‘60 Minutes’ correspondent Jon Wertheim on native newspapers: ‘Somebody has bought to unravel this riddle’

“60 Minutes” correspondent Jon Wertheim did a powerful piece that aired Sunday evening in regards to the grim state of native newspapers, partially due to how hedge funds, reminiscent of Alden World Capital, have purchased them up and gutted them. My colleague, Poynter media enterprise analyst Rick Edmonds, has written extensively about this matter. Nevertheless it was good to see “60 Minutes” put out a bit for its broad viewers.

I had an opportunity to speak by telephone with Wertheim on Sunday only a few hours earlier than his story aired.

“It’s not stop-the-presses information that the newspaper trade is in decline,” Wertheim informed me, “however I assumed this angle that there are all these exterior forces of being cannibalized from inside was a narrative that hasn’t been informed a lot.”

Wertheim stated most assume that it’s as a result of readers’ habits are altering — that folks favor studying information on their telephones slightly than an precise print newspaper. And, sure, that’s partly true. However many individuals, he stated, aren’t conscious of the harm being completed by these hedge funds.

In fact, when hedge funds are available and slash sources and workers, the impression stretches properly past the newspaper. It impacts communities, which could lose the watchdogs who maintain these in energy accountable. One such individual that Wertheim featured in his piece was Evan Brandt, who actually is the final journalist standing at The Mercury in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

“Evan Brandt is totally a heroic determine,” Wertheim stated. “What he has been requested to do and is doing is nothing wanting heroism. And we’re all making an attempt to determine this mannequin. There’s a brand new thought on a regular basis. Let’s go hyperlocal, let’s pivot to video. We’re all making an attempt to unravel this riddle whereas the information nonetheless occurs. And these guys on the entrance traces — it’s completely heroic work that they’re doing underneath fairly difficult circumstances.”

There are papers which are thriving, with The New York Occasions main the best way. A number of different newspapers — reminiscent of The Washington Put up, Los Angeles Occasions and The Wall Avenue Journal — profit from extremely rich house owners. Another native papers, reminiscent of The Star Tribune in Minneapolis, have discovered success, too.

However what in regards to the majority of papers? What occurs to them over the subsequent decade? I requested that query of Wertheim, who, by the best way, additionally continues to write down for an additional legendary publication — Sports activities Illustrated —  that has had its challenges lately.

“I’m not completely satisfied that the billionaire benefactor is the right reply both,” Wertheim stated, “nevertheless it’s higher than the choice. … I believe there are lots of people that care about fixing this riddle.”

He added, “The truth that regardless of all of the challenges and all of the uncertainty and nobody is aware of fairly the place this prepare goes, you continue to have individuals who worth this and have the ability set they usually wish to get in, and their eyes are broad open … you continue to have numerous younger individuals who suppose that is necessary they usually wish to get into it. I believe that should be an actual supply of optimism. And, on the similar time, somebody has bought to unravel this riddle.”

Wertheim and the Report for America reporters featured within the piece nonetheless consider there’s an viewers for native information and understand how necessary it’s.

The problem is hedge funds reminiscent of Alden don’t appear curious about fixing the riddle. They appear extra curious about earning profits. As Wertheim identified within the piece, there’s nothing mistaken with earning profits. However Alden is making plenty of cash and nonetheless reducing sources and workers at a lot of its papers.

Heath Freeman, the president of Alden, turned down interview requests from “60 Minutes.” However Alden’s PR crew handed alongside the message that Alden is dedicated to offering “sturdy, independently minded native journalism.”

“Not solely was it astonishing to me, however I believe it’s pretty telling that somebody overseeing hundreds of journalists didn’t see match to sit down down for an on-the-record interview,” Wertheim stated. “You’re basically the boss of hundreds of individuals whose job it’s to carry individuals accountable and also you don’t make your self out there for an interview — that was pretty putting to me.”

Along with the piece that aired on “60 Minutes,” right here’s the “60 Minutes” additional time piece with extra.

This piece initially appeared in The Poynter Report, our every day publication for everybody who cares in regards to the media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report right here.

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