Philly newspapers bankrupt

The latest newspaper publisher to declare bankruptcy is the publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. As in the case of the Tribune Company and Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the newspapers were purchased by someone promising to turn them around, taking on heavy debt to finance the purchase. Howard Kurtz reports:

When Brian Tierney bought the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News in 2006, he boasted that he would improve the newspapers through smart management and an intense focus on local news.

"We don't need a Jerusalem bureau," he said. "What we need are more people in the South Jersey bureau."

It didn't work. The group that bought the papers for $562 million, led by Tierney, an advertising and public relations executive, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday.

As elsewhere, the newspapers will continue to publish, now that the company has been relieved of the burden of paying its debts, for the moment. But the newspaper industry continues to be in serious jeopardy, and downsizing is the fate of many journalists. Kurtz notes:

In its heyday, the Inquirer had 15 foreign and domestic bureaus, and it won 17 Pulitzer Prizes from the 1970s through the early 1990s.

Philadelphia has a free-distribution tabloid, the Philadelphia Bulletin (a historic name of a former Philly newspaper, the Evening Bulletin). It may well be that free-distribution papers (like the Examiner chain), available to transit riders in transit-dependent cities, will become the dominant form of newsprint distribution of the news in those localities. Time will tell.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky

Update: The Wall Street Journal covers the bankruptcy.
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