Casper Star-Tribune newspapers on the rack at a gas station in Lander. The Casper media organization recently started printing its newspapers in Cheyenne. Asked if he worried about the newspapers making it to far corners of Wyoming this winter, Star-Tribune publisher Dale Bohren said: “I worry about everything.” (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Casper Star-Tribune union leaders say they’re skeptical of Lee Enterprise’s commitment to journalism. As such, the journalists see forthcoming negotiations with Lee Enterprises, the publicly-traded corporation that owns the state’s largest newspaper, as an exchange that pits reporting in Wyoming public’s interest against out-of-state profit motives. And they’re taking their case directly to the community.

Speaking ahead of a new round of contract negotiations beginning Sept. 17, Casper News Guild leaders Heather Richards and Seth Klamann said they believe the company is negotiating in good faith but that questions of salary and health insurance have yet to be resolved and could be difficult to answer. Guild members seek more financial security so that they can commit to journalism in the state and treat writing for Wyoming’s paper of record as more than just a stepping stone or economic sacrifice, they said.

But they worry that Lee Enterprises, which owns papers in 20 states and carries hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, doesn’t share their dedication to journalism or to Wyoming. Corporate executives and stockholders are lucratively rewarded, even as communities lose reporters to layoffs.

“The union is coming to the table in good faith and asking for things that will make living in Casper and Wyoming doable” for reporters, said Elise Schmelzer, a former features editor and star Wyoming journalist who was laid off from her job at the newspaper in April. “But I have my doubts that Lee cares about that. I don’t think [executives] care about the quality of the newspaper.”

The Casper News Guild is a chapter of the Communications Workers of America, and was the first newsroom to organize as a labor union under Lee Enterprise management, according to a press release from that time. 

The logo for the Casper News Guild, a chapter of the Communications Workers of America.

The union is seeking support ahead of negotiations from the politicians, community groups, labor unions and other institutions oft-written about in the pages of the daily newspaper. In those communications and in interviews with WyoFile the union’s leaders offered a passionate appeal to the importance of Wyoming newspapering for the state’s democracy.

“There are times when political leaders like yourself are put under a microscope by the Star-Tribune, times your choices are questioned, investigated and analyzed by reporters,” a letter sent to Casper politicians and political groups read. “We hope you feel, as we do, that public debate is vital to Wyoming; that a more informed Wyoming is a stronger one.”  

Klamann said of the outreach campaign, “we’re just letting them know this is your paper. This isn’t our paper this is your paper and it’s owned by an out-of-state company that’s taking money out your community by laying off reporters … you lose money and simultaneously you lose the institutional knowledge [of the departing journalists].”

The negotiations come on the heels of layoffs and tensions between reporters and management, not just in Casper but at other Lee-owned newspapers. After printing newspapers in Casper since 1891, the Star-Tribune shuttered its press room in late July, laying off two-dozen employees who worked there, according to a press release from the union. The News Guild received the news “bitterly,” the release said.

Those layoffs followed the controversial letting go of Schmelzer in April. At the time, the Casper News Guild called the removal of Schmelzer an intimidation tactic from the corporation, coming as it did on the heels of reporters’ decision to unionize in February.

Later that month, longtime editor and outdoors reporter Christine Peterson left the newsroom to pursue a freelance career. Though Peterson continues to write stories for the newspaper about Wyoming’s outdoor industry and the environment, the outdoor reporter position was lost to attrition, according to staff.

Reporters were laid off at two Lee-owned newspapers in Oregon last month, according to Twitter posts from reporters at those papers. Also in August, the Omaha World-Herald, the Nebraska newspaper owned by financier Warren Buffett laid off 10 employees and eliminated 13 other jobs, just two months after Lee Enterprises took over management of newspapers owned by Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway.

The deal with Berkshire Hathaway was a boon for Lee Enterprise stock holders — shares of the company soared upwards when the deal was announced.

In Missoula, Montana, negotiations at an alternative weekly paper recently acquired by Lee turned drastic last month.

The small reportorial staff at the Missoula Independent chose to form the Missoula News Guild in April, a year after Lee Enterprises purchased the newspaper. Lee Enterprises owns the Missoulian, the city’s daily newspaper, and staff at the previously-independent weekly paper worry the corporation would seek to consolidate the two newspapers. Last month, after two rounds of negotiations, Lee made the Missoula News Guild an offer, according to the union — agree to cuts of almost all the newspaper’s staff or see the newspaper closed entirely.  

