Talk about awkward circumstances. Mercury News reporter Pete Carey today (March 21) interviewed the man who may soon own his newspaper, Billy Dean Singleton (pictured). Singleton wouldn’t talk about a possible bid for the San Jose newspaper, which has been put up for sale by McClatchy Co. after it acquired Knight Ridder. But Singleton talked about his approach to buying newspapers: “When we’ve taken over difficult situations, we’ve done what we needed to do to make them work,” Singleton told Carey. “Our preference is to buy good newspapers that are doing well. That’s what we’ve mostly done in past 15 years. In the early years we took on some challenges because that is what we could do then.”
Singleton’s MediaNews company already owns the Marin Independent Journal, Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times and other Bay Area papers under the Alameda Newspaper Group (ANG) banner. Acquiring the KR’s Bay Area papers would push MediaNews’ circulation in the Bay Area to nearly 800,000, nearly double that of the Chronicle.
Carey’s story recounts how Singleton bought the Denver Post in 1987, at a time when many in journalistic circles predicted that struggling paper was about to fold. He’s credited with a turnaround at the Post that included a Pulitzer Prize in 2000. (The Merc, which is about the same size as the Denver Post, hasn’t won a Pulitzer in 16 years.)
But after Singleton bought the Houston Post, he was forced to close that paper. Layoffs also came after Singleton bought the Oakland Tribune in 1992. But with a smaller staff, the Tribune has remained in business. Referring to his purchase of the ANG papers, Singleton said: “You can’t sit there and lose money forever. …We did some cutbacks to get them back into the black.”