Business lobbyists and conservative think tanks are not big fans of President Biden’s proposed tax increases on the wealthy.
The Tax Foundation has said that Biden wants to raise the capital gains tax to “highs not seen since the 1920s.” Suzanne Clark of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the same plan “outrageous.” Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers called the proposed increase in the corporate tax rate “archaic.” And Brendan Bechtel, the chief executive of the construction company that bears his family name, said that “it doesn’t feel fair.”
All of this rhetoric has obscured a basic fact about Biden’s tax plan: It would not actually raise tax rates on the rich to high levels, historically speaking.
If all of Biden’s proposed tax increases passed — on the corporate tax, as well as on investment taxes and income taxes for top earners — the total federal tax rate on the wealthy would remain significantly lower than it was in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. It would also remain somewhat lower than during the mid-1990s, based on an analysis that Gabriel Zucman of the University of California, Berkeley, did for The Morning.
just how far taxes on the wealthy have fallen over the past 70 years. In the decades just after World War II, many corporations paid about half of their profits in federal taxes. (Shareholders, who are disproportionately affluent, effectively pay those taxes). Today, corporate taxes are only about one-fourth as large, as a share of G.D.P., as they were in the 1950s and ’60s.
The declines are not all ancient history, either. For most of the past quarter-century, taxes on the affluent have continued falling, including the rates on corporate profits, personal income, stock dividends, stock holdings and inheritances. Barack Obama reversed some of the declines, but only some. “The net effect over the past 25 years of federal income tax policy has been to reduce the overall revenue collected from top earners,” Owen Zidar, a Princeton University economist, told me.
Whether you like Biden’s plan or dislike it, it is not radical. For that reason, it is highly unlikely to have the harmful effects on economic growth that its critics are claiming. Remember: In the 1990s, the last time tax rates were as high as the ones Biden has proposed, the economy boomed. It also grew rapidly after World War II, when tax rates were higher yet.
History suggests that tax rates on the wealthy are not the main determinant of economic growth (and, if anything, higher taxes on the rich can sometimes lift growth). The main effect of Biden’s tax plan probably won’t be on the level of G.D.P. It will instead be on the relative tax burden that wealthy people pay. When they criticize the plan as unfair, archaic and outrageous, they are really saying that they enjoy paying low tax rates.
admit up to 62,500 refugees in the next six months, reversing his decision to keep a lower limit set by Donald Trump.
The E.P.A. plans to limit a class of climate-warming chemicals used in air-conditioning and refrigeration.
Richard Cordray, an ally of Senator Elizabeth Warren, will oversee federal student aid, putting him at the center of Democratic disagreements over forgiving debt.
Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, accused Trump of “poisoning our democratic system” by making false claims of voter fraud.
The country’s increasing diversity isn’t doing as much to help Democrats as liberals hope, Nate Cohn explains.
Business and Media
Bill and Melinda Gates are divorcing, raising questions about the future of their philanthropic foundation.
Verizon will sell Yahoo and AOL to the private equity firm Apollo for $5 billion, about half the amount it paid to buy the companies.
Pandemic disruptions have led to shortages of — and price increases for — lumber, cleaning products, microchips and other commodities.
The Los Angeles Times announced its next top editor: Kevin Merida, previously of ESPN and The Washington Post.
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When the World Trade Organization meets this week, should it waive Covid vaccine patents to increase access for poorer countries?
Yes: Biden should support a waiver to save lives, Walden Bello writes in The Times. Doing so would also guard against the emergence of deadlier variants, Michelle Goldberg notes.
No: Vaccines are hard to make, so waivers alone won’t lift supply, the Center for Global Development’s Rachel Silverman and others argue. And companies have shown they will work voluntarily to increase doses, Andrei Iancu writes in Stat.
A Times classic: Can you guess whether these neighborhoods voted for Biden or for Trump?
Lives Lived: He was born Joseph Jacques Ahearn, but his mother thought Jacques d’Amboise would be better suited to the ballet world. After he became a dancer, d’Amboise found stardom in New York and Hollywood. He died at 86.
ARTS AND IDEAS
the critic Jesse Green writes in The Times.
