Nov 2, 2023 - News

Inside Alden Capital’s ownership of the Union-Tribune

The San Diego Union-Tribune's former downtown offices. Photo: Sandy Huffaker via Getty Images

Staffing cuts at the Union-Tribune since the hedge fund Alden Global Capital purchased the paper are coming into focus.

Driving the news: The Union-Tribune's new owners have trimmed newsroom staff by an estimated 30% since taking over in July, employees told Voice of San Diego's Andy Donohue in an in-depth look at the paper's tumultuous ownership run since 2009.

Why it matters: A smaller newsroom at the region's largest news operation means fewer people paying attention to school boards, city councils, development proposals and public agency budgets.

Zoom in: MediaNews Group, Alden Capital's subsidiary for its media assets, did not respond to Donohue's interview requests, but U-T staffers filled him in on what's been happening.

  • Somewhere between 60 and 80 newsroom staffers remain from the 108-person staff under the paper's previous owner.
  • All reporters now work from home after the paper vacated its downtown office space this summer.
  • "For the first time since the founders of the San Diego Union unloaded a printing press off a ship from San Francisco and set up shop in Old Town in 1868, the city's newspaper doesn't have a headquarters," Donohue writes.
  • Ownership eliminated merit and annual raises, its 401k match and parental leave.

Catch-up quick: Union-Tribune ownership has been a relentless saga for more than a decade.

  • The Copley family, the paper's owner for more than 80 years, sold the Union-Tribune in 2009 to Platinum Equity, which immediately cut staff by 20%.
  • Billionaire Doug Manchester bought the paper in 2011, and sold it four years later after a series of failed initiatives to a company memorably calling itself Tronc.
  • L.A. billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong then bought the paper as part of a package with the Los Angeles Times, where it settled into a period of stability that longtime reporter Greg Moran called the best version of the U-T during his time.

The bottom line: The U-T's newsroom is now about 16% of its size since as recently as 2006.

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