[WyoFile reporter Andrew Graham interned at the Independent before Lee Enterprise’s ownership.]

Union members in Casper are confident they’re negotiating from much stronger footing than the Missoula News Guild. The Star-Tribune is Wyoming’s newspaper of record, and Lee’s only property in the state. As such, “I’m pretty optimistic,” Richards said.

Furthermore the paper is operating at a profit, according to publisher Dale Bohren.

Bohren declined to comment on union negotiations in detail. “We are negotiating in good faith,” he said. “I really don’t have any comment about the union, other than that I have tremendous respect for the work that the newsroom does.”  

In mid-July, negotiators from the union and the company agreed on vacation policies, processes for filing employee grievances and other matters, according to a Casper News Guild press release. Wages and what portion of health insurance premiums employees pay remain the major points of contention. Today, employees pay 40 to 60 percent of their health care premiums, Klamann said.

The News Guild seeks a better healthcare split for workers, and also a schedule of salary raises that will allow reporters to better plan their futures and keep up with the cost of living. Today, reporters treat the paper as a career starting point, Klamann said, a place where a young reporter can gather clippings before moving on.

“Why we unionized is we want to make the Star-Tribune somewhere you can make a home,” Klamann said.

For a newspaper to function at its best, Richards said, it needs reporters who have knowledge of institutions they cover.

“You want somebody who remembers what happened three years ago and how that matters today,” she said. “You want somebody that holds that in their chest and in their head. It’s very useful to have somebody whose job it is to pay attention.”

Wyoming in particular demands time from those who seek to report on it successfully, said Richards, who covers the state’s complex energy industry.

“Wyoming doesn’t offer easy answers to somebody who just shows up one day,” she said.

But for reporters who do want to master their beats and put their time in, Richards said, Lee Enterprises hasn’t offered the appropriate resources. “We want to do this job, we want to live in this town and we want to serve Wyoming but the economics are impossible,” she said. “The economics are pushing us out.”

Newspaper is ‘profitable’

Bohren, the publisher, said he shares his newsroom’s belief in the mission of journalism. “Somebody has got to stand up and ask the questions,” he said.

The Casper Star Tribune remains a profitable business, he said, despite a turbulent industry. “In the context of things we’ve done an excellent job of keeping our newsroom whole,” he said.

The decision to close the pressroom was one he made locally, he said, and did not come at the behest of corporate leadership. Operating a printing press in Casper was “unsustainable,” he said. The newspaper is now printed in Cheyenne. Press room staffers who wanted other employment were able to find it with assistance from the company, Bohren said.

Asked whether he worried about the print newspaper reaching more far-flung parts of the state this coming winter, Bohren said “I worry about everything.”

“We’re 127 years old,” he said. “I don’t know of a business that’s 127 years old that hasn’t evolved in some way. But the news business has really evolved and it’s been excruciating at times.”

The newspaper is developing its online presence through an electronic version of the print paper, emailed newsletters, podcasts and other digital products, Bohren said. The drive to keep the paper current with readers’ evolution is proving successful, he said, as web usage by readers is far outstripping print subscriptions.

The decline in news gatherers in Wyoming isn’t confined to the newspaper industry, extending across radio and television as well, Bohren said. The Casper Star-Tribune still has the largest newsroom in the state, he pointed out.

Lee Enterprises did not respond to a request for an interview sent via contact forms on its website.

The managers in Casper have more autonomy than critics of Lee Enterprises layoffs might suggest, Bohren said. “They don’t come in and tell me you do this you do that, you do this by noon,” Bohren said of Lee, “all those things you might think a big corporation might do.”

But Richards argued that turning a profit in Casper may not be enough to keep the newspaper an effective Wyoming institution, given its out-of-state management. “When the publisher says that the Casper Star is profitable then we shouldn’t have to worry,” she said. “But obviously we do.”

As one piece of a much larger enterprise profit from Casper could be invested in a Lee-owned newspaper in another state. It could go toward servicing the corporation’s large debt load or toward payouts for executives and stock owners.

Journalists should be rewarded for their good work by seeing profits go back into improving the newspaper, union leaders argue, not punished with cuts.

“There’s a reason we are profitable and they shouldn’t mess with that,” Richards said.  

