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Freedom of the press

As three former staffers plan to form new digital Long Beach publication, Press-Telegram spokesperson claims newspaper will continue to thrive

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When three staff members of the Long Beach Press-Telegram left the publication a few weeks ago, many interpreted the situation as a looming indication that the century-old newspaper will soon go under.

However, in spite of the circumstance, the communications director with the Southern California News Group (SCNG), an umbrella group of local newspapers that includes the Press-Telegram, told the Signal Tribune this week that the dire speculation couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We have a larger network of full-time journalists and freelance contributors specifically covering Long Beach and news events originating in the city that impact the entire region,” wrote Eric Morgan in an email to the Signal Tribune Wednesday, providing the same statement he shared with the Los Angeles Business Journal a week prior and dismissing the notion that the Press-Telegram has only one staff writer.

The three staffers who quit are: Tim Grobaty, columnist with the publication since 1976; Jeremiah Dobruck, a public-safety and breaking-news reporter; and Melissa Evans, city editor.

The trio’s intention is to create a new digital publication that will serve the Long Beach area. This week, media outlets announced that Pacific 6, an investment company helmed by Long Beach resident John Molina, will fund the yet unnamed publication.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Grobaty said the departures are about two months in the making.

An article at DMFWorkers.org cited media analyst Ken Doctor and claimed that Alden Global Capital, an American hedge fund based in New York, is intending to shut down or sell Digital First Media newspapers within the next two or three years. The article that attributes Doctor is from a website that is campaigning to “win fair contracts with wage increases” for employees of Digital First Media.

The Press-Telegram, part of Digital First Media, has been a victim of Alden Global Capital’s decision, according to Grobaty, who claimed that the hedge fund buys distressed properties to garner a profit.

“They made a pretty huge profit off of Digital First Media newspapers, which they own,” Grobaty said. “[…] They’ve just been picking us apart one by one. All of our papers make more than the profit they are told to make, and they still lay people off. We were down to pretty much nothing. I’ve been there for 42 years, [and] I remember when we had almost 100 reporters. Then, it was down to about three. And now two of us [have] left. And, it’s just going to get worse.”

Grobaty said Molina expressed an interest in buying the Press-Telegram about two months ago out of concern about the publication’s local news coverage. Molina’s offer was refused.

Not satisfied, Molina contacted Grobaty and pitched the idea to start their own publication.

“I was just sitting there, losing hope, thinking, ‘I’m 63. I could just retire,’” Grobaty said. “It’s not the end of the world for me, but it was getting really really depressing. Everybody felt the same way. I think if you asked any reporter in that chain if they were going to be involved in this, I think they’d all say, ‘Yes.’ I don’t think there’s a happy person in SCNG. All for the same reason– all because of Alden Capital.”

Grobaty said the issue with the Press-Telegram’s news coverage is that it utilizes its SCNG network as one big staff and publishes stories that are irrelevant to Long Beach readers.

“We were sharing stories for things going on in Buena Park and Glendale and Riverside, and our readers don’t care about that,” he said. “And the readers in the other areas don’t care about Long Beach. We were only designing one front page for all of the newspapers. So, it was hard for us to get local stories in the Press-Telegram. It was hard for us to generate them with just two reporters. And, there was no hope in sight. It’s just getting more dire.”

In his email, Morgan wrote that SCNG is proud of Long Beach and that it deserves to have a “variety of strong voices and journalists representing the people’s interests.” The Press-Telegram will continue to serve the community the same way it has in the past 121 years, Morgan added.

“[We] will continue to document the living history and unique story of Long Beach each day, as will The Grunion Gazette every Thursday,” he said. “Both have been fixtures in Long Beach for many decades. It’d be great to see all Long Beach-focused news sources– established and new– succeed and thrive.”

The Press-Telegram is currently replacing the positions of those who left, Morgan concluded.