The album, “All the Girls,” also featuring the soprano Sally Wilfert, came out two days after Luker’s death in December. Green calls it beautiful and funny. (It includes this song, which is worth watching.)
Tonight, Luker’s colleagues and friends will tell stories and sing songs from her career at a fund-raising concert you can stream. — Claire Moses, Morning writer
Last month, when Yamiche Alcindor learned she would become the next moderator of the PBS current-affairs show “Washington Week,” she immediately felt the emotion of the moment.
“I basically instantly cried,” Ms. Alcindor recalled, “thinking about Gwen.”
“Washington Week,” a calm redoubt in the shouty battleground of political television, is most closely associated with its longtime moderator Gwen Ifill, the pioneering journalist who broke barriers as a Black woman in the Washington press corps.
Before her death in 2016, Ms. Ifill also became a mentor to Ms. Alcindor, the White House correspondent at “PBS NewsHour.” Starting with the episode on Friday, Ms. Alcindor, 34, will take Ms. Ifill’s old chair at the helm of “Washington Week.” She succeeds Robert Costa, a reporter for The Washington Post who took over in 2017 and left the show this year.
PBS and WETA-TV, the Washington affiliate that produces the program, announced the appointment of Ms. Alcindor on Tuesday.
reporter for The New York Times and USA Today.
She said that she had been a “Washington Week” viewer since college, and that she wanted to widen the scope of a show sometimes steeped in D.C. arcana. She also plans to maintain the civil tone — “a sense of respect and respectability,” as she put it — that has been the show’s signature since its 1967 debut.
“There can be this sense, when you are working and living in Washington, that everything is about what’s going on in D.C.,” Ms. Alcindor said. “So much of what has guided my journalism is, how are vulnerable populations being impacted by these policies? That will be my guiding light.”
As a White House reporter, Ms. Alcindor gained some fame as a frequent target of former President Donald J. Trump’s ire at news conferences. On one occasion in 2018, Mr. Trump labeled her question as “racist” after she asked if his policies had emboldened white nationalists. “As a Black woman, it wasn’t the first time that someone had targeted me or said something about me that I knew not to be true,” Ms. Alcindor recalled.
When Ms. Alcindor was first booked as a guest on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” she said, she called Ms. Ifill “in a panic.”
She recalled Ms. Ifill’s advice: “She basically told me, ‘You are a reporter who knows just as much as the people around that table. You earned this, and you are ready for this.’”
When Mr. Merida started at The Undefeated, it was a stalled digital project with an unhappy staff — a would-be publication that, even after a nearly two-year development period, existed only as a web page with links to 19 articles.
He got The Undefeated up and running, quickly establishing its editorial identity. The site’s relevance grew as prominent Black athletes embraced activism amid the rise of the social justice movement after the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
In his first editor’s letter at The Undefeated, Mr. Merida held up the example of his father, Jesse Merida, as someone who refused to be defeated by pervasive racism and the limited opportunities that went with it.
His father, he wrote, had gotten a degree in geology at what is now Wichita State University and did not listen to those who advised him to go into teaching rather than trying for a career in the more closed-off world of science. He ended up “earning his living as a janitor at one point while waiting for his opportunity,” Mr. Merida wrote, and was finally hired as a technician with the U.S. Geological Survey, a job that led to a long career, among mostly white researchers, with the Smithsonian Institution.
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At the Disney-owned ESPN, Mr. Merida became a close adviser to Jimmy Pitaro, the network’s chairman, and served as the chair of ESPN’s editorial board. He also played integral roles in its newsroom, helping oversee its investigative coverage and the television shows “E:60” and “Outside the Lines,” while also managing its standards team.
Mr. Merida, who was born in Wichita, Kan., grew up in the Washington area, where he still lives. He is married to the author Donna Britt, who has worked as a reporter and columnist at The Washington Post, USA Today and The Detroit Free Press.
He studied journalism at Boston University and started his career as a reporter for The Milwaukee Journal. After a decade at The Dallas Morning News, he joined The Post in 1993 as a congressional reporter.