Brain drain

Schmelzer came to Casper from the Washington Post. She had just completed a post-college internship there and was in the running for a job at one of the nation’s premiere media outlets but didn’t like the D.C. culture, she said in an interview Friday.

“I had always wanted to live out west and felt that was where I fit in and belonged,” she said. “I was right.”

The Star-Tribune had a reputation as a newspaper where young reporters could do good work, she said. Schmelzer was also attracted to the smaller community of Casper where, she said, “you could have a real impact and get to know your sources and readers on a personal level.”

While still in the interview process at the Washington Post, she took a job at the Star-Tribune covering the police and courts beat, beginning in September 2016. The following spring, she was offered a job as a features editor and took it. The promotion would let Schmelzer write the longer and more personal stories she is passionate about. 

Elise Schmelzer

In the volatile news industry, however, even a simple promotion — from reporter to editor and a leadership role — carried risk.

“Cops [and courts] reporters don’t usually get laid off,” Schmelzer said: “You need a cops reporter.” But seeing a chance to further her career and tell deeper stories, Schmelzer took the promotion.

For the remainder of that year and into 2018, Schmelzer wrote the kind of stories that take time to produce. She brought readers a story about a woman reunited with her birth family after 36 years and another about a group of caretakers keeping the state’s ghost towns alive. She exposed troubling emails from a Casper fire department chief and highlighted crowding in Wyoming’s prison system.

Her reporting earned her a Young Journalist of the Year award from the Wyoming Press Association in January. On April 1, Schmelzer published a story that combined the intense personal narrative of a domestic abuse victim with research on such violence in rural places like Wyoming. Working on it when able, the story took her four months, Schmelzer said. Much of that period was spent finding a domestic abuse victim willing to trust a reporter and share her story.

Three days after that story was published, Schmelzer received an after-hours call from a Lee Enterprise regional human resources director from Billings, Montana. He informed Schmelzer she no longer had a job, she said.

Schmelzer explored jobs at other Wyoming newspapers but could not find a salary that would allow her to meet her financial obligations, she said. She worked as a freelancer [including for WyoFile] but did not see enough work to make ends meet, she said.

In August, Schmelzer began a new job at the Denver Post. With a daily circulation of around 170,000, the Post is a major metropolitan newspaper, albeit one that has undergone its own recent turmoil.

“I never intended to come here,” she said, speaking by phone from Denver. “There’s a number of young people in Wyoming who want to move to Denver and that’s one of their goals. That was not one of mine.”

But, Schmelzer said, the Post gave her the chance to do the community journalism she believes in.

Her departure caused considerable hard feeling in the Casper Star-Tribune newsroom, as WyoFile has previously reported. As an editor, Schmelzer was barred from union membership, but the reporting staff considered her one of their own. The union called her removal a retaliatory action against them, and a warning shot to staff at other Lee newspapers. The Missoula Independent staff was set to vote on unionizing the next day.

“Unfortunately, it appears to the News Guild that Lee Enterprise’s dismissal of Elise … was in fact punitive retaliation for exercising our federally protected right to form a union,” the Casper News Guild said in a press statement at the time.

Months later, her layoff still rankles reporters, Richards said, who feel the loss of a beloved editor and a talented writer. “I’ve never had something hit me so emotionally hard,” said Richards, who writes regularly about layoffs in the energy industry. “It killed me.”

The summary cut of a talented writer also seemed symptomatic of misplaced corporate instincts, Richards said.

“Elise was top of the line and now she’s not a Wyoming reporter,” Richards said. “She’s a Colorado reporter.”

Beyond a newsroom staff that is stretched ever thinner by losses, Schmelzer sees another risk in her layoff. The Star-Tribune’s reputation as a good place for young, ambitious reporters could be lost.

“What happens now is people see what’s happening not just in Casper but in Lee papers across the country … and they think oh [Lee executives] don’t care,” she said. Reporters will ask, “‘If the quality of my work won’t protect me then what will?’ And then they don’t go to a Lee paper.”

Wyoming layoffs and Iowa bonuses

At Lee Enterprises corporate headquarters in Davenport, Iowa, 2017 was a year of growing digital revenue, managing revenue from print papers in “a difficult environment,” controlling costs and reducing debt, according to filings with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

Digital revenue — including advertising and other “digital services” — increased 5.6 percent over 2017. Subscription revenue declined 1.1 percent. The company paid down $69 million in debt, leaving it with $548 million in outstanding debt obligations.

