Here is an update on Ogden’s purchase of western newspapers (see two posts down) from the editor of the Aspen Daily News. (Click on "Billionaire family" to get to the article.)
The article was written by the Aspen Daily News Editor, Megan Tackett. She explains Ogden Newspaper owner Robert Nutting’s rationale for the purchase:
“We acquired these markets because we looked at them as good markets with good community newspapers with a business model that works. . . . We’re here to learn, but we’re here to also make sure that you’ve got a community newspaper for the long term, so we’re going to make changes as they make sense,” he said in a companywide briefing, as reported in the Summit Daily.
"You’ve got a community newspaper for the long term." Really? Are they going to use our local Wheeling Intelligencer, the Ogden newspaper published in the company’s home city, as the model? I would hope not for a number of reasons. Here are a couple of them:
- On local issues, the Intelligencer frequently doesn't report on council and school board meetings until a couple of days after they happen.
- It’s weekend and Monday editions seldom report any news that happened after noon on Friday.
- In its election coverage, the paper consistently ignores Democratic candidates in local and state elections. (For example, the 2020 Democratic senatorial candidate’s name appeared just once from the primary to the general election.)*
- It also publishes a terrible editorial page with mostly far-right columnists and old editorials - often from Ogden’s Ohio properties. Today, for instance, while one editorial came from Ogden’s Parkersburg paper, its second editorial was a restructured version of an editorial that was first published in Ogden's Steubenville paper. More importantly, both editorials originally appeared four years ago in November 2017.
The Aspen editor also praises Ogden for its generosity:
To that effect, Ogden has put its money where its mouth is. In March 2020, during the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ogden made available $1 million in matching grants for locally owned businesses in Ogden markets — and the awarded money could only be used toward advertising in an Ogden-owned newspaper.
There’s one born every day. As I wrote at the time, Ogden did what a lot of advertising mediums did as the pandemic quickly worsened in March 2020 – they cut their advertising rate to attract businesses -- a business paying ½ price was far better than no business paying full price. At the time, Ogden put a nice PR spin (“we’re giving matching grants”) on what was essentially a prudent business decision – lowering the advertising rate.
Finally, Tackett concludes:
One message that has been made clear to the newly acquired newsrooms? No layoffs. Readers can expect largely the same publications they’ve come to know, several sources have said.
I hope Tackett is right. A quick search of my blog posts about Ogden layoffs after acquiring a new paper makes me a bit skeptical, however. This post from 2018 documented some of the layoffs once Ogden took over a paper. Finally, I very much doubt that any of these publications will remain the “same publication” under Ogden ownership. (See “newspapers on the cheap” below for more examples.)
*It would appear that Alex Mooney, who is running against Ogden-favorite David McKinley in the Republican primary, is getting the coverage usually afforded to McKinley’s Democratic opponent: compared to McKinley’s near-daily coverage, it’s been weeks since we’ve last seen Mooney’s name in the paper.