Back in February news racks for the Burbank Leader could still be seen on the streets, but no more. They have been removed. Despite the controversy and complaints from many residents, the news racks don’t appear to be coming back anytime soon or at all. The Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and several other community newspapers are owned by the Los Angeles Times, which is in transition.
On August 4, the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, and several other major newspapers will spin-off to a new stand-alone company, Tribune Publishing. The former owner, Tribune Company, is keeping a lucrative portfolio of real estate, television stations and other media properties. Also, the Tribune Company is getting a new name, Tribune Media. There are concerns about the millions of dollars of debt Tribune Publishing will be forced to carry and how that will impact its newspapers’ ability to do business.
A rosier view was expressed in the Los Angeles Times last Sunday. In a Times article, investment analyst Lance Vitanza of CRT Capital Group put the equity value of Tribune Publishing “at about $635 million.” Vitanza sees a “potential upside” for Tribune Publishing : “We believe the company is well-positioned, with strong brands in attractive markets, an exciting digital strategy and significant cost-cutting opportunities.” This is probably good news for investors, but not for the readers of the Burbank Leader and other L.A. Times community newspapers who want to see a return of the good old days when there were plenty of free papers in news racks. Putting more emphasis on digital and cost-cutting opportunities doesn’t sound promising at all.