Grobaty, Dobruck and Evans met this week with Molina and David Sommers, Pacific 6’s media contact, to discuss the details of their new publication. As of press time, Grobaty said there are no new details to release, but information will be available soon.

Grobaty said the planned media publication will be a free online entity covering all of Long Beach’s nine council districts, with an emphasis on areas that Grobaty said tend to get a lack of press coverage, such as the uptown district.

For Grobaty, the situation is a win-win– he will continue his passion for journalism and will begin working for someone who cares for the community, he said.

“It’s strictly a philanthropic venture on John’s part,” Grobaty said. “I mean, I think he has the best intentions of the city to do this. I don’t think he’s expecting to get rich off it. […] I think it’s going to be a great product. I think we’re going to hit the ground running. It’s going to be a good thing.”

The longtime Press-Telegram columnist has no ill will toward his previous publication. His career decision was merely a product of circumstance.

“I don’t have any problem with Press-Telegram– I’ve been with them all my adult life; they’ve all been great people– but it was time for me to either retire or get rescued,” he said, “and I happily got rescued.”

Update (4:30pm; June 4, 2018): This article has been updated to clarify and provide attribution to claims of Alden Global Capital’s handling of Digital First Media. Previously, the article had no such attribution and incorrectly stated that Alden Global Capital had made an announcement about Digital First Media.

12 Comments

12 Responses to “Freedom of the press”

  1. Larry Blumenthal on June 1st, 2018 4:55 pm

    Can’t wait to see the new publication. It has the best from the PT.

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  2. Walter Gajewski on June 1st, 2018 7:17 pm

    Can’t wait to start reading Tim Grobaty’s columns again. The new publication can’t come soon enough.

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  3. Mary Stanton on June 1st, 2018 8:10 pm

    We are excited about a publication that will return to reporting along Beach news. It has been devasting watching the slow demise of our home town paper. We need great journalism to keep everyone excited and on their toes about our great city. Bravo!

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  4. Joan D. Swain on June 2nd, 2018 4:41 am

    Tim you hit the nail on the head. I want to read local New stories written by local news writters

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  5. mary richardson on June 2nd, 2018 8:11 am

    The Press-Telegram stopped thriving as a newspaper shortly after it was sold by Knight-Ridder, a valid and viable newspaper organization. The fine employees in the editorial area who stayed and who have helped maintain the high editorial standards are to be commended for staying and continuing to do the outstanding job they had done for Knight Ridder. The current ownership may well equate thriving with being profitable, but it would not occur to them/it that it does not equate with all the other qualities that define a fine newspaper organization.

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  6. marjorie & robert rivera on June 2nd, 2018 11:11 am

    Grobaty, I miss you and am suffering withdrawal symptoms. Get publishing soon.

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  7. Barbara Atlas on June 2nd, 2018 11:47 am

    I have been bothered for a long time over the fact that there is practically no coverage of Long Beach State in the sports section, not much coverage of church public programs except for First Congregational church downtown, and copies of articles that I have already read in the L.A. Times. The Press Telegram is less and less a local paper.

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  8. Gwen Parker on June 2nd, 2018 7:19 pm

