Muscular Chicago tabloid The Sun-Times could join a nonprofit group.
The muscular Chicago tabloid has entered into a merger deal with the nonprofit organization behind the public radio show “This American Life.”
The Chicago Sun-Times, once home to film critic Roger Ebert and columnist Mike Royko, and Chicago Public Media, owner of the city’s National Public Radio affiliate, WBEZ, announcement Wednesday that they had signed a non-binding letter of intent that would allow the organization to acquire the document. If the deal goes through, the publication that bills itself as Chicago’s oldest continuously published newspaper will be part of the nonprofit group.
“This would allow us to invest in our people, improve the information products we create and strengthen our digital future,” Nykia Wright, managing director of Sun-Times, said in a statement.
The potential deal contrasts with that struck by the Sun-Times’ age-old rival The Chicago Tribune, whose parent company, Tribune Publishing, was sold this year to New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
The Sun-Times was born out of the 1948 merger of the Chicago Sun and the Chicago Daily Times. The tabloid was owned by the extended family of Chicago department store mogul Marshall Field before being sold to Rupert Murdoch for $ 90 million in 1983. Three years later, Mr. Murdoch told a group of investors. for $ 145 million.
After a series of further ownership changes and an attempt by Tribune Publishing to buy the newspaper, a group of local unions and businessmen including Michael Sacks, an investor, and Rocky Wirtz, the team owner Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, took possession of The Sun-Times in 2019.
WBEZ, the non-commercial radio station, is perhaps best known for “This American Life,” the audio narrative show hosted by Ira Glass, which has had a disproportionate influence on podcasting. (Last year, The New York Times announced a partnership with “This American Life,” which WBEZ no longer owns.)
Matt Moog, interim managing director of Chicago Public Media, said a merger “has the potential to be both a light and a hope for Chicago news.”
Alden Global Capital’s purchase of Tribune Publishing, which owns The Baltimore Sun, The Daily News and several other metropolitan dailies in addition to The Tribune, gained shareholder approval in May. The sale met resistance from many journalists who cited the hedge fund’s penchant for cutting costs on newspapers it already owned through a subsidiary, MediaNews Group.
The Sun-Times’ potential shift to local nonprofit ownership would mirror The Philadelphia Inquirer’s corporate structure, which in 2016 was donated by its owner, cable mogul HF Lenfest, to the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, a non-profit organization he had created.
Jim Friedlich, chief executive of the Lenfest Institute, said in an email that he had advised Chicago Public Media on its potential acquisition of The Sun-Times.
“The city’s information capacity has been ravaged over the years by out-of-city hedge fund owners, the age-old decline of print and the inability to invest in the digital transformation of products. local information, ”Friedlich said. “Today’s announcement is great news and a role model for other public media and local newspapers.