OLD Media Moves

Covering when your parent company goes up for sale

January 14, 2008

Posted by Chris Roush

Joyce Hoffman, the public editor at the Virginian-Pilot, writes about how the paper’s business news department scrambled to put together a story after it learned from the New York Times that its parent company, Landmark Communications, was for sale.

Virginian-PilotHoffman wrote, CEO FrankBatten had planned to inform employees and the wider world of his decision on Jan. 3. That rollout was undone late Jan. 2 by a New York Times report that the Weather Channel was up for auction and might fetch $5 billion.

“At The Pilot, a sharp-eyed deskman divined from a cryptic line in that day’s listing of wire stories that something was afoot inside the building. Calls went out to the business news team at 9:30 p.m. They were back at their desks and working the phones in less than 30 minutes to produce the story about their own paper.

“As publisher Bruce Bradley acknowledged in a message to The Pilot’s 1,200 employees, it was ‘shabby way’ to learn the news.

“In a Jan. 3 interview with Pilot staffers Phil Walzer and Bill Choyke, Batten made comments that revealed the newsroom/boardroom conflict. From the beginning, the business team had been counseled by Editor Denis Finley to ‘cover this just as aggressively as we would any similar change at Norfolk Southern or any other big business. It would be hypocrisy to do otherwise.’ Walzer said he asked all the obvious questions and kept asking them even as Batten repeatedly deflected those efforts.”

Read more here.

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