By paulgillin | April 23, 2008 - 9:37 am - Posted in Business News, BusinessModel, Journalism, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers

Reports Say Newsday Goes to Murdoch; Rivals Disagree

Tuesday must have been a busy day for media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who concluded a handshake deal with Tribune Co. to buy Newsday while also removing the top editor of another area property: The Wall Street Journal. Newsday said its price would be $580 million, which would just about cover Tribune’s impending debt obligation. Murdoch has already contacted the county executives of two Long Island counties to confirm that he’d be spending more time there. He told one of them that he hopes to conclude the deal in two weeks.

News of the Newsday sale was first reported on Monday, and dribs and drabs of information filtered in yesterday. Editor & Publisher says the deal isn’t done yet. Rivals thought they had until next week to submit a bid and plan to do just that. E&P also notes that Murdoch’s ownership of three newspapers (he also has the Daily News) and two TV stations in New York could raise regulatory concerns. It sounds like the fat lady has yet to sing on this deal.

More Tumult at the WSJ

Meanwhile, the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal resigned after less than a year on the job. The announcement made it clear that this was a Murdoch bag job. Marcus Brauchli had appeared in public less than two weeks earlier acting like a good company man, and the official statement said only that he was leaving to become a consultant. In his letter to the staff, which the Journal published, Brauchli said, “Now that the ownership transition has taken place, I have come to believe the new owners should have a managing editor of their choosing.” That can’t have lifted the already low morale on the staff.

E&P was all over this story, too, noting that Brauchli was respected as a guardian of editorial independence and wondering what role the newspaper’s editorial independence committee would have in choosing a successor. Given the success Murdoch has had in effecting momentous change at the Journal in such a short time, it’s likely that the owner will get his way.

Times Management Caves

The prospect of being cornered by Murdoch must have the Sulzbergers nervous. Under pressure by two large investors, the Times ownership added representatives of those funds to its board and expanded the total board size to an unwieldy 15 members. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger also dismissed talk of a possible sale of the company, which is what chairmen usually say just before they sell the company. Michael Bloomberg is rumored to be interested.

Sulzberger also outlined a four-part turnaround strategy for Times Co. including cost cuts of $230 million this year, the sale of some divisions and expansion of its online advertising programs with Google and Yahoo.

Latest Earnings Reports Dribble In

News that Journal Communications’ first-quarter profit dropped 91% would usually have some brokers on the ledge, but in this case the previous year’s numbers were boosted by an extraordinary gain. The actual revenue decline was about 9%, on par with recent results posted by other publishers. The industry-wide trend is clear. Year-over-year declines are running at about 10%. In an otherwise upbeat note to staff, McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt confirmed that the double-digit percentage declines are a fact of life adds, “At this point we simply can’t tell when this decline will end.”

Short takes

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