Scripps seeking buyer for Albuquerque Tribune
Wed, February 20, 2008 by Tim Stautberg
CINCINNATI - The E. W. Scripps Company is seeking a buyer for The Albuquerque Tribune, an afternoon newspaper that's published Monday through Saturday, and intends to close the newspaper if a qualified buyer is not found.
Scripps has retained the private investment banking firm Broadwater & Associates to assist the company in its search for a qualified buyer. Broadwater & Associates specializes in brokering transactions in the media industry.
Scripps notified The Tribune's 45 editorial employees today of its decision to retain Broadwater & Associates. The employees also were told that Scripps will discontinue publication of The Tribune if a qualified buyer is not found within a reasonable, but unspecified period of time.
"The Albuquerque Tribune, with its outstanding reputation for journalistic excellence, has been enlightening readers in New Mexico for more than 80 years," said Rich Boehne, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Scripps, who met with Tribune staff members today. "Unfortunately, readers in Albuquerque, as in nearly all cities across America, are choosing other media alternatives to afternoon newspapers."
The Tribune is published as part of the country's first and longest-running joint operating agreement. The controlling partner in the Albuquerque JOA is the Journal Publishing Co., which owns The Albuquerque Journal, a morning newspaper that's published seven days a week. The joint operating agreement was created during the Great Depression in 1933 and has been amended several times during the past 74 years. The Albuquerque JOA is currently scheduled to expire in 2022.
The Tribune is for sale without benefit of the joint operating agreement, which Scripps and Journal Publishing Co. intend to terminate.
The Tribune has a daily paid circulation of about 11,000 copies compared with The Journal's paid circulation of 106,000 daily and 145,000 Sunday. Paid circulation of the afternoon Tribune, which stood at 42,000 in 1988, has been in persistent decline for more than two decades.
Under terms of the joint operating agreement, The Journal Publishing Co. has been responsible for all of the business operations of The Tribune, including advertising and subscription sales, production and distribution. Scripps and Journal Publishing share the combined profits generated by The Journal and The Tribune.
Scripps has maintained an independent editorial department at The Tribune throughout the duration of the agreement, but does not employ advertising and circulation sales staffs or other production and business employees. Scripps also does not own any newspaper printing facilities in Albuquerque.
Joint operating agreements are allowed under the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970. The federal legislation grants a limited anti-trust exemption in the interest of preserving independent editorial voices in communities threatened with the financial failure of one or more of their newspapers. Although the Albuquerque JOA predates passage of the act, successive amendments to the original agreement were filed with the U.S. Department of Justice under the legislation.
Any buyer acceptable to Scripps would have to be approved by the Justice Department.
Scripps acquired The Tribune in 1923 from its founder, Carlton Cole "Carl" Magee. Borrowing a phrase from Dante, Magee had adopted the slogan "Give Light and People Will Find Their Own Way." After it was acquired, Scripps adopted Magee's slogan, for all of its newspapers.
The Tribune is an award-winning newspaper with a rich journalistic tradition. Eileen Welsome, while reporting for The Tribune, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for a series of stories that related the experiences of Americans who had been used unknowingly in government radiation experiments nearly 50 years earlier.
The Tribune also was a Pulitzer finalist in 1993 and 1996 and was a first-place winner in the 1998 and 2001 National Headliner Awards.
The E. W. Scripps Company (www.scripps.com) is a diverse and growing media enterprise with interests in national cable networks, newspaper publishing, broadcast television stations, interactive media, and licensing and syndication.
The company's portfolio of media properties includes: Scripps Networks, with such brands as HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, Fine Living and Great American Country; daily and community newspapers in 17 markets and the Washington-based Scripps Media Center, home to the Scripps Howard News Service; 10 broadcast TV stations, including six ABC-affiliated stations, three NBC affiliates and one independent; Scripps Interactive Media, including leading online search and comparison shopping services, Shopzilla and uSwitch; and United Media, a leading worldwide licensing and syndication company that is the home of PEANUTS, DILBERT and approximately 150 other features and comics.