April 04, 2016

A bloodbath at the Orange County Register due to a bad DOJ decision

AP photo of the Register offices via Poynter
I understand antitrust law, and even with today's version of the newspaper media world undercutting some of the need for it, its need there hasn't totally gone away.

So, I didn't reject out of hand, at least, the Department of Justice putting the kibosh on Tribune taking over the Orange County Register. L.A. Times plus the OCR plus Riverside plus the San Diego Union-Tribune would have been a behemoth in the Southland's 20 million. Picture the New York Times owning both the Daily News and the Observer, along with Newsday on Long Island, with only the Post and the Brooklyn Eagle left independent among dailies of any size (not counting Jersey), in New York City. (The WSJ being a special case.)

At the same time, everybody who knows the newspaper business knows that, even within the newspaper business, Digital First Media is a "Chainsaw Al" operation.

And, with the only other bidder on the Register's carcass being a consortium of current and former Freedom Communications staff, after the Trib deal was nixed, it could offer a lowball. And did.

And, then, immediately revved up the chainsaws.

Meanwhile, antitrust issues aren't much less with DFM. It already owned the L.A. Daily News and the San Bernardino Sun, and the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

If the DOJ were REALLY concerned about monopoly, it would have required Freedom's carcass to be parted out, and specifically, the Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise to go in different directions.

Now, all three parties involved might argue that it would have brought less money that way. I don't think so. Both the Trib and DFM would have had to do some guessing as to whether Riverside or the OCR best fit their needs and how much to pay. Meanwhile, the third bidder, the Mirman team, might have had a better shot at one or the other of the two.

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