As reported in Editor and Publisher magazine today, Northeast Pennsylvania’s Times-Shamrock Communications is selling its newspaper group, including The Scranton Times-Tribune, to MediaNews Group effective Thursday, Aug. 31, according to CEO Jim Lewandowski. The Times-Shamrock family of newspapers reaches a combined readership of more than a million in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The founders/owners of the chaim submitted a letter sharply critical of the move, precipitated by shareholders, and that letter is reprinted below.
Dirks, Van Essen and April, a media merger and acquisition firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, represented Times-Shamrock Communications in the transaction. Terms were not disclosed.
The sale, announced during an all-staff Zoom meeting, includes the company’s four daily newspapers — The Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice, The Republican Herald and The Standard Speaker — as well as its weekly and periodic newspapers, commercial printing operations, Absolute Distribution Inc. and Times-Shamrock Creative Services.
It does not include the Times-Shamrock’s radio or billboard operations, or the Scranton Times Building.
The following statement about the sale was sent to E&P Magazine by George Lynett and Family
“Newspapers have been our family business for nearly 128 years. Since 1895, we have had the privilege of serving this community with local news, events and happenings. Today marks a very sad end to that legacy. Our family would like to express our gratitude to the loyal employees, readers and advertisers who have been with us all these years.
We feel it is important to express our personal dissatisfaction with the sale of Times-Shamrock newspapers to MediaNews Group, a subsidiary of Alden Capital. This was a transaction that we do not support or endorse. Alden does not reflect the business principles we feel are consistent with the stewardship of any newspaper.
The sale was driven by a majority of our shareholders. We understand the fears about our ability to remain competitive. We recognize the underlying concerns about the newspaper industry’s revenue and audience declines, and the desire of many of the shareholders to leave the painful decisions to cut costs, coverage and employees in someone else’s hands.
We remained confident and hopeful that our current Board of Directors and management team would have been able to lead us through the industry’s headwinds more effectively and humanely than a hedge fund like Alden.
The willingness to sell a company steeped in integrity and family tradition — and staffed by loyal, bright, compassionate employees — to a company with such a devastating reputation in the industry runs against everything we believe in. We are concerned for our employees, our communities and our family legacy.
Newspapers are a tough business. That’s undeniable. But a newspaper is much more than just a business. It is the only business explicitly protected by the Constitution. It is a local institution and expected to track government spending, keep an eye on politicians, advocate for the voiceless, ask tough questions, cover local sports and businesses, and record the milestones in readers’ lives.
Newspapers provide the “first draft of history” as the local historical record. They are the only true local watchdog with a large newsroom and resources capable of providing in-depth, verified news and investigative reporting on a large scale in any community.
Most family newspaper sale announcements bear some variation of stock language regarding the new owner’s ability to “assume the families’ stewardship,” “continue to provide strong local reporting,” and “maintain the legacy” of the selling family. Sadly, we feel that none of that will be true in our case.
For four generations, members of our family dedicated their careers to the idea of a free and independent press that would ceaselessly endeavor to improve the community. As a newspaper family and stewards of reliable news, we have heavy hearts ending that legacy and will forever cherish the countless community of dedicated employees who worked alongside us and our family for generations.”