For this performance, the top three executives each collected six-figure bonuses through incentive plans that make up part of their employment agreements.

For President and CEO Kevin Mowbray, the company’s 2017 performance meant a $737,500 bonus, the equivalent of his year’s salary. Adding stock awards and other compensation to his salary and bonus, Mowbray earned more than $2.2 million in 2017.

Mary Junck, the Executive Chairman, received $575,000 via the executive incentive plan and an additional $150,000 “discretionary” bonus awarded by Lee’s board of directors for a total of $725,000 in bonuses. With a $575,000 salary, a $670,000 stock award and $29,104 in “other compensation,” Junck’s total earnings for 2017 came to $1,999,104.

Donald Mayo, the since-departed Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Lee, earned a total of $998,832.

The seven non-employees who make up the company’s board of directors earned varying amounts of around $100,000 each in 2017, both in fees for board service and stock options, according to the filings.

Lee executive bonuses are awarded based on corporate financial performance, according to the company’s filings with the SEC. “Workforce adjustments” — including layoffs — affects that metric, potentially incentivizing executives to down-size.

In stark terms, “if you want to draw a straight line, that’s Elise Schmelzer’s salary going into someone’s bank account,” Klamann said.

In a photo posted to the Casper News Guild Twitter account, members of the union hold signs to show solidarity with staff laid off from the Denver Post, which is owned by a hedge fund called Alden Global Capital. (Twitter/@caspernewsguild)

The journalists in Casper worry that if the volatile newspaper industry continues to shrink, corporate leaders will react more often by cuts, not reinvesting or innovating.

“The fear for those of us who are owned by Lee is they’re becoming more reflexive,” Klamann said of corporate leadership, instead of proactive. “They have a bad month or a bad couple of months and they lay off [staff].”

A widening Wyoming news gap

Dan Neal, a former editor who worked at the Star Tribune from the early 1980s until he left as editor in 2004, recalls a time when reporters from the newspaper were housed throughout the state. There was a reporter in Laramie dedicated to covering the University of Wyoming, two reporters at a capitol bureau in Cheyenne, two in Sweetwater County and a Washington D.C. reporter covering Wyoming’s congressional delegation. At one point they also had a reporter living in Gillette, he said.

[Neal served as WyoFile’s legislative editor during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions]

Still, he noted, even in those bygone decades the Star-Tribune wasn’t immune to cuts. Like most Wyoming companies, “the number of employees fluctuated with the price of fossil fuels,” he said. During an energy bust in the mid-1980s, Neal recalled the newsroom being down to two reporters in Casper. The newspaper still maintained a two-person bureau in Cheyenne and a reporter in southwest Wyoming at that time, he said.

Lee Enterprises bought the newspaper in 2002.

Today’s news industry woes are more fundamental, Neal said. The troubles in Wyoming newspapering don’t just affect the statewide newspaper. There are structural problems driven not just by corporate mismanagement or declining print subscriptions, but also by the struggles of small Wyoming businesses. Their advertising traditionally propped up local newspapers, but their revenues have been affected by Amazon and other corporate competitors, Neal said.

The lack of reporting at both the state and the local level will affect Wyoming’s democracy, Neal warned.

At the start of this summer, the Wyoming political reporting scene saw a staff shakeup. The Casper Star-Tribune’s political reporter Arno Rosenfeld left the state. Meanwhile the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s Joel Funk left the state government reporter job at that newspaper to take over as editor of the Laramie Boomerang. Both statewide papers were left without political reporters just as the state’s voters were deluged by advertising in one of the more contentious primary election seasons in recent memory. Though not driven by layoffs, the summer offered a taste of what a state with too few dedicated political journalists could look like.

“You saw all this advertising on the campaigns,” Neal said, “and there [were] very few times that those assertions were challenged and candidates were pushed on where they really stood on issues.”

Local Fremont County newspapers on the rack in a Lander gas station. Newspapers across the state are suffering from downturns in local advertising in the face of competition between local businesses and large internet-based corporations like Amazon, according to longtime Wyoming newspaperman Dan Neal. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

To Schmelzer, a community newspaper does more than hold politicians accountable. At a time when community institutions seem to be steadily eroding, the newspaper can bring people together by telling stories, she said. As the number of reporters shrinks, more of the stories that highlight common ground go untold.

