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Union-Tribune's printless future heaves into view

Soon-Shiong aide announces 2024 printing plant shutdown, hedge fund deal

Inside Olympic Blvd printing plant, KTLA on YouTube
Inside Olympic Blvd printing plant, KTLA on YouTube

Confirming years of speculation and widespread dread over the fate of the Olympic Boulevard plant that prints the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune in L.A., the struggling California newspaper empire of billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has finally acknowledged the presses will cease to run in mid-2024, plunging the future of the U-T and a raft of San Diego county weeklies into increasing uncertainty.

"Despite the difficult news, we’re providing this advance notice to help make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved,” Soon-Shiong's top manager, Chris Argentieri, was quoted by the Times as saying in an official announcement.

“We hope that manufacturing employees will continue on with us for as long as they can and will work closely with them on the transition process.”

"Times management did not provide further information on the future status of print production employees," the account added, saying about the 170 jobs are at stake.

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According to the November 4 story, "Matt Pearce — a Times reporter and president of Media Guild of the West, which represents newsroom staff at The Times and Southern California News Group — said he was told by management that The Times does not plan to cut the print schedule or lay off newsroom workers represented by the union."

Union-Tribune workers have no union, and the Times story, run by the U-T on its business page, makes only passing mention of the Union-Tribune and nothing at all about the other San Diego county papers owned by Soon-Shiong that are printed at the Olympic plant, which is being shuttered after the termination of a lease with a New York real estate outfit which acquired the property as the result of a 2014 spinoff by a prior Times owner.

"When The Times leaves the Olympic plant in 2024, it will begin working with Southern California News Group to produce its print editions along with the San Diego Union-Tribune," the Times story paraphrased Argentieri as saying.

Suspicions about the Olympic plant's impending shutdown and printless future of the U-T grew earlier this year when publisher and editor Jeff Light announced in June that the San Diego paper would not be printed on July 4 and Labor Day,instead appearing online only.

"I guess I see it a little differently than some people who were upset by these moves, and our intention is to sprinkle these days in to continue to acclimate people to the really terrific opportunities around digital products and to help them become accustomed to that," said Light in a September 2 U-T podcast that didn't mention L.A.'s printing plant shutdown.

A putative printing deal between Soon-Shiong and the Southern California News Group might raise anti-trust questions by the U.S. Justice Department, which in 2016 filed suit against prior Times and U-T owner Tribune Publishing of Chicago to block its purchase of the Orange County Register from then-owner Freedom Communications Inc.

“If this acquisition is allowed to proceed, newspaper competition will be eliminated and readers and advertisers in Orange and Riverside Counties will suffer,” Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said in a March 17, 2016 statement.

“Newspapers continue to play an important role in the dissemination of news and information to readers and remain an important vehicle for advertisers. The Antitrust Division is committed to ensuring that competition in this important industry is protected.”

The government won that battle, but as newspaper industry economics have continued to erode, a flurry of deals ultimately put the Register into the hands of the Southern California News Group, now owned by Alden Global Capital, the controversial New York hedge fund known for shuttering papers and gutting staff.

In June of last year, staffers at the 11 Southern California News Group papers voted to unionize, forming the SCNG Guild.

“We don’t agree with the way that this hedge fund is running things, and we want a different path," news group reporter Josh Cain told the L.A. Times.

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Inside Olympic Blvd printing plant, KTLA on YouTube
Inside Olympic Blvd printing plant, KTLA on YouTube

Confirming years of speculation and widespread dread over the fate of the Olympic Boulevard plant that prints the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune in L.A., the struggling California newspaper empire of billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has finally acknowledged the presses will cease to run in mid-2024, plunging the future of the U-T and a raft of San Diego county weeklies into increasing uncertainty.

"Despite the difficult news, we’re providing this advance notice to help make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved,” Soon-Shiong's top manager, Chris Argentieri, was quoted by the Times as saying in an official announcement.

“We hope that manufacturing employees will continue on with us for as long as they can and will work closely with them on the transition process.”

"Times management did not provide further information on the future status of print production employees," the account added, saying about the 170 jobs are at stake.

Sponsored
Sponsored

According to the November 4 story, "Matt Pearce — a Times reporter and president of Media Guild of the West, which represents newsroom staff at The Times and Southern California News Group — said he was told by management that The Times does not plan to cut the print schedule or lay off newsroom workers represented by the union."

Union-Tribune workers have no union, and the Times story, run by the U-T on its business page, makes only passing mention of the Union-Tribune and nothing at all about the other San Diego county papers owned by Soon-Shiong that are printed at the Olympic plant, which is being shuttered after the termination of a lease with a New York real estate outfit which acquired the property as the result of a 2014 spinoff by a prior Times owner.

"When The Times leaves the Olympic plant in 2024, it will begin working with Southern California News Group to produce its print editions along with the San Diego Union-Tribune," the Times story paraphrased Argentieri as saying.

Suspicions about the Olympic plant's impending shutdown and printless future of the U-T grew earlier this year when publisher and editor Jeff Light announced in June that the San Diego paper would not be printed on July 4 and Labor Day,instead appearing online only.

"I guess I see it a little differently than some people who were upset by these moves, and our intention is to sprinkle these days in to continue to acclimate people to the really terrific opportunities around digital products and to help them become accustomed to that," said Light in a September 2 U-T podcast that didn't mention L.A.'s printing plant shutdown.

A putative printing deal between Soon-Shiong and the Southern California News Group might raise anti-trust questions by the U.S. Justice Department, which in 2016 filed suit against prior Times and U-T owner Tribune Publishing of Chicago to block its purchase of the Orange County Register from then-owner Freedom Communications Inc.

“If this acquisition is allowed to proceed, newspaper competition will be eliminated and readers and advertisers in Orange and Riverside Counties will suffer,” Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said in a March 17, 2016 statement.

“Newspapers continue to play an important role in the dissemination of news and information to readers and remain an important vehicle for advertisers. The Antitrust Division is committed to ensuring that competition in this important industry is protected.”

The government won that battle, but as newspaper industry economics have continued to erode, a flurry of deals ultimately put the Register into the hands of the Southern California News Group, now owned by Alden Global Capital, the controversial New York hedge fund known for shuttering papers and gutting staff.

In June of last year, staffers at the 11 Southern California News Group papers voted to unionize, forming the SCNG Guild.

“We don’t agree with the way that this hedge fund is running things, and we want a different path," news group reporter Josh Cain told the L.A. Times.

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