"The Sinclair TV owner bought The Baltimore Sun for the same reason Elon Musk bought Twitter," opined one critic. "Power."
New Baltimore Sun owner and right-wing media executive David D. Smith raised eyebrows and ire in media circles and beyond following a Tuesday meeting at which he reportedly insulted journalists at his new acquisition and told them to focus on profit.
Smith, the multimillionaire head of the Sinclair Broadcasts Group—a network notorious for its fealty to former U.S. President Donald Trump—purchased the Sun, along with a bevy of other Maryland papers, last week for what The New Republicdescribed as an "unspecified, nine-figure" amount from Alden Global Capital, an investment firm known for its cost-cutting ways.
Sinclair started out in Baltimore and the Sunreported that it's the first time in nearly four decades that the paper will be locally owned. However, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik atold "All Things Considered" host Juana Summers that Sun staffers left the meeting with Smith "fairly on edge."
Smith "said he's only read [the Sun] about four times, which is kind of astonishing for a guy whose family has been there for more than a half-century," Folkenflik said, adding that the new owner also argued that the paper "just isn't offering people news that is holding local government actors accountable."
"This," Folkenflik added, "for a newspaper that, you know, revealed corruption by the then-mayor of Baltimore that led to the Sunwinning a Pulitzer just a few short years ago."
The once-venerable Sun has, in fact, won 16 Pulitzer Prizes over its storied history.
Folkenflik, who once worked for the Sun, noted:
It has a really proud heritage going back to 1837. The story of the Sun, nonetheless, is kind of the story of modern American newspapering. Alden is the latest in a string of big corporate owners that has, you know, time after time, decade after decade, whittled down or slashed its staffs and its ambitions. The paper has shrunk pretty sharply.
Media accountability advocates expressed alarm and concern over Smith's purchase of the Sun. Popular Information publisher Judd Legum noted that the paper's new owner is a donor to far-right groups including Project Veritas, Turning Point USA, and Moms for Liberty.
"Sinclair Broadcasting, which is controlled by the Smith family,
forces nearly 200 local TV affiliates to run right-wing pro-Trump political commentary," Legum said. "Sinclair affiliates have also promoted right-wing conspiracy theories, including claims that [Democratic National Committee] staffer Seth Rich was murdered by a hitman as payback for sharing sensitive emails to WikiLeaks."
Sinclair and Smith have been closely aligned with the Trump family. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner has admitted that the former president and 2024 GOP front-runner's campaign
struck a deal with Sinclair in 2016 for access in exchange for more favorable coverage.
"We are here to deliver your message," Smith
told the Trump campaign. "Period."
Smith is also openly inimical toward the mainstream media—including the
Sun. According toThe Baltimore Banner, he told New York Magazine in 2018 that he viewed print media to be "so left-wing as to be meaningless dribble."
Pressed during Tuesday's meeting whether he still believed this, Smith answered in the affirmative. Asked if that included the paper he just bought, he replied, "in many ways, yes."
Sun staffers present at Tuesday's meeting told Folkenflik that their new boss seemed especially focused on the paper's bottom line.
"Smith told his new staffers that, you know, the
Sun was profitable but that he meant to make it more profitable," Folkenflik told Summers.
According to the Banner, he told them to "go make me some money."