A bid to save newspaper competition in Chicago – Chicago Tribune

A history of Chicago newspapers — it’s a sprawl of names, dates and time line — hangs from a bulletin board in the Tribune’s newsroom. Since the 1830s, more than 60 general-circulation dailies have served Chicagoans. Some of those news organizations survived less than a year, some merged with others, some were bought out by competitors. Today there are two survivors, furiously competing on an array of print and digital formats: the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. That’s good for this city.

On Monday came surprising news that stands to put the newspapers in a new relationship: They would be co-owned yet journalistically independent. Wrapports Holdings LLC, which owns the Sun-Times, has put that paper up for sale. What’s more, Wrapports has signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell the Sun-Times to the Tribune’s parent company, Tronc. That Chicago-based company, formerly called Tribune Publishing, would operate the Chicago Sun-Times. Tronc says Wrapports made the initial outreach to Tronc early this year.

Other bidders could emerge. They will have a 15-day window to come forward, under a request from the U.S. Department of Justice. Wrapports could close the sale of the Sun-Times to Tronc as early as June 1.

Before we explore what would happen next, savor the importance of preserving what metropolitan Chicago now enjoys: thriving competition between two large news organizations that know they serve readers best by trying to outdo each other. Whether a story is breaking or waiting to be discovered, neither Sun-Times nor Tribune journalists want to finish second — in accuracy, in timeliness, in impact on readers’ lives. When news is happening, each of those rival tribes wants you to turn to its coverage first. Same for opinion pieces on how Chicagoans should react to the news. The same for sports stories, the same for business or jobs developments, the same for arts coverage — the same, even, for comics.

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