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Union that represents Pioneer Press staff seeks new newspaper owner

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A union that represents Pioneer Press newspaper workers is looking to oust the paper's owner.

A guild advertisement in the Star Tribune's business section Monday sought a new owner for the newspaper's competitor, the Pioneer Press, Minnesota Public Radio News reports.

The ad was taken out by the Minnesota Newspaper & Communications Guild, which represents some employees at the Pioneer Press. In short, the guild's ad is trying to entice the interest of a buyer who would be more protective of newspaper staff.

"For more than 150 years, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has been an essential source of news and advertising for the Twin Cities, providing unmatched coverage of St. Paul and the east metro area," the ad reads. "That coverage is now at risk. Unfortunately, the newspaper’s current owner, New York City-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital, is more interested in dismantling the newspaper to increase profits than in investing in the future."

The guild, which also represents staff members at the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News, says it has also published ads online in hopes of finding "local, community-minded buyers for their newsrooms."

"The Pioneer Press needs a new owner who cares about the community it serves and will be a responsible steward of Minnesota’s oldest news organization," the ad also reads.

The guild noted that while Digital First Media, the majority owner of Alden Global Capital, has yet to put its properties on the market, recent actions – including the sale of newspaper buildings – "make it clear that investors are seeking an exit strategy."

According to the guild, the national Newspaper Guild-CWA is in the process of contacting the CEO of Digital First and is offering to help identify "potential new owners for individual papers and regional clusters."

"The future of journalism is too important to leave in the hands of distant investors who fail to grasp that investing in better news products is also good business," Bernie Lunzer, president of The Newspaper Guild, said in a statement. "These papers are profitable, and they can remain so, but cutting costs is not a long-term business strategy."

Media analyst Ken Doctor tells MPR News that Alden appears to be getting dozens of daily newspapers ready for sale, including the Pioneer Press.

"We've seen very heavy cost-cutting of national programs and at specific properties," Doctor says. "We've also seen the for-sale sign put on the real estate of many of the buildings and land under the newspapers."

The Pioneer Press guild's action comes about two months after Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor finalized his purchase of the Star Tribune.

While the official terms were not disclosed, Taylor said the purchase price was around $100 million, theStar Tribune reported.

Last November, the Star Tribune announced a five-year deal with Digital First Media to print the Pioneer Press in Minneapolis.

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