From yesterday’s New York Times:
In the article, Times reporter Jack Healy explains the toll that a libel lawsuit has taken on the Aspen Times, a newspaper purchased by Wheeling's Ogden Newspapers last December:
A lawsuit by a powerful out-of-town developer might have been big news for the 140-year-old Aspen Times. The paper is a beloved institution that has chronicled scandals and squabbles from Aspen’s silver-mining days through its transformation into a gilded skiing and cultural mecca in the Rockies.
But former staff members say the paper’s corporate owners, a West Virginia-based newspaper chain, did not allow The Aspen Times to write about the libel lawsuit and blocked other pieces about the developer, Vladislav Doronin, from running as the two sides negotiated a settlement. The lawsuit was settled in May.
The Aspen Times’s publisher and corporate leaders say they have not censored any coverage. But the episode demoralized the newsroom and brought criticism around Aspen that the paper’s owners had been cowed by a developer. One editor quit. Another editor was fired after running opinion columns about what happened.
The aftermath led to a newsroom exodus and rattled public confidence in the newspaper, according to interviews with more than a dozen local journalists, officials and Aspen residents.
Like last month’s Poynter article, the Times explains the problem’s origins and how Ogden has tried to remedy it.
I thought some of the commenters for the article made excellent points. I especially liked this one from commenter WJG:
So some companies own newspapers because they want to run newspapers and do what newspapers are supposed to do; publish well researched, factually based stories. Other companies own newspapers because they have a business model that is based on monetizing distributed newspapers, and the content is just a means of optimizing the monetization, independent of whether it covers topics of public interest. Any story that looks like it will tilt the balance away from maximized short term profit goes in the shredder. And some companies in the first group sell their operations to companies in the second group. Surprise!!!! What could go wrong.