    Congratulations Tim! You are what is needed for a successful media outlet. I worked for the P.T. for 20 years even when we were using manual typewriters. The telephone switch operator used the old time system of putting cords for the different departments (just like Lily Thomas?) of the TV show. Most of the employees would go to the bar across the street to talk with each other. Even when the unions would want the reporters to picket. I started there at age 17. Youngest employee at the time. After typing the ads for the outside automobile ads I saw that there was more money selling ads. I still have the recall of memorizing 500 customers phone numbers and their zip codes. I had memorized their account numbers too but when they were all changed I could not remember the new account numbers. I used to ride mopeds to the paper. Even gave Peter Ridder a ride to his car, Memories! Then I graduated to a woman’s Yamaha Chappy designed for women so they could wear a skirt. I remember going to the annual Christmas party on Lakewood Blvd riding my Yamaha 80cc and that night my evening dress got caught in the spokes of the bike. I was almost Lady Godiva (almost tearing up the entire dress.) I remember all the holes in the garment. I remember that there were 2 police officers across the street and they would have seen me half naked. I wasn’t a nudie. 20 years at P.T. (pension very small!) then 13 years at the Sun in Seal Beach (1 year as Publisher when the paper was sold), then 8 years at the News-Enterprise in Los Alamitos and then I spent a year working for the famous Barry Binder of College Park Realty, now Re/Max College Park Realty recruiting Realtors to join Re/Max College Park and at one point had over 200 Realtors. At the Press-Telegram Barry would invite me for a delicious lunch every year during the Christmas holiday and I being very young was impressed when he would pick me up in a luxury car). He would invite me to his staff meetings to do sales presentations. He would decorate the meeting room during each season and in April I went and he always introduced me as Gwen Parker from the LA Times. (his sense of humor). I would start off my presentation with something like: “April showers and would hand him a Press-Telegram umbrella decorated with the newspaper cartoons. Anyone remember the comic strips?) April showers brings you May flowers (handing him a bouquet of flowers.) Finally I would say: (“and since my sales presentation is corny” here is a pack of flower seeds. “May I see a show of hands who wants to split a full page?” Back page every time! In color! More money. Last year I was there I brought in to the Press-Telegram 1.8 million dollars. They allowed me to work 4 days a week for I was going to so many corporations helping them increase their business. I was getting to invite 3 other friends for any upscale restaurant (“any that advertised with us.”) After surgery I worked for the Beachcomber that is near my “Los Altos” neighborhood and having known Jay for many years joined his newspaper and “Public Relations firm”. Jay was also known to do public relations for the major hospitals. Beeler would only write local news (only newspaper to totally saturate the Los Altos area.) My folks bought their home for only $17,000 in 1954 and after their passing made it my own. Worth more and can sell it easily for $800,000 plus. I may move to Mexico for the rest of my life and will be able to get housecleaning, grocery shopping and more for much less than here. There are many Americans enjoying their retirement years there. An important salesperson is one who listens to their clients. People are in too much of a hurry to sell and then run instead of establishing relationships. Motivation has to be inside of you. One can not motivate salespeople unless they want to be successful. When Vance Cesar sold the Sun Newspaper to a group of investors from New Zealand they were not local yet now I see a thriving paper covering Seal Beach, Sunset Beach and part of Hunt. Beach. I had the opportunity to go to the Kent Times 100th birthday ball. This was in Rhode Island. Those mansions made me feel right at home! Oh – the fresh fish! I always spent money at clients businesses for I have always felt you have to spend money to make money. I apologize to one and all how long it took for you to read this. I think I had a small stroke 2 nights ago and am still waiting for my doctor to read my email to him. I think he needs to order a MRI or CT scan to see what happened to my brain for I have never had a headache and my head has exploded. Take the time to tell those you love how much they mean to you. For I have always had the faith that one is remembered for what they did on this earth. Love to all. Randy Lewis remembers the great times we had together when I worked for the Press-Telegram. Tim – you have a really good reputation and it follows you forever. I admire you. I take to heart what you said about retirement. Go get them boys! Congratulations.

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  9. Patrice Wright on June 3rd, 2018 7:19 pm

    I for one am looking forward to this new adventure that Tim Gorbaty is taking one.

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  10. Tom Connolly on June 4th, 2018 8:59 am

    I’ll be glad to help you out with any coverage of sports. I can be reached at 562-208-3293. Best of luck. tc

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  11. Doug Drummond on June 4th, 2018 10:20 am

    This is great news. Long Beach will again have a means to keep the public informed. Reporters will cover news from City Hall and our nine council districts. Thank you to John Molina and all of you. There may agiain be light on matters of community concern.

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  12. Robbyn on June 5th, 2018 10:19 am

    This is GREAT NEWS!!!!

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Freedom of the press