Ms. Italiano, a veteran Post journalist and longtime chronicler of the New York City courts, is a well-liked figure in the paper’s newsroom. She did not respond to inquiries about her resignation or how the Harris article came to be. Representatives for The Post did not respond to calls and emails on Tuesday night.
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Her abrupt exit underscored some of the tensions currently roiling The Post, a classic pugilistic city tabloid that was often a vessel for coverage favorable to former President Donald J. Trump during his term in office.
Mr. Murdoch, who spoke frequently with Mr. Trump, installed a new editor at the tabloid last month, Keith Poole, who formerly served in a top position at Mr. Murdoch’s London paper The Sun. At least eight journalists at The Post have departed the paper recently, including a White House correspondent, Ebony Bowden.
Fox News and The Post, given their shared Murdoch ownership, have long demonstrated a certain symbiosis. (Just last week, The Post ran a gossip item complaining that Glamour magazine was not writing features about female Fox News stars.)
Fox News hosts including Tucker Carlson, Greg Gutfeld and Martha MacCallum discussed the Post article on their programs on Monday. Peter Doocy, Fox News’s White House correspondent, cited “a report in the last couple days in The New York Post” before asking Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Monday if Ms. Harris “is making any money” from her books supposedly being distributed in the shelters. Ms. Psaki said she would “have to certainly check on that,” which The Post described in a follow-up story as Ms. Psaki’s having offered “no answers.”
On Tuesday’s “Fox & Friends,” the co-host Ainsley Earhardt told viewers that the claims about the Harris book were “not accurate,” citing that morning’s fact-checking column in The Washington Post. Also on Tuesday, Fox News updated its article about the Harris book to note that only a single copy had been seen at the shelter and that it had been delivered as “part of a citywide book and toy drive.”
Fox News has faced criticism in recent days for a different false claim broadcast on the network: that President Biden was planning to restrict Americans’ red-meat consumption under his plan to address climate change. An on-air Fox News graphic declared, “Bye-Bye Burgers Under Biden’s Climate Plan,” setting off a cycle of outrage from conservative commentators.
If you wanted to sound smart at a media business conference or sell your start-up over the last couple of years, you’d talk about the rise of digital subscriptions. Netflix and Spotify led the way in getting consumers to pay every month for their content, and The New York Times, The Washington Post and many others followed. By last week, everyone was hawking media subscriptions, from the owners of the SpongeBob SquarePants TV show ($5.99 a month) to the staid newswire Reuters ($35) to my friend Isaac who wanders aimlessly around New York ($7).
The astonishing rise of subscription digital media is part of a broader rush toward the reliable, direct-to-consumer economics that has captivated investors. You can now subscribe to huge hits like Disney+ and Peloton as well as niche ventures like high-end dog food and beans.
Digital media executives scrambled last year to tell their boards about their new subscription products, but something strange happened: Their old, unfashionable advertising businesses exploded as consumers stayed home and shopped online. And now, travel companies, liquor companies and basically everyone else hoping to capitalize on a wide open summer and the marketing dream of a post-pandemic Roaring Twenties economic boom have begun pouring money into advertising on virtually every platform, but digital media most of all.
“Ad spending is red-hot right now,” says Henry Blodget, a co-founder of Business Insider, which was early to introduce a subscription tier in 2017. “The economy is cranking up, travel and leisure are coming back, and consumers are emerging from their pandemic cocoons.”
report by the agency GroupM last month showed that advertising in digital media grew by more than 7 percent in 2020, even as television advertising declined and print collapsed during the pandemic. (The Times lagged those other publishers in digital ad sales growth in 2020, even as its print advertising business dropped sharply during the pandemic. But it made up that ground on subscriptions.) “Advertisers followed consumers online” during the crisis, said Sarah Iooss, the head of sales for the Americas at the gaming platform Twitch. The GroupM report projects that digital advertising will grow 22 percent in 2021.
“The venture capital world spent a decade betting against advertising, and it’s about to blow up in their faces,” predicted Bryan Goldberg, the chief executive of Bustle, which has bought brands including Mic and Nylon, and is planning to restart Gawker.
