The Corner

Beanless in Boston …and Worcester

In my post below on  The New York Times’ sale of The Boston Globe, I quoted The Washington Post’s headline:

Red Sox owner John Henry enters into $70M agreement to buy The Boston Globe, once worth $1.1B

In fact, the sale also includes The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, for which the Times paid an additional $295 million 14 years ago. So a headline reflective of the real arithmetic would read:

Red Sox owner John Henry enters into $70M agreement to buy The Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram, once worth $1.4B

So the Times sold its Massachusetts properties for about five per cent of what it paid for them. You gotta love the “newspaper of record”’s reporting of their Telegram purchase in 1999:

But the Worcester acquisition was still a strong reminder of the prices newspapers can command these days.

”The Worcester price is just reflective of the very strong state of the newspaper marketplace,” said Owen Van Essen, the president of the newspaper brokerage firm of Dirks, Van Essen. He also said that newspapers the size of The Telegram & Gazette that dominate their markets — the newspaper reaches 43 percent of the homes in Worcester County — do not come on the market often.

Less than a decade and a half later, a supposedly “dominant” paper is worth nothing. This analyst suggests Mr Henry bought the company’s real estate at market value, and got a couple of newspapers thrown in for free.

What’s happening to US papers is not what’s happening in London or Sydney. The boring J-school homogeneity of America’s monodailies has rendered them literally worthless. You might think this would occasion a certain circumspection even in so self-regarding an industry as the American press. But it hasn’t. The suckers are still lining up to be expensively credentialed for a business that no longer exists. Columbia Journalism School charges 85 grand a year. For that money, you’ll soon be able to own your own newspaper.

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.


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