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New Doc Shows How a New York Hedge Fund is Dismantling American Journalism, One Newspaper at a Time

On March 7, Hunter College students joined filmmaker Rick Goldsmith at the screening of his film Stripped for Parts: American Journalism on the Brink.

The film follows Goldsmith’s investigation of a hedge fund buying up local newspapers across the United States, based on reporting by Julie Reynolds for The Nation. For her 2015 story, Reynolds investigated Alden Golden Capital after the hedge fund bought her small-town newspaper and 100 other American newspapers in small or mid-size markets. 

In the story, she describes how “vulture capitalists” would acquire the newspaper’s real estate, and then begin laying off reporters until the newspaper was bare. The hedge fund would take the profits and move on to the next newspaper. 

Reynolds’ story inspired not only Goldsmith’s film but also The Denver Post’s Chuck Plunkett. In April 2018, Plunkett was an editor at The Post when he wrote an editorial piece and demanded Alden’s Digital First Media to sell The Post to someone who cared about journalism.

This revolt, which dozens at The Post joined along with Plunkett, became known as The Denver Post Rebellion. 

According to Goldsmith, journalists “don’t usually write about ourselves or our industry. But they sprung into action and they were informing the rest of us [of] what was going on, and if not for them, we wouldn’t know about how these newspapers were being destroyed.” 

Some journalists at The Post even decided to leave and create a new online newspaper called the Colorado Sun, which is thriving. 

Goldsmith’s film highlights three important stories: First, Raynolds’s investigation, which gives the audience an understanding of how Alden’s business model works. Second, the type of damage that hedge fund ownership causes newspapers and the communities they serve. And third, the actions journalists are taking to fight back and prevent the destruction of their newspapers and industry. 

After the screening, Goldsmith and Hunter’s Journalism Program Director Sissel McCarthy had a short discussion and Q&A with the audience. 

Goldsmith highlighted the importance of public service journalism and community-based reporting, especially now, as larger media organizations have become increasingly polarized. He brought attention not only to this polarization, but also to the lack of access people have to local news. 

“Everybody in this country, without regard to ability to pay, deserves to hear about the news and opinion,” said Goldsmith. “Democracy is not going to work without it.”  

When discussing the future of the news, Goldsmith had two answers. One, that in five years papers that do not have economic backing and connections will go away. Two, the state of news and journalism itself is an ongoing conversation. 

“Rather than predicting what will happen in five years, I’d say that I hope that this film can be part of the answer to what happens to journalism over the next 5 or 10 years,” said Goldsmith. “Trying to inform the conversation, trying to bring the conversation to the forefront rather than to the back of the bus.”

Despite the grim state of journalism and newsrooms, Goldsmith encouraged journalism students to continue pursuing this path. It’s never been more important, he said, to keep getting the truth, and keep informing people about lies and deception happening in their communities. 

Our Journalism Concentration & Minor

The Hunter College journalism program is offered as a concentration or a minor within the Department of Film & Media Studies. Its curriculum is built around production courses in journalism and analytical courses in media studies. Learn more about our course requirements.

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