After several months of back and forth negotiations the Washington Times was sold to a group of former executives led by the paper’s founder the Rev. Sun Myung Moon for the token amount of $1 and the assumption of liabilities which were said to be in the millions.
For the executives which included former president and publisher Thomas McDevitt, chairman Douglas M. Joo and finance chief Keith Cooperrider it will be a chance to try and rebuild the newspaper which during a major budget cutback saw both the circulation and employee headcount tumble.
But they face a daunting task to rebuild a paper which has been reduced to a shell of its former self while fighting through the lingering effects of a recession and at the same time trying to lure back the readers who abandoned the Times when they tripled the subscription price in an effort to be more fiscally responsible.
This is a quixotic quest not unlike that of Sid Harman who purchased Newsweek in a similar financial transaction except at least McDevitt, Joo and Cooperider have publishing experience having worked ta the paper previously compared to Harman who made his money in the car stereo and audio components world.
According to the Washington Post the Times had been receiving a $35 million subsidy in order to continue operating and when that was cut off the paper wasn’t able to survive in its current form. The new owners will also need a similar subsidy or cash infusion if they expect to rebuild the paper and pay its bills since advertising and circulation revenue will fall far short of the break even mark. And frankly I don’t know of any church that can provide this type of subsidy especially during a recession.
While I think that Washington needs a conservative newspaper I question the wisdom of the purchase given the current economic conditions and the continuing move by readers to move online for their news. Also during the Times’ cutbacks and virtual disappearance from newsstands the Washington Examiner beefed up its staff and started to fill the void left by the rarely seen Times. That means to a certain extent the Times will not only be competing with the Washington Post for readers but also the Examiner which is available for free making the paper an even tougher sell to advertisers.
I wish the new owners luck in reestablishing the paper in D.C. but they face very long odds of making it a success financially and they fail it will probably mean the end of what was for many years the voice of reason in Washington.