Baltimore Newspaper Buys a Rival, Reportedly Gives Staffers The Boot

We all know that the life of a journalist isn’t an easy one.  The pay is low, the hours can fluctuate, and the competition is ruthless.  But who would have thought that a publication would undermine another to such a callous extent.

Last week it was reported that a Baltimore area newspaper bought up a local weekly publication, then reportedly told everyone on staff that they were being let go.  However it wasn’t all bad news, those being let go would have the chance to get their jobs back.  The only catch, they had to reapply for their old position.

The Baltimore Sun Media Group announced that they had acquired the Baltimore City Paper last week.  Baltimore Sun CEO Tim Ryan released a statement saying, “this acquisition will allow us to build upon the existing success of the City Paper.”  The press release continued to state, “we want the paper to remain a valued alternative, independent voice of Baltimore.”

But that explanation didn’t sit well with everyone.  Tom Scocca of Gawker, who started out as an editorial assistant for the City Paper a few years back, wrote a scathing piece about the acquisition, questioning the real intent of the Sun.  Scocca points out that Ryan’s explanation that the City Paper would continue to operate as an independent voice was misleading since it will now be a subsidiary of the larger publication, thus not an independent voice at all.

“On a basic-meanings-of-words basis, this is either a lie or a wholesale delusion,” Scocca wrote.  “Once the Sun owns City Paper, City Paper will not be independent; it will be owned by the Sun.  It will not be an alternative; it will be a subsidiary of the dominant voice, such as it is, which is dominant only in market share.  The biggest ruin in a ghost city.”

Scocca continued to explain that this latest acquisition now leaves Baltimore with only one freestanding paper, ultimately creating a monopoly on local news.  He also questions the financial ability of the Sun to carry what has been a financially successful paper, when he says that they have struggled financially for a while.

“When the Sun says it’s going to maintain and build on the value of City Paper, it’s babbling,” Scocca wrote.  “It’s not simply that it’s buying out its most dedicated adversary. The Sun doesn’t do things like building value, and it hasn’t had the power to do those things for years. The paper has been on the sales block itself for months now, as Tribune tries to unload its doomed newspaper business onto somebody else.”

For the 25 City Paper employees who now find themselves fighting to get their jobs back, a source told Jim Romenesko that about 50 percent of the staff will be rehired.  But the optimism for future success is waning as Scocca put it, Baltimore is “one step closer to being a zero-paper town.”

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and
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