Reality Check w/ John Tracy: ADN bankruptcy
I received my copy of the Alaska Dispatch News this morning, and I was glad to get it. I’ve subscribed to the paper since I arrived in the summer of 1985. And, though I’ll admit I dropped my subscription once over a disagreement with it’s editorial position, I came back in time.
Unfortunately for the Dispatch, there are fewer and fewer people like me every year.
And though the newspaper is on life support for the next several weeks, there’s no guarantee it will survive-- and it almost certainly won’t look the same if it does.
The proposed buyers led by the Binkley family and Jason Evans deserve a great deal of credit for stepping up and trying to save Alaska’s largest newspaper.
Like previous owners, running the newspaper seems to stem more out of a sense of civic responsibility rather than a business opportunity.
And, there’s the rub. As former ADN journalist Craig Medred observed, good intentions are very dangerous.
That’s as true now as it was when current owner Alice Rogoff stepped up to merge the Anchorage Daily News with the online Alaska Dispatch.
She put it this way when making the announcement on Daybreak, "Well, that’s our mission, to have two plus two equal five, so to speak."
Well, two plus two has never equaled five, and that really wasn’t the math problem, anyway.
The attempt was to merge an online publication with a newspaper that was already online. In reality, it was a matter of two plus one not adding up to three.
Rogoff tried to keep the newspaper afloat out of her own pockets. But, it wasn’t sustainable. And, only the Binkleys know how deep their pockets are.
The Dispatch is still losing $125,000 a week.
That doesn’t change overnight-- even with new owners.
In a way, we have all contributed to the failure of the Dispatch. Readers dropped their subscriptions and most refuse to pay for news online. All while readers young and old are getting more of their news through their Facebook feeds.
It’s a tough time to be in the newspaper business.
I know it’s the wish of the Binkley group to save the Dispatch. That’s my wish, too.
But as Alice Rogoff herself wrote in her last message to us:
“Financial realities can’t be wished away. Fortunately, our legal system provides a mechanism for reorganizing the company, bringing in new capital, and keeping it going through the transition,” Rogoff wrote. “That is what we are doing. In placing the Dispatch under the jurisdiction of the courts through Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code, the newspaper will continue doing what it does best. It will emerge from the process in a short time, able to navigate these challenging economic times in a stronger position.”
Financial realities can’t be wished away. And, in the newspaper business, that’s called burying the lead.
John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.