'Orlando Sentinel' reporters hold rally this Saturday amid hedge fund buyout fears


  • Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel/Facebook

Reporters and journalists prefer to stay in the background. They do the hard work and research to write about the news that impacts us daily, centering other people's problems. But sometimes life has other plans, forcing journalists to speak up for themselves.

This a crucial point in the life of the Orlando Sentinel, the city's paper of record. On May 21, shareholders of the Sentinel's parent company will vote on a buyout bid from the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Alden is a hedge fund with a disreputable reputation for gobbling up media companies and publications, stripping them to the bone, slashing operational budgets, and laying off employees en masse. This is, obviously, bad news for any news-gathering organization, especially one that's already doing more with less.

"We work so hard to report on as many areas of Central Florida as possible, but we're already stretched thin," said Lisa Maria Garza, Sentinel Guild co-chair, in an interview with Orlando Weekly. "It would be nearly impossible to keep producing quality journalism, amplifying the voices in our community and holding the powerful accountable with fewer resources. Public records alone can be very expensive!"

As part of a multi-paper, multi-city effort to sway the Tribune Group shareholders from accepting Alden's bid, Tribune News Guild groups around the country — including the local Sentinel Guild — will rally this Saturday morning to raise awareness and marshal community support for increasingly crucial local journalism.

Meanwhile, there are several small rays of hope in the form of local investors interested in buying up the paper, and Maryland businessman Stewart Bainum's (higher) counter-offer to buy the Tribune Corp.

"The Sentinel Guild is strongly in favor of local ownership. We've heard Mr. Bainum hasn't thrown in the towel on gathering civic-minded investors to help him put together a superior bid for Tribune," said Garza. "And that's exactly why we're advocating for shareholders to vote 'NO' on May 21."

Make no mistake, the Sentinel's reporters are still out there daily doing their work, but an existential threat like this necessitates them stepping out from behind notepads and computers for a few brief hours to make their case directly.

"We refuse to be the dog sitting at the kitchen table, calmly drinking coffee as our newsroom burns around us," said Garza. "Although the quality of our work has not diminished since Alden first entered the picture, the upcoming shareholder vote is a tremendous source of anxiety."

We highly recommend that you show up to support local journalism this Saturday [tomorrow!], May 15, at 10 a.m. at Lake Eola Park's Northeast lawn. Local leaders, unions — and hopefully you — will be in attendance to make a glorious racket for our hometown paper, and the people who make it what it is. "This is an 11th hour move and we're giving it all we've got," concluded Garza.

You can also make a civic-engagement day of it if you choose, with a rally scheduled later in the afternoon at Eola to demonstrate against the state of Florida's new anti-protest legislation.

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