Bulwark Of Democracy - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2005714

Bulwark Of Democracy

We write to you as those who share an appreciation for the crafts of writing and photography, and a recognition of our nation’s need for truth, fair play and commerce — in other words, about local journalism.

Your part of Long Island is known for, among other things, being a haven for artists, writers and captains of industry. And, as you know from reading the newspaper carrying this letter, you also benefit from a vibrant local news environment, in the form of The Express News Group and its competitors, all of which brings you the facts about your local government and your neighbors, and a platform where opinions about those facts can be discussed publicly.

But this is not true for all Americans.

Increasingly, many towns and cities across the country have just one local paper, or, worse yet, none at all. While there is no question the forces of progress have done predictable damage to a century-old business model, there is another force at work over which this is very deliberate control: private equity.

One firm in particular, Alden Global Capital, has now used debt and boardroom influence to take control of more than half the local newspapers in America — and is bleeding them to death. This is not the invisible hand of the market at work so much as it is the very heavy hand of one of your neighbors, Heath Freeman, deliberately siphoning profits, liquidating real estate and cutting vital staff, none of it to improve the product or better inform a community — just for the money.

Heath Freeman is the CEO of Alden Global Capital and he spends much of his summer in Montauk.

We accept there are winners and losers in capitalism. But there is a stark difference between struggling for survival in a changing marketplace and having your owner actively undermining the success of a business he owns and upon which a community depends.

And the local paper is more than a business like a local shoe store or candy shop. Your local paper is quite simply a bulwark of democracy. The loss or hollowing out of the local paper means less-informed citizens, fewer choices at the ballot box and, yes, even higher local taxes.

Our union is currently negotiating with Alden to try to win our first raises in years and compensation for costs incurred while working at home.

We hope you will join us in urging your neighbor certainly to negotiate in good faith at the bargaining table. But perhaps more importantly for our country, urge him to either reinvest in Alden’s papers or sell them to someone who wants to reinvigorate them — and sustain American democracy — rather than destroy them.

Evan Brandt