Jan 17, 2024 - News

Baltimore Sun sale met with mixed reactions

The exterior of the Baltimore Sun Media building, with delivery trucks parked outside.

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Hedge fund Alden Global Capital has sold the Baltimore Sun to David Smith, the executive chair of the telecommunications conglomerate Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Why it matters: The deal puts Maryland's largest newspaper back in the hands of a local owner — Smith grew up in Baltimore and the company is headquartered in suburban Baltimore — after nearly four decades, but it's also stirring mixed reactions.

Catch up quick: The Sun has been owned by hedge fund Alden Global Capital since 2021, when it was acquired as a part of Tribune Publishing, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, and other local papers, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

  • In 1986, local owner A.S. Abell Co. — the company belonging to the family of the Sun's founders — sold the paper to Times Mirror Co. for $500 million.
  • Times Mirror Co. eventually became a part of Tribune Publishing in 2000.

The intrigue: Smith's acquisition, which includes other Baltimore-area publications and the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, is being met with hesitation by some in the region and the larger media world.

  • Critics point to the company Smith's father founded, citing Sinclair's conservative reputation.

Flashback: When Sinclair acquired D.C.-area station WJLA in 2014 from Politico founder Robert Allbritton's family media company, it refashioned it with a "distinctly conservative flavor," reports the Washington Post.

  • After the purchase, several WJLA veterans were ousted or left.

Sinclair outlets have long been critiqued for covering Republican presidential candidates more favorably, and the Post found that the media company gave an outsized amount of favorable and neutral coverage to Donald Trump compared to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

Between the lines: Smith is already ruffling feathers inside the newsroom, too. The new owner told staff he's read the paper only four times in recent months, according to reports from a meeting on Tuesday.

Zoom in: Smith has long donated to local and national conservative issues via his group the David D. Smith Family Foundation, reports the Baltimore Banner.

  • And he will be joined in the Sun venture by partner and Sinclair commentator Williams.

Yes, but: Smith purchased the Sun independently, not via Sinclair.

  • Additionally, Sinclair executives have denounced reports that call its coverage biased, instead positing that it offers viewpoints not typically seen in traditional media.

Meanwhile, some local Maryland Republicans cheered the sale in the hopes it would bring what they see as more fair and balanced reporting, the Banner reports.

Go deeper: Baltimore Sun sold to Sinclair chairman David Smith

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