07:44 am
October 17, 2018

Could deal doom another South Florida daily newspaper?

Could deal doom another South Florida daily newspaper?
A 2016 edition of the Sun Sentinel

The Chicago Tribune reports that the parent of the Miami Herald is in early stage talks to buy Tronc, the parent of the Broward-based Sun Sentinel.

That leads me to wonder whether Herald owner McClatchy would want to keep both newspapers if it buys Tronc. Neither McClatchy nor Tronc would comment in the Tribune story.

The larger picture is that there is an ever shrinking world of daily newspapers in the nation and South Florida. When I moved here in 1984, there was still the Miami News, the Fort Lauderdale News and the Sun Tattler in Hollywood. All closed decades ago. I’m afraid that what happened in Tampa in 2016, the closure of the Tampa Tribune, could happen here.

To me, it’s mind-boggling personally to think that the Sun Sentinel could disappear. I had a 14-year history with the newspaper from 1984 to 1998, ending up as business editor. During its peak, the Sun Sentinel by itself made $100 million a year in pre-tax profits. The chairman called it “the jewel in the crown” of Tribune Co., the previous name of Tronc.

Putting on the hat of a bottom-line oriented business person, it would probably make sense to close the Sun Sentinel if McClatchy buys the Herald, although it could be positioned as a merger of the two. The Herald is a much better known publication nationally with years and years of Pulitzer Prize winning history. It’s named after the dominant city in the market. There would be a lot of cost savings of duplicate positions ranging from management to writers covering sports teams.

There’s already been an erosion in competition between the newspapers. When I was business editor of the Sun Sentinel, I was always on pins and needles when I picked up the Herald from my driveway because I never wanted to get scooped on a story. The Herald and Sun Sentinel later started sharing stories on a routine basis and cooperated on distribution of the newspapers.

Both newspapers have become thin shadows of their former selves in terms of pages and editorial staff. Sadly, I got notification of a major price increase on my home delivery of the Sun Sentinel recently and decided it wasn’t worth the premium to pay for print, so now I just get digital delivery of both it and the Herald.  Now, I just walk down my driveway to get the Wall Street Journal, which doesn’t charge extra to get the print newspaper if you are a digital customer. I still like print, although I’ve had people remark while eating breakfast at a diner that they didn’t know they still made newspapers.

As a former employee, it would be a sad day for me if the Sun Sentinel disappears.




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