Photo of Dispatch building

In early June The Columbus Dispatch and related publications were sold to New Media Investments for $47 million and became part of the hedge fund’s GateHouse Newspapers. Part of the deal reportedly was that current employees would keep their jobs for 90 days before the news owners could make cuts.
  That 90-day moratorium on layoffs ends around Labor Day, Sept. 7. How ironic that heads will likely roll around the time that we celebrate the working women and men of the United States.

  Typically, when a big chain purchases a family owned newspaper, the newsrooms are gutted to the tune of 25 to 50 percent. That means that dozens of Dispatch journalists will walk the plank and that eventually the paper will be a shade of its journalistic self. When the number of layoffs from other Dispatch departments is added to the journalist departures, it may cause a boost in the jobless rate in central Ohio.

  You won’t read about any negative consequences of the Dispatch takeover in the Dispatch because its editors are walking on pins and needles to please their new owners, hoping to save their jobs.

  The Dispatch, that covered the hell out of the school data altering scandal and other of its pet privatization causes, has not given its readers an accurate portrayal of what is coming down the pike from its new owners. This is typical of the five percent of the paper that is not very good journalism.

  Here are some educated guesses about the details and the fallout from the sale of the Dispatch:

*The selling price of $47 million was one-tenth of what it would have fetched 15 years ago. Keep in mind a premium national newspaper property, the Washington Post, sold for a mere $250 million two years ago.

*Wholesale buyouts, layoffs and departures of journalists and other employees will follow similar to what happened to the Cleveland Plain Dealer (PD) five years ago when it shifted from seven-day home delivery to four days a week. The PD was not sold, but rather its owner Advance Publications liquidated from within. The Columbus Business Journal is giving the Dispatch sale kid gloves treatment because it, like the PD, is owned by Advance.

*Dispatch Editor Ben Marrison, who lost all credibility as a journalist and is best known as a PR agent for the Dispatch owner Wolfe family’s political and business interests, departed, but he will likely resurface at the still Wolfe-owned Channel 10 or as a PR hack in Columbus.

*Editorial Page Editor Glenn Sheller hopefully will depart as New Media Investments does not want someone whose world view reportedly is akin to “hard right uncle in the  basement” running the opinion pages.

*Gov. John Kasich, aka Dispatch’s pet, will no longer enjoy blatant favoritism and wanton promotion by the Dispatch. In a blow to his presidential campaign, it will be much harder for him to carry Ohio without Dispatch boosterism.

*President Barack Obama will no longer be the target of Dispatch derision and criticism as new owners will not want to further irritate and alienate its core audience in Dark Blue Columbus and Franklin County.

*Andrew Ginther’s campaign for mayor is in trouble not only because of the Reflex scandal but also because Ginther can no longer expect rampant favoritism from the new Dispatch. Sheriff Zach Scott’s campaign for Columbus mayor gets new life.

*The new owners will shuck the horrible sub-tabloid format of the Dispatch and return it to big boy size, full size broadsheet. In retrospect, the format shrinking was a clue to the owners’ financial troubles and imminent sale of the paper.

*The blatant promotion of Dispatch TV and radio properties in Columbus in the pages of the Dispatch will end and meteorologists at Channels 4 and 6 will be quoted occasionally, for a change.

*The fawning coverage of rich Columbus folks and Wolfe buddies like Les Wexner will end and regular people will get covered more.

*The Dispatch endorsement of horrible plans like the sell-off of the OSU parking garages and subsequent rip-offs of students, faculty, staff and visitors will end and maybe, just maybe, the slimy deal will be unraveled.

*The Dispatch’s negative coverage of fired band director Jon Waters and his suit against OSU will end and the Dispatch will investigate and report that the “highly sexualized culture” Waters was blamed for permeates the entire university. For example, the Rolling Stones’ recent concert at OSU or the atmosphere inside and outside Ohio Stadium before, during and after football games.

*Under new ethical newsroom leadership, the Dispatch will start quoting and citing Plunderbund and The Columbus Free Press whenever it is warranted, which will be often.

*The Dispatch will quit trying to beat the Columbus Public Schools into submission, privatization and charterization by overcovering the cheating scandal and start covering what can be done to improve the neighborhoods around troubled schools and thus improve the schools and do a better job for the schoolchildren.

*The Dispatch for the first time will offer its comprehensive coverage of state government to other newspapers in Ohio, including three owned by New Media Investments, thus improving the awareness of Ohioans outside central Ohio of state government.

*My $21 a month sweetheart deal for 7-day home delivery of the Dispatch will be ended quickly by the new owners. The misguided attempt by the Dispatch to charge for web access will be called off and information will be free again. By 2020, the print Dispatch will be home delivered 3-4 days a week.

*The new Dispatch editors will publish the suppressed letter to the editor I submitted two years ago titled “Dispatch Too Biased In Kasich's Favor To Be Trusted.” Other readers’ letters that were suppressed because they exposed the Dispatch’s foibles will be published as well.

*The president, athletic director and board of trustees at OSU will become more accountable without the protection the Dispatch owners and editors granted them “in return” for the exclusive rights to broadcast OSU football and basketball games on Dispatch-owned radio stations WBNS AM-FM.

*The coverage and frequency of the Dispatch’s suburban newspapers that ring the city will be increased as the new owners realize that the newspaper’s future depends in winning over affluent suburban readers and the advertisers that cater to them.

*The Dispatch-owned TV stations in Columbus (WBNS) and Indianapolis (WHTR) and the two Columbus radio stations will be sold in 2016 so as not to have two big taxable transactions in the same calendar year. The stations are worth a lot more than the newspapers. The bidding will start at $500 million.

   In closing, please email me your thoughts and suggestions for future columns.

(ColumbusMediaInsider, copyright, 2015, John K. Hartman, All Right Reserved.