“We lose those stories about … how a community represents itself,” Schmelzer said. “I think that only contributes to the divisiveness that we see [today].”

Among the stories Schmelzer is proud to have written for the Star-Tribune is a November 2017 article about a 63-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who died alone at a Casper hospital. The coroner couldn’t find any family for him, she said, and didn’t want him to be buried alone.

The story she wrote was widely read and shared, Schmelzer recalled. “Because people care, right? People don’t want somebody to be buried by themselves.”

A week later, she arrived to cover the veteran’s funeral. There were hundreds of people at the Casper chapel, too many to fit inside the building. People travelled from across Wyoming and from neighboring states after reading the coroner’s plea, she reported in a second story.

“It was windy and snowy,” she recalled of the November day, “it was literally the most Casper day ever.”

“They [funeral attendees] stood in the snow for this guy they didn’t know,” she said. “Because we wrote a story.”

UPDATE: Sept. 11, 10:47 A.M. Lee Enterprises shuttered the Missoula Independent in Missoula, Montana on Tuesday morning, after this story’s publication. The closure halted the paper’s 27 year run and ended the company’s negotiations with unionized staff there. Staff at the Independent unionized following Lee’s takeover of the alternative weekly in April 2017. They were the second newsroom to unionize under Lee Enterprise management, following staff at the Casper Star-Tribune. 

Andrew Graham

Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

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  1. It has been obvious that Lee Enterprises is not going to publish anything that will disturb an advertiser at their morning coffee. That state needs a news paper that covers the state and the issues within and the many without. As a viable, informing press, Lee Enterprises has come up to the standards the Howards had, the standards all of us relied upon at that time..

  2. My heart goes out to the young journalists at the Casper Star-Tribune, a paper I was employed by for more than 19 years until 2013. I am outraged that a former CEO of owner Lee Enterprises can still be paid nearly $2 million in annual salary and bonuses after plunging the corporation into Chapter 11 bankruptcy several years ago.

    This company supposedly can’t afford health insurance for its employees, who must pay between 40 and 60 percent of their premiums? But I am not surprised. During my tenure at the paper our staff endured a seven-year wage freeze while profits were shipped out-of-state. When it was lifted workers were given either a paltry raise or one extra day off.

    Is it any wonder the newsroom chose to join the Communication Workers of America? I am proud of the journalists who stood up and said enough is enough. When talented reporters and editors like Elise Schmelzer lose their jobs in retaliation for the union organizing effort it clearly proves that the company cares nothing about quality and everything about profits. The CS-T’s unnecessary loss is the Denver Post’s gain.

    While it’s astonishing that the company is so uncaring that it fired Elise with a phone call, I would prefer that to my own experience: a late-day call to my editor’s office, being summarily fired and hurriedly escorted out of the building by the human resources manager so I couldn’t collect my possessions. They were dumped on my porch two days later.

    I watched a procession of exceptional reporters, editors, sports writers, photographers and others either be forced out or fired at the CS-T during my later days at the company. As Andrew Graham’s reporting highlights in his excellent article detailing what’s currently happening, there is no way a newspaper can maintain an invaluable institutional knowledge of Casper and Wyoming if staff members are driven away.

    I am fortunate that I was able to continue my career working for two online nonprofits, writing a weekly column for WyoFile and as a communications specialist for Better Wyoming. I steadfastly hope that the unionized CS-T workers can make the company realize how it is doing a disservice not only to them through low pay and inadequate benefits but to readers who want continuity in their news coverage. No one benefits when a publication has a revolving door for employees and doesn’t care who their replacements are, as long as they will work for less.

    My experience certainly jaded me. While I will always cherish the years I spent with my colleagues and I’m proud of the work we did, I learned that the world of corporate journalism doesn’t honor – and certainly doesn’t reward – loyalty. I hope Andrew’s article will persuade readers and news sources to let the corporation’s management know of their displeasure.

    Kerry Drake
    Casper, WY

  3. As someone who has studied with perverse fascination the history of newspapers from one sheet 2-column wonders past the inception of that great bipolar Jekyll Hyde creature called advertising , on past the yellow journalism of the Hearst Era into the 20th century’s explosion of mass market commercial journalism , I’ve come to one overriding opinion about newspapers : they should have never been done For Profit . Ever. newspapers needed to remain instruments of nonprofit public service information dissemination without the undue influence of appeasing advertisers and stockholders. Too bad that journalistic motif and modus operandi likely only exists in some alternate Star Trek universe on a planet named Utopia.

