Digital First Media is closing the moldy Pottstown Mercury building at King and North Hanover Streets, telling employees to work from home or a printing plant about 45 minutes away in Chester County.
Edward Condra, senior publisher for the Philadelphia-area Digital First papers, told Mercury employees on Friday about the decision to abandon the three-story building that the NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia contends could be a health hazard and needs a new roof. Condra could not be immediately reached Monday for comment, writes Bob Fernandez in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Digital First Media, the nation’s No. 3 newspaper chain with a reputation for vicious cost-cutting practices and healthy profit margins, has already closed or sold the buildings for the Daily Times in Upper Darby, the Daily Local News in West Chester, and the Times Herald in Norristown.
Despite cutbacks, Digital First earned $160 million in profits on $939 million in revenue nationwide in 2017, according media analyst Ken Doctor, writing on the NiemanLab website at Harvard. The Philadelphia-area papers, a major hub for Digital First, contributed $61 million in revenue and $18 million in profits, and led the company with a 30 percent profit margin. The company is controlled by New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital LLC.
Mercury reporter Evan Brandt was at the meeting Friday when Condra informed editorial employees of the decision to close the building. “Having watched everything going on with this company and what they are doing with newspapers … it was just a question of when” Digital First would close the newspaper’s building, he said. He described the mood among employees as “resigned and angry.”
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