Bankruptcy judge approves Sun-Times sale

October 8, 2009 2:45:49 PM PDT
Chicago will remain a two newspaper town. A bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of The Sun-Times to a group of investors, one of the final steps in completing the deal. If there is one thing journalists hate it's being interviewed by other journalists. Nonetheless, three Sun-Times reporters agreed to talk to ABC7 today about the paper's new owner, the slashing of staff and whether Chicago has a future as two newspaper town.

"One newspaper towns, the politicians can get away with a lot, because there's not the same incentive to dig and beat the competition," said Abdon Pallasch, Sun-Times political reporter.

"We care about the paper. We want to save the paper. And we want to save our jobs," said Mary Wisniewski, Sun-Times reporter.

"This is the first time in a long time that we finally have a Chicago owner, and I'm very optimistic about that," said Misha Davenport, Sun-Times entertainment reporter.

Between them, these three journalists have 50 years of experience covering news in Chicago. These days they're doing it with a staff reduced by 50 percent and a debt load that brought the scrappy Sun-Times to within weeks of being shutdown.

"Whether we can make money will be up to the financial people who are running us. I think we have a good shot at it. We're a very lean greyhound-like newspaper right now," said Don Hayner, Sun-Times editor-in-chief.

Tyree, the chairman and CEO of Mesirow Financial, bought The Sun-Times and its more than 50 suburban publications and websites out of bankruptcy. He plans to push the papers toward digital outlets and into partnerships with everyone from tech companies to advertisers.

"People in this world and in our city need news," Tyree said.

Tyree says content will be king at the new Sun-Times, but he has no plans to add new staff. Current employees had to agree to a 15 percent pay and benefit cuts for the next three years. And, if Tyree has figured out a way to make money in a news business where so many are failing, he is not saying.

"I believe very strongly that content will win the day, and you can build a business model around great content. Without that great content, I think you're struggling," said Tyree.

For a newspaper whose former owner is in federal prison for looting the place, Jim Tyree represents stability and the hope that with local ownership comes local investment. But Tyree bought the paper for $25 million, so local or not, he will expect a return on that investment.


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