When I profiled Sun-Times chairman and Wrapports lead investor Michael Ferro almost one year ago exactly, he hinted that radical changes could be afoot. He also made clear two things: that no part of the struggling newspaper conglomerate that he gobbled up in the wake of former chairman James Tyree’s death was sacred and that his gamble was not on the printed word, but on a group of digital startups, one of which he hoped would turn out to be a billion-dollar life ring.
Still, as both author of the Ferro piece and a former reporter at the Sun-Times, I couldn’t help but be a little flabbergasted at Robert Feder’s scoop today that Ferro was jettisoning the company’s entire portfolio of suburban papers, leaving only the Sun-Times daily tabloid and the Reader standing. It was my understanding that those papers, which include the Aurora Beacon-News, the Naperville Sun, the Southtown Star and 32 weekly papers published by the Pioneer Press largely subsidized the remaining Big Two.
Maybe that’s true. Maybe more startling announcements loom. No one is saying. One thing seems clear: the announcement is not good news for my old paper and, while I’ve worked for the other side (Chicago is owned by the Trib) for more than a decade now, that makes me sad.