    For Profit Journalism will write it’s own obituary some day soon . Too soon. Lee Enterprises already has in too many instances, but they are far from being alone. If in wanting to explain the wretched mess that is newspaperdon in the early 21st century we need a scapegoat , start with Rupert Murdoch. Even W.R. Hearst would curse that insipid incubus who changed Journalism into something else altogether. Even here in Wyoming.

  4. Great story.

    Wyoming is my home state, and Casper is my birthplace. I have the credentials to say what I do today. These smart young reporters all know what Wyoming will not acknowledge and therefore cannot change: one-party rule results in lopsided policies.

    The die was cast when the Tribune sold out. And you will remember Liz Cheney’s remark when it was reported she lied on her fishing license application, blamed it on a clerk, and her reply was reported nationwide: “Newspapers are dying and that’s a good thing.” Nonetheless, you will re-elect her

    Republican Party’s values are corporate and economic. Your delegation gives not one whit what you think or need. Otherwise, you would have health care, secure public lands, viable environmental laws fighting climate change, living wages, and a delegation working for Wyoming.

    Instead, you give your electeds lifetime employment with benefits that include Cadillac healthcare, insider investment knowledge, worldwide travel, including a large Republican Congressional delegation that spent this last July Fourth in Moscow, and generous time off for fundraising and campaigning (for us, of course).

    So if Wyoming can’t get help from it’s Congressional delegation, it can subsidize air travel in Lander and Riverton, facilitate oil and gas drilling, and the governor can create a statewide economic investment council to change the boom/bust economy. Why then can’t the people of Wyoming save the First Amendment and a century-old native firm that peddles truth and news from the people that live there?

    I applaud wholeheartedly these employees’ efforts to save their paper and secure their jobs. These are exactly the kind of people Wyoming needs.

    Don’t make Liz Cheney right. I remember her parents. I am ashamed she represents Wyoming. I am ashamed of all of them that play this wretched political chess with Wyoming lives.

    1. thanx to you, Mary.

      I still live in WY but wasn’t raised in Casper but on a ranch 40 miles SW of Newcastle (where there isn’t even an old castle). I guess WAS a long-time Democrat but have mellowed to Libertarian, I suppose; I’m considering registering as a Republicrat (oops, I mean republican) just to vote against the bastards. ! Is it too late, you think, before the general? I’ll just toodle-down- town and find out, yes?

  5. This is the world we have created with our choices of representation at local, state, and national levels. The corporations have more rights, money, and control than the people. We allow them to destroy all that is good and honest. A source for news is so important. At this time the national conversation is attacking it day and night at the behest of those that are working to destroy our democracy and put us all under their control.

    1. Thanx for your comments, no doubt a fine example of your strength of character. As we both reside in Casper, it may be fun to go for coffee & chats sometime. I no longer work so name a date, not too early in the day.

      Roxie

    2. “The corporations have more rights, money, and control than the people. We allow them to destroy all that is good and honest.”

      You offer tremendous insight………………….

      The largest institutional shareholders of Lee Enterprises (LEE) include:
      Franklin Mutual
      Vanguard
      Morgan Stanley
      Geode Capital
      BlackRock
      Fidelity
      And other of the largest money-management firms, whom operate collaboratively, forming virtual monopolies amongst the largest “competing” corporations, via larges share holdings, in most every single industry.
      (source = http://investors.morningstar.com/ownership/shareholders-major.html?t=LEE)

      Its largest institutional shareholder, Franklin Mutual (a subsidary of Franklin Templeton), is owned by:
      Vanguard
      State Street
      BlackRock
      T Rowe Price
      MFS
      Geode Capital
      Northern Trust
      And other of the largest money-management firms, whom operate collaboratively, forming virtual monopolies amongst the largest “competing” corporations, via larges share holdings, in most every single industry.
      (source = http://investors.morningstar.com/ownership/shareholders-major.html?t=BEN)

      These are the many of same largest institutional shareholders of Alphabet (Google), Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Twitter, Netflix, AT&T, Verizon, Amazon, the largest “competing” defense contractors, the largest hospitals, the largest “competing” insurance companies, the largest “competing” pharmaceutical companies, the six largest “competing” U.S. airlines, the six largest “competing” banks, the largest “competing” energy and utility companies, the largest “competing” corporate media (including CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and others), etc., etc., etc….

