The men who kill American newspapers

In November, McKay Coppins wrote about Alden Global Capital, the secret hedge fund that’s destroying newsrooms and harming democracy.

I am originally from Chicago and am still a keen reader of the Tribune. It is amazing how badly things have turned out for a once dynamic institution. The pages are thinner. The Associated Press dispatches replaced the original reports. There are spelling mistakes everywhere.

I keep asking myself a question as more and more local and regional media face cut-outs or completely drop out: How do people know what’s going on in their own backyards?

I think the answer is they really don’t, or they get their news from garbled sources. Some of my friends and family now only get their coverage of Chicago from cable news or the latest viral post on Facebook. Usually, it’s about portraying the city as a crime-ridden hell or criticizing the mayor for something partisan – no local nuance, no analysis, just selective distortion of what is happening on the ground. Many of these same people used to get their news from the tribecenter-right point of view of. Now they get it from nationwide outlets that don’t give a damn about their city.

Alden Global Capital’s track record has already shown that it is perfectly willing to destroy one of America’s most famous newspapers for a quick buck. It’s a shame that no wealthy, civic Chicago dweller has stepped up to save the newspaper from its slow but certain death, and the city is worse off because of it.

Patrick wohl
Washington DC

The growing prevalence of figures like Randall Duncan Smith and companies like Alden Global Capital highlights the deep issues facing the United States. Do we really value this kind of unbridled capitalism? How is it that we, as elected officials, tolerate behavior that is so destructive to our way of life?

Morgan pawlak
Oak Park, Illinois

Alden deserves the contempt he receives for his brutal (but profitable) approach. But American journalism faces a more serious crisis than the infamous hedge funds.

The real problem stems from the fall of America as a republic of letters. American civics education has failed to emphasize journalism’s vital role as a fourth estate, as important to good society as the separation of powers or checks and balances within the federal government.

Now Americans no longer pay for the news and no longer fund the local newspapers that have kept communities intact and local governments online.

Yes, Alden kills papers left and right. But why is the hedge fund buying these papers? Because the previous owners did not see a viable future thanks to an apathetic public. The media industry is not blameless. But the problem goes further than the journalistic failures of recent years …

To save [the newspaper industry], it will take a renewal effort to restore local institutions and restore respectability to journalism.

Anthony hennen
Extract from a National exam item

AtlanticThe report highlights a significant threat to journalism and civic consciousness. But you overestimate the impact on the Chicago Tribune. the tribeProfessional journalists, such as veteran investigator Ray Long, continue to publish important articles on political corruption. And the Springfield Capitol office is re-staffed. The truth is bad enough. You shouldn’t make matters worse.

Loren Wassell
St. Louis, Missouri

Every day I read the Hartford Current, one of the newspapers owned by Alden Global Capital. Many people in Connecticut are concerned about the ongoing dismantling of the Running, the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States. However, we already have an alternative: a nonprofit digital newspaper immune to vulture depredation. The mirror of Connecticut is now over 10 years old and provides much needed information to the public, not to mention state and local governments. I read it everyday alongside the Running.

Toni Gold
Hartford, Connecticut.

McKay Coppins’ article is troubling to the non-billionaires among us, which is why it’s so important to recognize the organizations that strive to provide our communities with local accountability. Here in Illinois, ProPublica and the media that make up the Chicago Independent Media Alliance are rising stars in the shadow of the Chicago Tribune.

Many of my favorite news resources today are nonprofits that rely on the support of their readers for their income. I may not have the funds to buy out Alden Global Capital’s newspaper empire, but I hope other readers make it their mission to help a local news site thrive in the way which they can.

Ben suazo
Chicago, Illinois.

MvsKay Coppins responds:

In response to Loren Wassell’s letter: There is no doubt that the TribuneJournalists continue to heroically work under adverse conditions to keep their readers informed. But when a newspaper loses a quarter of its newsroom virtually overnight, its quality will inevitably suffer, as I think my reporting has shown. Those who remain in the tribeThe shrinking newsroom is to be commended. They and their city also deserve better management than that provided by Alden.

The new methamphetamine

Drugs create a wave of mental illness and contribute to homelessness. In November, Sam Quinones opened up about how it spread and what it is doing to people.

Thanks for the great article on using methamphetamine. I have worked with victims of crime for many years and have witnessed the devastation methamphetamine and other drugs cause to victims, offenders and the community at large. My local elected officials have swallowed up the idea that drug distribution is “victimless”. Hopefully many people will read Sam Quinones’ work, and a wider recognition of the need to both provide treatment and protect society will take hold.

Kirsten logan
Denver, Colorado.

Sam Quinones’ article confirmed what I know too well as a family doctor and addiction specialist working in Portland, Oregon. We have lost the war on drugs and we will record the losses for generations to come. Being on the I-5 corridor has kept the Pacific Northwest at the forefront of innovative and highly addictive synthetic drugs made by the drug cartels. The devastation to our families and communities is exposed before us on the streets. And there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

Now is the time for a new approach to the problems of illicit drugs and their impact on the health and well-being of our communities. Substance use disorders, like many other chronic medical conditions, are largely the result of system failures, including late interventions. Although many initially turn to illicit drug use as a way to cope with trauma, at some point unhealthy behavior is not a choice. It is time to decriminalize drug use behaviors.

Mr Quinones raised another important point. If we want healthy and vibrant communities rooted in peace, social justice and sustainability, then we cannot turn away from these faces of “living dependency”. We will need extraordinary awareness for those who are already marginalized due to mental health issues, including substance use disorders. After all, a community is only as strong as its most vulnerable member.

Christine Gray, MD
Portland, Ore.

Behind the blanket

In this month’s issue, Barton Gellman reports on the forces that led to the January 6, 2021 riot at the United States Capitol and looks to 2024, arguing that events that unfolded a year ago n ‘were just a warm-up. The hand-scribbled cover line offers an urgent warning. On some occasions, typography speaks louder than any image.

Paul Spella, Principal artistic director