Priceless: Conservative Media Mogul Takes Over Newspaper, Tells Staff Members Exactly What They Need to Hear

Priceless: Conservative Media Mogul Takes Over Newspaper, Tells Staff Members Exactly What They Need to Hear

The Baltimore Sun, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, once boasted a newsroom of over 420 journalists and bureaus in London, Beijing and Moscow, chasing stories across the city, state and globe.

But even 15 years ago, just 140 employees remained in a single office as the paper continued its rapid decline, according to Politico.

In 2022, the news outlet ended over 100 years of printing its newspapers in Baltimore by shuttering its production plant and outsourcing the work to The News Journal in Delaware, according to the Delaware Business Times. 

Fortunately for the left-wing newspaper, a new buyer might have the means and expertise to give the dying outlet a new lease on life.

Unfortunately for staff members, since the buyer is a conservative, the liberal elites at the newspaper may not want it to live anymore.

The paper was sold by Alden Global Capital to David Smith, a conservative television executive. The purchase price was not disclosed, but Smith said it was in the “nine figures,” which would mean it was over $100 million, The Baltimore Banner reported. 

In a stressful three-hour meeting with Baltimore Sun staff members on Tuesday, Smith made difficult-to-swallow statements about the paper and his plans for it, which probably had the staff squirming.

Smith, executive chairman of the broadcasting company Sinclair Inc., which operates over 200 local TV stations in the United States, has been blunt about his views on print journalism. In a 2018 interview with New York Magazine, he dismissed print media as “so left-wing as to be meaningless dribble.”

Now that he owns The Baltimore Sun, Smith remains unapologetic. When asked Tuesday if he stood by those past comments, he affirmed yes.

Pressed on whether he regards his own newspaper’s contents in the same critical light, Smith affirmed again, saying “in many ways, yes,” according to multiple staff members present, as reported by The Baltimore Banner.

The Baltimore Sun’s political leaning appears to be vastly different from that of its new owner. One of the paper’s recent editorials raised concerns over climate change while denouncing illegal immigrant relocations.

In the past two presidential elections, the Sun’s editorial board endorsed Democratic nominees Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

In January, it ran an op-ed styling Black Lives Matter activists as “real American patriots,” according to the Daily Caller. 

Smith didn’t mince words about what he needed from his staff, praising Sinclair’s local Baltimore station, Fox45, for its focus on the failings of Baltimore’s schools and suggesting the Sun should produce similar content.

“The fact that people might say it’s a crazy, right-wing [station] … I’ve been called that by everybody, Democrats and Republicans,” he said, according to the Daily Caller.

“If you knew the corruption and the designed failure of what goes on in the Baltimore City school system, you would shoot somebody. Unfortunately, you can’t do that,” Smith said, per The Baltimore Banner.

When asked about potential layoffs, Smith — who told employees he has read the Sun only four times in the past few months — offered no guarantees. He said that while everyone is currently employed, he will refrain from major restructuring until he gains more insight into the paper’s workings.

He focused on profits, telling one employee to “go make me some money” and saying that reporters need to improve at giving the public what they want, the Banner reported.

One newsroom employee portrayed the meeting as “bleak.” Another deemed it “very bad,” saying it left them shaken.

The following day, the Baltimore Sun Guild issued a statement expressing alarm over the editorial course charted by Smith. While reaffirming their dedication to readers, guild members called for ongoing backing amid uncertain times.

The Guild expressed concern about the new owner’s editorial direction, which they said “focused on clicks rather than journalistic value” and also about his “attitude toward vulnerable communities in the city we love.”

However upsetting to the newsroom, Smith has a point. The Sun has failed to adequately engage local readers. Despite its “attitude toward vulnerable communities” and “journalistic value,” its  subscriber numbers have been in decline.

Apparently, Pulitzers — 16 of them — don’t pay the bills.

Smith is a businessman. He did not pay a possible $100 million so that his staff members could virtue signal and feel good about themselves. They are going to have to deliver or, likely, hit the road.

In the end, quality work means little if no one reads it. For Smith’s gamble on the Sun to pay dividends, the paper must change and maybe get uncomfortable.

While the outlet might be able to survive on snobbery subscriptions, growth happens only with content and connection.

 

 

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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