It wasn’t as bad as could have been, but the first meeting between a conservative billionaire and the Baltimore Sun’s newsroom was not a success.
David Smith, owner of Sinclair Media Group told his employees in a three-hour session last Tuesday that he had read the newspaper four times over the past few months. He also told them to step up their game.
Smith, in partnership with the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, bought the venerated Sun for “nine-figure sums.”
The goal is simple. Deliver fair, balanced news to our readers.
— Armstrong Williams 🇺🇸 (@Arightside) January 16, 2024
He also bought a group of local newspapers. Smith’s company operates more than 200 television stations. He is a major contributor to conservative groups like Moms for Liberty (before it collapsed) and Project Veritas. He has strong roots in Baltimore and is influential within the Baltimore political scene. He is also not a big fan of print journalism.
Print media are so left-wing that they are meaningless dribble, which is why the industry has and will continue to fade. There is no credibility.
These are some of the highlights of the meeting, according to the Baltimore Banner’s account of the event, whose founder, a leftist, lost his bid to purchase the Sun.
People who attended the meeting reported that it lasted nearly three hours, and there were many heated exchanges. Smith did not commit to the future of a print publication or retention of staff.
Smith appeared to be trying to pit reporters against one another, asking them to rate who was the most talented in the newsroom. He said “I have no idea what you do” several times during the meeting.
Smith, when asked about the job security of people, said that everyone “has today a job” and that he wouldn’t make any wholesale changes until he understood how things worked.
Smith was repeatedly asked by reporters if he would continue to do public service journalism, which doesn’t necessarily translate into page views or subscribers. Smith insisted he was only concerned with money.
Smith, dressed in a suit and tie, spoke highly of Fox45. The station is Sinclair’s flagship news channel, and it regularly conducts online polls that are not scientific, with results that may not be representative of the area.
When someone shakes up a business that is failing or moribund, it rarely makes them happy. The Sun is not an exception.
John E. McIntyre was an editor for The Sun for over 34 years. He said, “I think the ownership of Mr. Smith will be a disaster.” McIntyre was bought out in 2021 and does freelance work occasionally for The Baltimore Banner, the new rival newspaper across town.
“I expect that he’ll make good on his words, and turn The Baltimore Sun into what his Fox45 TV station already is: a megaphone of right-wing misinformation and contempt towards the city Baltimore,” McIntyre said.
Baltimore Sun Guild, the union that represents the newspaper’s journalists, started the meeting. “The editorial direction he described – focusing on clicks instead of journalistic value – concerned many members, as well as his attitude towards vulnerable communities in this city we love.”
Imagine this. Imagine being forced to write about things people want to read, rather than receiving a good salary for engaging in what amounts to public onanism.
The newspaper industry has created a crisis for itself. Smith stated that it was so left-wing, that most people didn’t even read the newspaper, and even fewer subscribed to it. Print journalism, rather than covering important topics in an objective way and Karening readers for their wrong-thinking, is a mishmash. The Sun is either going to survive or not. David Smith will not determine the outcome. The management and newsroom must have the maturity and resolve to realize that people are not buying what they’ve been pushing. If they don’t want to change, it’s time to say goodbye.