Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ray of Hope at the Chicago Sun-Times Newspaper

The Chicago Sun-Times is struggling, just like most other newspapers. And, like the Minneapolis Star Tribune which just announced bankruptcy, the Sun-Times has become ultra-liberal in recent years, not just in its editorial views but in its slanting of straight news stories and in its roster of columnists (link). But long gone are the days when three or four papers in a big city could profitably stake out differing political points of view and cater to a specific readership. Why a newspaper today would deliberately alienate half of its potential customers is hard to understand. Nevertheless, that's the Sun-Times strategy.

With that strategy, the paper itself says it's losing about $20 million a quarter and burning through cash (link). Already just this month it has announced closings of some Chicago suburban newspapers (link) and non-union pay cuts of 7% (link). But no worries -- no doubt everyone there is in the full throes of Obamamania, if the cover and web site are any indication (link).

Now comes word that one large shareholder, unhappy with the way the paper has been run (link), has finally obtained sufficient support from other shareholders to replace the Board of Directors of the Sun-Times parent organization (link).

Newspapers can and should perform a valuable public service. They can and should take editorial points of view, but should be dedicated to providing straight news that's balanced and fair. When they distort and manipulate the news itself, they fail their readers. Chicago would be better served with two well-run newspapers, and one can only hope the new Sun-Times Board has the requisite sense of urgency, clarity of purpose, and set of skills. It can start by removing the now pervasive liberal bias in its news stories and replacing half of its currently all-liberal columnist panel with conservatives.

John M. Greco