I worked for Ottaway Newspapers for about 10 minutes a million years ago. Actually, it was exactly six months and 20 days, ending in March 2005. I left Ottaway to become a freelance writer, one of the better decisions I have made. But, I left some friends there, and I have been interested in the newspaper chain’s developments over the past few years. For those not in the know, Ottaway is the community news division of Dow Jones, which was acquired by News Corp last year.
When I worked for Ottaway, it was responsible for 40 percent of Dow Jones’ profits– while the Wall Street Journal was pretty much a break-even enterprise. Since then, of course, Ottaway’s margins have been squeezed. Hell, whose haven’t? The print business is in the crapper, and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that. But, if News Corp was interested in putting some money into Dow Jones (by which I mean WSJ), selling Ottaway would be a pretty good way to do it. After all, Ottaway has been a pawn on its parent company’s board for quite a while. Shortly after I left, Dow Jones divested itself of several Ottaway newspapers so that the parent could take advantage of a substantial capital loss carryover.
Well, imaginge my surprise today. In my Google News Alert for Ottaway, I saw that the News Corp has taken Ottaway off the market, in an article published by the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror. I can’t say I’m surprised. First, with print in decline, this can’t be a great time to sell a newspaper. Further, Ottaway has been a major money-maker for Dow Jones. So, why the hell would they sell it? Hey, I’ve always maintained that they should sell WSJ.
The bad news for Ottaway: continued dealings with the world according to Rupert.