Baltimore Sun Newspaper Purchase is a Political Act

The Baltimore Sun front page is seen, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, in Baltimore. David D. Smith, executive chairman of the Sinclair broadcasting chain and an active contributor to conservative causes, has bought Baltimore Sun Media from the investment firm Alden Global Capital. The purchase price was not disclosed. (AP Photo/Lea Skene)

It’s common knowledge among journalists that Alden Global Capital is one of the most ruthless profit-driven newspaper conglomerates, and any newspaper purchased by the hedge fund faces severe downsizing. In Baltimore, Alden was responsible for gutting the Baltimore Sun, the city’s largest and oldest newspaper, from a thriving 400-person newsroom to one of under 100. Yet in January 2024, Alden sold the Sun to a new owner with even worse plans for the newspaper—local right-wing activist and media mogul multi-millionaire David Smith.

Companies like Alden that own and control local news organizations across the United States have been dismantling print newspapers one-by-one. In the last 15 years, the U.S. has lost a third of its newspapers, and jobs in the newspaper industry have declined over 70%. Those losses have been concentrated in rural areas of the country with limited access to broadband internet, leaving residents with little or no access to local news coverage. Alden and other newspaper companies own hundreds of local outlets in far-away cities and towns that they don’t care about. It doesn’t matter how important the news is for the local population—if a newspaper doesn’t make the owners enough money, there’s no point in keeping it running and keeping the workers employed.

However, David Smith’s recent purchase of the Baltimore Sun is motivated not just by profit, but also a desire to amplify his own right-wing political agenda. Smith is the top executive at Sinclair, a nationwide television network with hundreds of stations that consistently air right-wing content. Sinclair made a personal deal with Donald Trump in 2018 to “deliver his message” to the country, and in the recent Baltimore Sun meetings, Smith was entirely clear that the newspaper will shift to producing the same type of content as his TV stations.

Smith’s political activities span far beyond directives to his TV stations. He has delivered millions of dollars to Republican politicians and far-right organizations like Turning Point USA, Moms for Liberty, and Project Veritas. When it comes to local issues, he was behind the 2022 ballot measure to impose term limits on Baltimore City Council members, a policy known for increasing the influence of corporate interests in government. He is now promoting a ballot measure for the 2024 election to cut the size of the City Council in half, which would significantly reduce council members’ abilities to serve their constituents.

To be clear, the Baltimore Sun has never used its platform to fight for ordinary families and working people of Baltimore. Like other major newspapers, it is a for-profit business. Not only has it has never seriously challenged the political and economic status quo of capitalism, it also has a pattern of uncritically repeating the lies of the notoriously corrupt Baltimore Police Department. Nevertheless, David Smith’s takeover of the newspaper has the potential to be even more damaging to the city.

It’s more than obvious that neither corporate vultures like Alden nor far-right extremists like Smith should be in control of information about local or global issues and current events. We shouldn’t have to live in a system where the major news organizations are beholden to the profit-driven interests of the One Percent. Instead, we must fight for a world where access to information is democratically controlled by ordinary people, and journalists and other news workers reap the benefits of well-deserved public appreciation instead of living in fear of the next round of corporate layoffs.