Media Dynasties Seek to Stay in Control The families who control such newspapers as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times face pressure to cede power to shareholders. But those families say maintaining majority ownership protects journalistic integrity.
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Media Dynasties Seek to Stay in Control

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Media Dynasties Seek to Stay in Control

Media Dynasties Seek to Stay in Control

Media Dynasties Seek to Stay in Control

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The families who control such newspapers as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times face pressure to cede power to shareholders. But those families say maintaining majority ownership protects journalistic integrity.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI: Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute says this structure was set up years ago when the Times owners, the Sulzberger family, decided to take the company public.

ZARROLI: It was a way for the families to get the benefit of public markets and the extra capital they would have, but at the same time retain voting control of the company.

INSKEEP: Porter Bibb is managing partner of Mediatech Capital Partners.

ZARROLI: It was done not so much to entrench owners but basically to insure that the public trust aspect of the business would be maintained and that they would not be handed over to profiteers or subject more likely to the vagaries of the stock market.

ZARROLI: Media critic Jeff Jarvis says too often newspaper companies have been slow to react to the big changes taking place in the digital age.

ZARROLI: It took years and years and years for the Wall Street Journal and other local papers in this country to realize they no longer had to waste money printing stock tables. The papers are not thinking strategically enough about how to change their mission in the world and what journalism really is. And it's not about printed on the paper.

ZARROLI: But time may be on his side. Porter Bibb of Mediatech says that when a company's share price underperforms for a long time, it can cause schisms in the controlling families. Bibb says that's what happened in the Chandler family, which became embroiled in a nasty fight over the ownership of the Los Angeles Times.

ZARROLI: What happens in these family-controlled properties is that eventually the generations begin to have different priorities and different needs, and the Chandler family basically fragmented, and the majority of the family wanted to cash out, and that's why they sold.

ZARROLI: Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

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