      Vanguard, BlackRock and State Street alone have over $15 TRILLION ownership in stocks (of a total $90 trillion U.S. market capitalization).

      These money-management firms own corporate America, and the American government.
      They are effectively running the largest U.S. corporations as monopolies, via their large shareholdings.

      They are the architects of the economic “recovery”.

      As per an article in The Conversation:
      “The fast-growing index sector, on the other hand, is highly concentrated. It is dominated by just three giant American asset managers: BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street – what we call the Big Three.”

      “In a recently published paper, our CORPNET research project comprehensively mapped the
      ownership of the Big Three. We found that the Big Three, taken together, have become the largest shareholder in 40% of all publicly listed firms in the United States.”

      “In the S&P 500 – the benchmark index of America’s largest corporations – the situation is even
      more extreme. Together, the Big Three are the largest single shareholder in almost 90% of S&P 500 firms, including Apple, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, General Electric and Coca-Cola. This is the index in which most people invest.”

      “These companies have, in fact, publicly declared that they seek to exert influence. William McNabb, chairman and CEO of Vanguard, said in 2015 that, “In the past, some have mistakenly assumed that our predominantly passive management style suggests a passive attitude with respect to corporate governance. Nothing could be further from the truth.””
      (source = http://theconversation.com/these-three-firms-own-corporate-america-77072)

      They are the architects of the new American Planned Market Economy – that is, capitalism for only the neo-feudal Lords.

      Their held corporate assets are among the largest recipients of government subsidies.
      Their held corporate assets are also among the largest spenders for lobbying, of both the “left” and “right”.
      Their held corporate assets are also among the largest political campaign “donors”, of both the “left” and “right”.
      NOTICE A TREND HERE?

      They buy the politicians, then get a nice ROI in return in special intersest legislation, Executive Orders, favorable bureaucratic rulings, and taxpayer funded government awarded subsidies.

      Wealth in America is at one of its most highly-concentrated levels in history.
      America is seeing times of historic wealth inequalities, equal to, even greater than that of the late 20’s to early 30’s.
      We are seeing the top docile holding near 50 percent of all U.S. national income.
      (source = http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/capital21c/en/pdf/F0.I.1.pdf)

      The late 1920’s saw wealth inequality near this level.

      The 1920’s also witnessed rising levels of nationalism, facism, and authoritarianism.

      Despite this concentration of wealth, and the fact a number of business owners (JD Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnagie, JP Morgan, and others) were making large fortunes, they continued to call on Congress and Pres. Coolidge to cut taxes on their corporations, on the upper income earners, and elimination of the inheritance tax.

      Most of these happened with the Tax Act of 1928.

      Fresh out of a small depression in 1920-1921, consumers were sold on the “Roaring 20’s” mentality, and convinced by the mostly consolidated media, owned by these wealthy behemoths, to borrow more, and buy more.

      The Great Depression followed quickly thereafter in 1929.

      It’s fascinating the number of similarities between the 1920’s and the 2010’s.

  6. Thank you! Well said. Communities need journalists to be healthy.

    While CIVIL (CVL) may provide an alternative funding model for responsible journalism (using Blockchain & cryptocurrency for reputation & buy-in), The false promise of “free” has implications across the board. The US Post Office delivers mail for a very reasonable fee, but people have shown a preference to exchange their privacy for communicating via email.

    Meanwhile, some avaricious entities are pushing for “privatization” as the solution for maintenance expenses for everything from highways, to hospitals, to public lands. V. Putin is a beneficiary of such privatization, but the Russian people are suffering.

  7. Great story, the kind of in-depth reporting we used to count on from the S-T. I’d suggest you do a follow-up on the impact of printing out-of-town—24 local jobs lost, carrier frustration/turnover and poor delivery.

  8. For someone who still loves newspapers and values the work of reporters and journalists this story is vey worrisome and a downward trend we see in so many communities.. There is a solution but it will take the efforts of many people and it might require these people to unionize. The Casper Tribune was the state newspaper and without it maintaining high standards and reporting accurately we are going to be in the dark. A place some people want us to be.