Editorial Page, February 2024

Big Moves in Northwest Print Media

How does Canada impact our local media? Canada-based corporation Black Press (named after the Black family, currently headed by David Black) has filed for creditor protection in British Columbia, and plans to file a comparable request in Delaware for its U.S.-based operations.

Black Press is the current owner of Sound Publishing, which owns 43 newspapers throughout Washington and Alaska. As a part of its restructuring, Black Press plans to sell off Sound Publishing to a new set of investors; because of Black Press’s court protection from creditors, any such change is subject to court approval. But it is very likely that Sound Publishing will, in time, end up with a new owner.

With a new set of owners, each paper in the Sound Publishing portfolio will no doubt be answering the usual sorts of questions: What is your profit? How will you improve your profit? What else could we change to improve these answers?

It is too early to have any indication of what specific changes may occur. However, media buyouts have happened often enough in the industry that we can list some possibilities. Certain publications might be closed. Others, downsized and using more syndicated content in place of local reporting. Price increases for advertisers or subscribers might appear, and print editions may be discontinued in favor of digital-only distribution.

The economics of printing a newspaper deserve special mention. Corporate mergers often generate so much new bloat that no efficiency gains are ever achieved. In the newspaper business, however, printing costs are an important cost driver. The Black Press media empire certainly had access to very economical printing. Detached from the overall Black Press family of companies, there may be new stresses on printing costs for Sound Publishing papers that continue a print edition. A marginal print edition could easily be forced to a digital-only format because of printing cost increases.

While we watch these changes with interest, the Vashon Loop is wholly owned by Islanders, who operate it without debt. We print in Seattle, at a facility owned by neither Black Press nor Sound Publishing. Come what may, we intend to keep right on publishing that paper you find throughout our Island. There are already far too few local newspapers, and we hope all our regional papers weather this latest storm with little disruption.

February 9, 2024

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