There are plenty of reasons to be cautious about this revival. One is that, for all the political pressure on Google and Facebook, they continue to be the behemoths of the American advertising market. About 87 percent of last year’s growth went to those two companies, according to an estimate that the trade group Digital Content Next did for me, based on figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Facebook alone brought in more than $84 billion in advertising revenue last year.
There have been suggestions that a coming Apple crackdown on how apps can collect data from users, along with growing global regulatory pressure, could slow the juggernauts, but those moves may also damage the business of other media companies who collect user data. The most successful new entrant to the digital advertising market is Amazon, which now devours more than 10 percent of the country’s digital advertising business by charging merchants to promote their own products on its marketplace.
One of the legislators who has pushed to rein in the power of the tech giants, Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island who heads the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, said the improving advertising business would not dampen the appetite in Washington for a crackdown on “monopoly power” in Big Tech.
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“These are structural problems in the marketplace, and none of that will be changed by a few strong quarters,” he said.
The boom in digital advertising is lifting online publishers, but they aren’t the biggest beneficiaries. Even as television is getting a smaller share of the advertising market, the most sought-after digital advertising outlets are the new “connected TV” platforms — places like Roku, Hulu and Viacom’s Pluto TV. Those platforms put old-fashioned television ads next to old-fashioned television shows, but also provide advertisers detailed data on who is watching.
At the same time, advertisers remain skittish of news, in particular, using key words to block display advertisements from appearing next to stories about polarizing subjects. The president of global news and entertainment at Vice, Jesse Angelo, said he had declined a request last year from an entertainment company that, while celebrating the Black Lives Matter movement on its own website, asked Vice to block its ads from appearing near the terms “Black,” “Black people” and “Black Lives Matter.”
The big picture, though, amounts to a kind of optimism unseen in the gloomy digital publishing business for nearly half a decade.
“I don’t know that I could’ve predicted it at this level,” said Bloomberg Media Group’s chief executive, Justin Smith. “We haven’t seen digital advertising growth in high double digits since maybe 2017.”
And it’s not just advertising. Media executives are scrambling to catch up with demand for the other elements of their business that have fallen out of favor as subscriptions ascended, notably events.
“In the second half of this year, there is just going to be an onslaught of physical events,” said Chris Weil, the chairman and chief executive of the experiential advertising agency Momentum.
None of this is to say, of course, that media businesses will back away from subscriptions. That’s partly because investors continue to value the reliability of that business over the boom and bust of advertising. Advertisers salivate at the idea of inserting commercials into your favorite Netflix shows, but Netflix would never consider it when its stock is riding so high on subscriptions alone.
And paradoxically, one of the forces driving the digital advertising boom is the shift toward subscriptions that was supposed to replace advertising revenue. Selling subscriptions, it turns out, is pretty expensive and the streaming entertainment companies “need to spend a ton of money on marketing,” said Matthew Segal, a co-founder of ATTN, a Los Angeles-based media company.
Not all the entrants in the subscription boom will make it, and the notoriously cyclical advertising business will no doubt rise and fall with economic cycles again. For now, though, it has shifted many media companies’ calculus, and lifted their moods.
“It won’t last forever,” Mr. Blodget said. “But we’ll enjoy it while it does.”
In the early weeks of Covid-19 vaccinations, the shining examples of success were all places with politically conservative leaders. Globally, the countries with the largest share of vaccinated people were Britain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. In the U.S., the states that got off to the fastest starts were Alaska and West Virginia.
This pattern made me wonder whether many progressive-led governments were spending so much effort designing fair-seeming processes that they were failing at the most basic goal of a mass vaccination program: getting shots into arms. That error has held down vaccination rates across much of continental Europe. And it appeared to be an early problem in California and New York.
But it has not turned out to be much of an issue in the U.S. Instead, the states with the highest vaccination rates are now mostly Democratic-leaning, and the states with the lowest rates are deeply conservative.
Russ Bynum of The Associated Press wrote this week.
the chaos of the Trump administration’s virus response to the Biden administration’s. Democrats’ belief in the power of government certainly doesn’t ensure they will manage it competently, but it may improve the odds.
In the most successful state programs, one theme is what you might call centralized simplicity. In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont gave priority to older residents, including people in their 50s, rather than creating an intricate list of medical conditions and job categories that qualified people for shots (and that more privileged families often figure out how to game).
