trying to make lemonade out of the lemons of an industry collapse.
It’s a long way from the day in 1984 when a triumphant Rupert Murdoch marched into the Sun-Times newsroom after buying the paper from Field Enterprises.
He left after a short time, to pursue a new television network, Fox, and what ensued has been a competitive downward spiral and parade of owners.
Whoever winds up in charge will face the same basic predicament that both papers confront: Producing quality local online content that people will pay real money to purchase each day.