After years of downsizing, squeezing budgets and shrinking readership, the Baltimore Solar lastly has some excellent news for itself: a deal for a brand new nonprofit to take over and reignite probably the struggling newspaper.
The plan unveiled in February is available in response to a unprecedented transfer – backed by civic and enterprise leaders, sports activities figures, journalists and others – to save lots of the 184-year-old newspaper and convey it again to native possession.
The nonprofit Daylight for All, led by businessman Stewart Bainum, has reached an settlement in precept to amass the Solar and affiliated newspapers for $ 65 million as a part of the sale of the corporate mom Tribune Publishing at Alden World Capital.
The deal represents a significant new take a look at for the nonprofit mannequin that has gained momentum lately in response to the deepening disaster within the sector.
Newspaper newsroom employment fell by half between 2008 and 2019, in response to the Pew Analysis Heart, and extra cuts have been reported throughout the pandemic.
The thought had been circulating in Baltimore for years however had gained momentum with the “Save Our Solar” marketing campaign launched final 12 months by journalists, labor and civic leaders and others.
“There was large assist from the neighborhood,” stated Solar reporter Liz Bowie, one of many folks behind the marketing campaign.
Bowie stated the Baltimorians appear to know the worth of the longtime information group and what may occur if it fails or will get hollowed out.
“This void can’t be stuffed by a digital startup,” she stated.
Ted Venetoulis, a former county director and gubernatorial candidate who joined the marketing campaign, stated the transfer sparked the concept that the newspaper was the “soul” and “conscience” of the neighborhood .
“They’re watchdogs, they maintain folks sincere, however they’re additionally cheerleaders. They enlarge the nice issues in our society,” stated Venetoulis.
The “Save our Solar” marketing campaign has garnered over 7,000 signatures and has been endorsed by outstanding locals together with baseball icon Cal Ripken, tv producer David Simon and director John Waters.
The settlement for the Bainum Group to buy Solar Media Group would depend upon Alden’s acquisition of the rest of Tribune Publishing, together with the Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant and different regional dailies.
– Go non-profit –
The nonprofit mannequin has grown lately in america and now consists of some 300 information organizations, in response to College of Illinois professor Brant Houston, founding father of the Institute for Nonprofit Information.
Nonprofits have made inroads throughout a disaster that has seen many native newspapers disappear and others consolidated by large chains and hedge fund homeowners, most of whom have downsized workers and protection.
“The newspaper enterprise mannequin simply wasn’t working,” Houston stated.
“In case you have a corporation beholden to shareholders, you find yourself with a enterprise mannequin of firing and decreasing protection,” Houston stated. “It isn’t a strategic plan.”
The Solar has received 16 Pulitzer Prizes together with one final 12 months for an article a few corruption scandal that led to the resignation and prosecution of Mayor Catherine Pugh.
However he was upset like lots of his friends, with print circulation falling to simply 43,000 on weekdays and 125.00 on Sundays, a fraction of the extent of his peak years. The newsroom workers has been diminished over time and now numbers lower than 100 folks.
Solar reporters expressed hope that the brand new mannequin may assist reverse the newspaper’s decline.
“We have been blown away and excited by this,” stated reporter Colin Campbell.
Well being reporter Meredith Cohn stated she hoped the deal would result in “attracting extra journalists and masking the neighborhood,” together with areas uncared for lately.
– Philadelphia Expertise –
An encouraging signal comes from Philadelphia, the place the Inquirer newspaper has been held as a nonprofit since 2016, when proprietor Gerry Lenfest donated his stake to the Lenfest Institute with an endowment of $ 20 million.
Since then, “there was a wave of neighborhood monetary assist” for the day by day with some $ 7 million in grants in 2020 alone, stated Jim Friedlich, chief govt of the nonprofit group.
The Inquirer was in a position to preserve an editorial workers of 200, far bigger than most of his friends, Friedlich stated.
The Philadelphia group provided casual recommendation to Bainum, who has not publicly mentioned his plans for the Baltimore Solar, he added.
Bainum, president of Alternative Inns, “grew to become one thing of a pupil within the info trade and was impressed and replicated Lenfest’s nonprofit mannequin,” Friedlich stated.
John Schleuss, chairman of the NewsGuild, who represents the newsroom workers and helped arrange Save the Solar, is optimistic that the Solar can open the door to comparable offers.
“I hope we are able to get again to publications which can be accountable to the neighborhood, and never simply thinking about short-term income.
Schleuss stated he was dissatisfied that comparable efforts failed in different Tribune dailies that will probably be taken over by an organization “with a historical past of shedding massive numbers of jobs.”
“It is good that the folks of Baltimore have come collectively,” Schleuss stated. “We’d like this to occur throughout the nation.”
rl / pi