In New Mexico — which has the country’s highest rate of fully vaccinated people, despite also having a high poverty rate — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has overseen the creation of a centralized sign-up system. The state has one vaccine portal that all residents can use to sign up for shots, rather than the piecemeal, confusing systems in many other states, my colleague Simon Romero reports from Albuquerque.
South Dakota, the red state with the highest share of vaccinated residents, has also taken a centralized approach, NPR’s Ailsa Chang points out.
polls show. But it is still notably high among registered Republicans.
CNN’s Harry Enten writes, “while the reverse is true in the states with high vaccination rates.”
Dr. Vernon Rayford, an internal medicine doctor in Tupelo, Miss., told The Times that he had noticed a difference in the sources of skepticism. White skeptics often express a general distrust of government. Black skeptics are particularly mistrustful of the medical system, which has a long history of giving them substandard care — and even outright harmful treatments.
Across much of Mississippi — the state with the smallest share of residents to have received a shot — vaccine appointments are going unfilled largely because of a lack of demand. Two big reasons for the skepticism, Dr. Brian Castrucci, a public health expert, told The Times’s Andrew Jacobs, are misinformation on social media and mixed messages from Republican governors about the urgency of vaccination.
“It’s time to do the heavy lifting needed to overcome the hesitancy we’re encountering,” said Dr. Obie McNair, an internal medicine physician in Jackson.
And the effects?
Vaccine rates still are not high enough — in any state — to have ended the pandemic. In Connecticut and New Mexico, combined, about 11 people have died on a typical recent day. But that toll has fallen more than 80 percent since mid-January, even more than in the rest of the country.
declined to testify in his trial over the killing of George Floyd. Both sides will make closing arguments on Monday.
Officials in Chicago released video of the fatal police shooting of Adam Toledo, 13, last month. Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the footage “excruciating.”
A Hong Kong court sentenced several opposition leaders to prison for holding an unauthorized protest. The sentences send a clear message that activism carries severe risks, The Times’s Austin Ramzy writes.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Afghanistan to reassure its leaders that the U.S. would continue its support after withdrawing troops.
The Dallas Wings selected Charli Collier, a center from the University of Texas, as the No. 1 pick in the W.N.B.A. draft.
Can Biden be as transformative as Franklin Roosevelt?
Biden “is the first president since Lyndon Johnson who can rightly be called F.D.R.’s heir,” Jonathan Alter writes in The Times.
The comparison hinges on Biden’s passing ambitious bills, not just proposing them, The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser says. That will probably require scrapping the filibuster, The New Republic’s Osita Nwanevu writes.
Roosevelt started quickly, but later events — like World War II — helped define his presidency. Much of what will define Biden’s hasn’t happened yet, Matthew Continetti argues in National Review.
And it did.
Lives Lived: Carol Prisant was a 51-year-old former antiques dealer with no journalism experience when she decided she wanted to work for the magazine The World of Interiors. She went on to an illustrious three-decade career. Prisant died at 82.
ARTS AND IDEAS
will be buried tomorrow in England. The ceremony will be limited to 30 people and will have “minimal fuss,” according to the BBC, which will televise the funeral.
Prince Philip was a decorated British World War II veteran. In the 1941 Battle of Cape Matapan off the Greek coast, Philip, then a 19-year-old midshipman, operated the searchlights to find enemy ships.
Philip and Elizabeth married in 1947, when he was 26 and she was 21. The pair — who were third cousins — had previously laid eyes on each other when he was 18 and she was 13. Philip was born into the royal families of Denmark and Greece and had royal German relatives, some of whom had supported the Nazis.
He was famous for his (often not so subtle) remarks, whichpeople have called oblivious, insensitive or worse. “During his long life in a very public role, it’s hard to think of a group of people he did not offend,” The Washington Post wrote.
“The Crown” changed his image. The show displayed him as a vital and complex man who modernized royal life. “It helped humanize him,” a British author told The Times. “And it helps you empathize with him.”
