What is it like when Billy Dean Singleton (pictured) buys a newspaper? “Your job is on the line, and you had to make an instant impression that you were worth keeping,” said Debbie Arrington, a feature writer who was at the Long Beach Press-Telegram when Singleton bought it from Knight Ridder in 1997. “The older copy editors who went through the process, they all felt like they were being sent to the glue factory.” Singleton, who owns several Bay Area newspapers including the Oakland Tribune and Marin Independent Journal, is believed to be the front runner to buy Knight Ridder’s Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Palo Alto Daily News Group and Monterey Herald. But, as LA Times reporter Joseph Menn reports in today’s edition, Singleton and his top editors say he is simply practicing tough love in an industry badly in need of a dose of reality. In an era when newspapers are losing readers and advertisers to the Internet, Singleton has taken big risks by buying papers no one else wanted, then using drastic measures to make them profitable. (Photo of Singleton in his Denver office by Ellen Jaskol for the LA Times) [Bids due Tuesday (March 28) for 12 KR papers, including Merc, CCTimes]

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