Tronc is in turmoil.
The battle for control of the owner of the Los Angeles Times is bleeding over from the board room to the blogosphere. The players: Michael Ferro, tronc’s nonexecutive chairman and largest shareholder, and L.A. biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, who are in a race to buy up shares of the company.
This public division and uncertainty is the last thing the Times, buffeted for years by ownership struggles and unprecedented change in the media landscape, needs.
Let’s face it, whether you love or loathe the newspaper, we need it. The region needs a functional, thriving daily to hold is elected officials accountable; shine a light on civic and social issues too easily hidden from view;and to keep us informed about cultural, business, and civic comings and goings.
Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the country, home to the biggest U.S. port complex and manufacturing base, some of the nation’s top universities, traditional corporate giants, and newly arrived tech innovators – not to mention the heart of the global entertainment industry and a community that sets many of the standards that lead the way for the rest of the country.
Soon-Shiong, who this month was ousted from his position as tronc’s vice chairman, is among a handful of local leaders that have expressed interest in bringing ownership of the hometown paper back to Los Angeles from Chicago. Whether it ends up in his hands or in someone else’s, what’s clear is that the paper would do better with local ownership.
Ferro’s obsession with technology as a tool to deliver news has, after more than a year of ownership, amounted to little in the way of improvement at the Times. The failed deal with Gannett left many large shareholders frustrated. Even more newsroom cuts have weakened a strong institution.
Newspapers are struggling, but surviving in print in the digital age is not impossible. The Washington Post has thrived under a wealthy, if remote, benefactor in Jeff Bezos; The Wall Street Journal, like the Times, separated from its broadcasting cousins, remains a force.
Tronc’s failures and foundering have shown that putting our local newspaper in the hands of an out-of-town company doesn’t work. It certainly doesn’t serve Los Angeles.
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