Reuters has named Alessandra Galloni, one of the news agency’s highest-ranking editors, as its new editor in chief, the company announced Monday.
Ms. Galloni, 47, will be the first woman to lead the Reuters newsroom in its 170-year-history. As global managing editor since 2015, she already had a top position at one of the world’s biggest news organizations, with 2,500 journalists in 200 locations.
Ms. Galloni, a native of Rome who has been working in the company’s London office, will succeed Stephen J. Adler, who led Reuters for a decade before announcing his retirement this year. On his watch, the company won seven Pulitzer Prizes, including the award for breaking-news photography in 2019 and 2020. Ms. Galloni will remain in London after starting her new role next Monday.
“For 170 years, Reuters has set the standard for independent, trusted and global reporting,” she said in a statement. “It is an honor to lead a world-class newsroom full of talented, dedicated and inspiring journalists.”
bylaws that govern Reuters make a takeover of the newsroom nearly impossible. A so-called poison pill provision prevents any one entity from owning more than 15 percent of the news operation. Another provision gives the directors of the trust that governs Reuters the power to veto or endorse any takeover.
Partly because of that complication, Thomson Reuters brokered an arrangement in which Blackstone agreed to pay Reuters at least $325 million a year for 30 years, in effect giving the newsroom a nearly $10 billion endowment.
In January, Blackstone sold Refinitiv to the London Stock Exchange Group in an all-stock transaction.
Financial data has become much more important to stock exchanges and trading houses as computer-aided trading, or bot trades, have become more popular. Marketplaces like the London Stock Exchange are trying to offer more one-stop-shop solutions for clients with the addition of data and news.
The appointment of Ms. Galloni, who received the 2020 Lawrence Minard Editor Award from the Gerald Loeb Foundation, which honors business journalists, fills a top journalism job while other major newsrooms are searching for their next top editors. Norman Pearlstine retired from the top newsroom job at The Los Angeles Times in December, and Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post, called it a career in February. The two publications are expected to name their replacements soon.
Billionaires have had a pretty good pandemic. There are more of them than there were a year ago, even as the crisis has exacerbated inequality. But scrutiny has followed these ballooning fortunes. Policymakers are debating new taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals. Even their philanthropy has come under increasing criticism as an exercise of power as much as generosity.
One arena in which the billionaires can still win plaudits as civic-minded saviors is buying the metropolitan daily newspaper.
The local business leader might not have seemed like such a salvation a quarter century ago, before Craigslist, Google and Facebook began divvying up newspapers’ fat ad revenues. Generally, the neighborhood billionaires are considered worth a careful look by the paper’s investigative unit. But a lot of papers don’t even have an investigative unit anymore, and the priority is survival.
This media landscape nudged newspaper ownership from the vanity column toward the philanthropy side of the ledger. Paying for a few more reporters and to fix the coffee machine can earn you acclaim for a lot less effort than, say, spending two decades building the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
$680 million bid by Hansjörg Wyss, a little-known Swiss billionaire, and Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a Maryland hotel magnate, for Tribune Publishing and its roster of storied broadsheets and tabloids like The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News and The Baltimore Sun.
Should Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum succeed in snatching Tribune away from Alden Global Capital, whose bid for the company had already won the backing of Tribune’s board, the purchase will represent the latest example of a more than decade-long quest by some of America’s ultrawealthy to prop up a crumbling pillar of democracy.
If there was a signal year in this development, it came in 2013. That is when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post and the Red Sox’ owner, John Henry, bought The Boston Globe.
“I invested in The Globe because I believe deeply in the future of this great community, and The Globe should play a vital role in determining that future,” Mr. Henry wrote at the time.
led a revival of the paper to its former glory. And after a somewhat rockier start, experts said that Mr. Henry and his wife, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the chief executive officer of Boston Globe Media Partners, have gone a long way toward restoring that paper as well.
Norman Pearlstine, who served as executive editor for two years after Dr. Soon-Shiong’s purchase and still serves as a senior adviser. “I don’t think that’s open to debate or dispute.”
