In a holiday weekend surprise, The Baltimore Sun was sold by the investment firm Alden Global Capital to David Smith, the chairman of local TV station giant Sinclair Broadcast Group.
The Sun broke the news Monday, also revealing that Smith is joined in the venture by Armstrong Williams, a conservative political commentator who hosts a program syndicated on Sinclair’s 185 TV stations.
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News of the sale sparked immediate interest in a reaction from David Simon, creator of the acclaimed HBO series The Wire. Simon spent years working as a journalist at the Sun, and made a fictional version of the newspaper a focal point of season five of the series.
“What is left to say about American newspapering?” Simon said on X, afyter being tagged by the sportswriter and political pundit Charles Pierce.
“Everyone who is in within the sound of an honest Bawlamer accent needs to subscribe to the @BaltimoreBanner right fucking now. If you do not you are simply complicit,” he added, tagging the Baltimore nonprofit news organization The Baltimore Banner. (The founder of the Banner, Democrat businessman Stewart Bainum, had tried purchasing the Sun unsuccessfully before launching the rival nonprofit.)
While it is primarily in the local TV business, Sinclair has faced scrutiny over so-called “must run” political commentary segments in which local newscasts aired national political commentary segments. The company ended the practice in 2019. The company also drew national attention in 2004 when it had its stations run a documentary that was critical of then-Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry.
While Smith is local (Sinclair’s headquarters is in the Baltimore suburb of Hunt Valley), the TV company’s history of infusing some national politics into its local news coverage, combined with Williams’ role in acquiring the newspaper, raised eyebrows among online media critics.
Smith told the Sun that while he is purchasing the newspaper personally, he does think there could be opportunistic synergies between it and Sinclair.
“I’m in the news business because I believe … we have an absolute responsibility to serve the public interest,” Smith told the outlet in an interview. “I think the paper can be hugely profitable and successful and serve a greater public interest over time.”
“We have one job, to tell the truth, present the facts, period. That’s our job,” he added.
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