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The great American newspaper ain’t what it used to be. At practically every newspaper in the country except for a fortunate few, hard times have reduced page count, eliminated news beats and resulted in the layoffs of thousands of journalists.

The hardest hit, Margot Susca reports in her new book, Hedged: How Private Investment Funds Helped Destroy American Newspapers and Undermine Democracy, have been the chain newspapers — Gannett, GateHouse, Lee Enterprises, et al. — purchased and squeezed by private equity firms like Alden Global Capital. Nationwide, the percentage of newspapers owned by private equity rose from 5 percent in 2001 to 23 percent in 2019; they include such storied titles as the Chicago Tribune, the Orange County Register and USA Today, as well as scores of smaller papers. Some papers have been reduced to zombie versions of their former selves as the new owners have shaved them down to minimize costs, depriving readers of the comprehensive coverage they enjoyed in the golden age of newspapers.

Susca, an American University […]

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