Some notable Baltimore Sun alumni are calling on the newspaper’s parent company, Tribune Publishing, to turn the newspaper over to local nonprofit ownership as part of the newsroom union’s “Save Our Sun” campaign.
The Baltimore Sun Guild, the newspaper’s unit within the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, has so far tweeted videos from two well-known former Sun reporters: Sarah Koenig, host of the podcast “Serial,” which attracted national attention after examining the murder case against Adnan Syed in its first season; and Ken Rosenthal, a sports reporter for Fox Major League Baseball, MLB Network and The Athletic.
The union also posted a video quickly scrolling through dozens of letters from other Sun alumni.
Rosenthal, who was an Orioles beat writer and sports columnist at the Sun from 1987 to 2000, said the newspaper’s staff were “incredible” during his 13 years there and remain so today. He pointed to the Sun‘s recent Pulitzer Prize win for its “Healthy Holly” coverage as evidence of that.
“Local journalism is a vital part of any community,” Rosenthal said. “It provides checks and balances, not just for the government, but even for local sports teams. The Sun is a huge part of Baltimore and of Maryland and it needs to remain a vibrant force.”
Koenig, who worked as a Sun reporter before heading to public radio’s “This American Life,” said she was worried about “the prospect of the Sun shriveling completely under new corporate control.”
Alden Global Capital, a New York City-based hedge fund that has been described as “the grim reaper of American newspapers,” last year acquired a 32 percent stake in Tribune Publishing and two seats on its board.
Two months after Alden became Tribune’s largest shareholder, the company offered buyouts to anyone in the company with eight years of experience or more. At least 11 Baltimore Sun Media Group employees accepted the buyouts.
In February, Tribune Publishing named a new chief executive officer: Terry Jimenez, the company’s former chief financial officer.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company has implemented pay cuts and furloughs, which the newsroom union agreed to in order to stave off layoffs.
Several prominent Sun reporters have left the newspaper in recent months, including former State House reporter Luke Broadwater, who is now covers Congress for The New York Times, and former police reporter Kevin Rector, who now is on the cops beat for the Los Angeles Times.
Both Broadwater and Rector were among the reporters with bylines featured in the Sun‘s Pullitzer-winning submissions.
Koenig said that Baltimore City is in a moment of change with residents voting for new leaders in the June 2 primary election, and protesters participating in a national movement against police brutality and racial injustice.
“The Sun is part of all of that,” Koenig said. “Any paper worth its salt is a force of progress. I am asking you, I am begging you, please, please let the Sun stay vital, let it stay local, let it be run as a nonprofit.”
In the midst of ongoing efforts to persuade Tribune to sell the Sun to local nonprofit ownership, staff members have taken up another fight.
Members of the Chesapeake News Guild, the union that includes staff from the Capital Gazette, Carroll County Times and other community newsrooms, are petitioning for Tribune to retain two staff members from the soon-to-be-defunct Ft. Meade newspaper SoundOff! and reassign them to the Sun‘s community newsrooms.
Jack Chavez and Lisa Rhodes are reporters for the paper serving military families at Ft. Meade, which Baltimore Sun Media Group publishes as part of a contract with the U.S. Army.
Last year, Baltimore Sun Media Group asked the Army not to renew the contract, citing revenue losses, and the Army accepted.
The Chesapeake News Guild is petitioning the company to reassign Chavez and Rhodes to one of the Sun‘s community newsrooms once the SoundOff! contract ends on June 30.
As of 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 869 people have signed the petition.
Rhodes and Chavez are reporters of color, and their potential job loss comes as Tribune Publishing is grappling with a lack of newsroom diversity and several unfilled positions in some of its Maryland newsrooms, the Chesapeake News Guild said.
“[Tribune Publishing] claims to stand in solidarity with [people of color], but refused to bargain with several of our guilds over hiring practices that would meaningfully change the makeup of our (mostly white) newsrooms,” Chesapeake News Guild tweeted last week after a town hall with Jimenez.