From Utah to Minnesota and from Long Island to the Berkshires, local grandees have decided that a newspaper is an essential part of the civic fabric. Their track records as owners are somewhat mixed, but mixed in this case is better than the alternative.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released a report last year showing that in the previous 15 years, more than a quarter of American newspapers disappeared, leaving behind what they called “news deserts.” The 2020 report was an update of a similar one from 2018, but just in those two years another 300 newspapers died, taking 6,000 journalism jobs with them.
“I don’t think anybody in the news business even has rose colored glasses anymore,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, a nonprofit journalism advocacy group. “They took them off a few years ago, and they don’t know where they are.”
“The advantage of a local owner who cares about the community is that they in theory can give you runway and also say, ‘Operate at break-even on a cash-flow basis and you’re good,’” said Mr. Rosenstiel.
won a prestigious Polk Award for its coverage of the killing of George Floyd and the aftermath.
“The communities that have papers owned by very wealthy people in general have fared much better because they stayed the course with large newsrooms,” said Ken Doctor, on hiatus as a media industry analyst to work as C.E.O. and founder of Lookout Local, which is trying to revive the local news business in smaller markets, starting in Santa Cruz, Calif. Hedge funds, by contrast, have expected as much as 20 percent of revenue a year from their properties, which can often be achieved only by stripping papers of reporters and editors for short-term gain.
Alden has made deep cuts at many of its MediaNews Group publications, including The Denver Post and The San Jose Mercury News. Alden argues that it is rescuing papers that might otherwise have gone out of business in the past two decades.
And a billionaire buyer is far from a panacea for the industry’s ills. “It’s not just, go find yourself a rich guy. It’s the right rich person. There are lots of people with lots of money. A lot of them shouldn’t run newspaper companies,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and the former editor of The Chicago Tribune. “Sam Zell is Exhibit A. So be careful who you ask.”
beaten a retreat from the industry. And there have even been reports that Dr. Soon-Shiong has explored a sale of The Los Angeles Times (which he has denied).
“The great fear of every billionaire is that by owning a newspaper they will become a millionaire,” said Mr. Rosenstiel.
Elizabeth Green, co-founder and chief executive at Chalkbeat, a nonprofit education news organization with 30 reporters in eight cities around the country, said that rescuing a dozen metro dailies that are “obviously shells of their former selves” was never going to be enough to turn around the local news business.
“Even these attempts are still preserving institutions that were always flawed and not leaning into the new information economy and how we all consume and learn and pay for things,” said Ms. Green, who also co-founded the American Journalism Project, which is working to create a network of nonprofit outlets.
Ms. Green is not alone in her belief that the future of American journalism lies in new forms of journalism, often as nonprofits. The American Journalism Project received funding from the Houston philanthropists Laura and John Arnold, the Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective, which also bought The Atlantic. Herbert and Marion Sandler, who built one of the country’s largest savings and loans, gave money to start ProPublica.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth of relatively small nonprofits that are now part of what I would call the philanthropic journalistic complex,” said Mr. Doctor. “The question really isn’t corporate structure, nonprofit or profit, the question is money and time.”
operating as a nonprofit.
After the cable television entrepreneur H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest bought The Philadelphia Inquirer, he set up a hybrid structure. The paper is run as a for-profit, public benefit corporation, but it belongs to a nonprofit called the Lenfest Institute. The complex structure is meant to maintain editorial independence and maximum flexibility to run as a business while also encouraging philanthropic support.
Of the $7 million that Lenfest gave to supplement The Inquirer’s revenue from subscribers and advertisers in 2020, only $2 million of it came from the institute, while the remaining $5 million came from a broad array of national, local, institutional and independent donors, said Jim Friedlich, executive director and chief executive of Lenfest.
“I think philosophically, we’ve long accepted that we have no museums or opera houses without philanthropic support,” said Ms. Lipinski. “I think journalism deserves the same consideration.”
Mr. Bainum has said he plans to establish a nonprofit group that would buy The Sun and two other Tribune-owned Maryland newspapers if he and Mr. Wyss succeed in their bid.
“These buyers range across the political spectrum, and on the surface have little in common except their wealth,” said Mr. Friedlich. “Each seems to feel that American democracy is sailing through choppy waters, and they’ve decided to buy a newspaper instead of a yacht.”