The Denver Post, for example, ran the headline "Pact lets Post owner cut debt." The story didn't mention bankruptcy until the third paragraph. The Salt Lake Tribune dug deep into the word jar to keep "bankruptcy" out of the headline: "Tribune owner's holding company agrees to 'prepackaged' financial restructuring." That headline screams, "Don't read me!"
The San Jose Mercury News also played the story small, as the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club observed:
The Mercury News ran the news that its parent company was about to enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings on the bottom of the business page today. The headline, "Mercury News parent swaps debt for equity," was the smallest headline for a news story on the page, and it didn't mention the word bankruptcy. The first two paragraphs don't use the B word either. One line before the jump, the word "bankruptcy" can be found. In a letter to employees, CEO Dean Singleton said the "financial restructuring is a non event for readers and advertisers."The Los Angeles Daily News, which ran a story written by the Torrance Daily Breeze, also used the "...parent swaps debt for equity" headline construction.
In the short term, the bankruptcy probably won't be noticed by readers, advertisers or newsrooms - and not just because of how the story was played. However, any time a business convinces lenders to take a $765 million hit the lenders will demand something in return. Now that the lenders own a stake in the newspaper chain, what kind of profit margins will they demand? Do they want to see MediaNews grow? Are they happy to be in the newspaper business? Or would they rather see the chain broken up and sold off? Time - and I hope some of these very same newspapers - will tell.