It’s not the first time Rupert Murdoch has come knocking at the doors of The Brooklyn Paper, the Brooklyn newspaper chain that covers Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Greenpoint.
But it is the first time the independent news outfit’s founder and owner of 31 years, Ed Weintrob, felt inclined to listen.
As we reported first on Observer.com March 10, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp. has completed a deal to buy Mr. Weintrob’s baby for an undisclosed amount; an official announcement is scheduled for later this week.
Mr. Weintrob told The Observer he thought Mr. Murdoch was the right man for the job.
“I’ve told my staff in the past that people say all kinds of things about Rupert and his journalism, but you’re dealing with the last man standing who believes in newspapers,” he said in a telephone interview from his Brooklyn Heights apartment. “We know everything has evolved, and the Web site is a major component of what we do, but again, here’s a man who believes in newspapers. And I’ve always loved that, and the energy he’s poured into the business.”
“We’re in an age when newspapers do close, and this will ensure our health for a long time,” said Gersh Kuntzman, the paper’s editor and a former columnist at Mr. Murdoch’s New York Post.
Mr. Weintrob said that the sensibility of his paper would remain precisely the same.
“They don’t want the product to change,” Mr. Kuntzman affirmed. “And they love the product.”
Of course, if there are no other similarities between Mr. Murdoch’s purchase of the worldwide business-reporting giant Dow Jones and consequently its Wall Street Journal—price, market impact, impact on journalism around the world—Mr. Murdoch’s attestations of love for his latest acquisition “just the way it is” will ring a bell.
The rule is that when a publisher acquires a new toy, he likes to play.
On the other hand, it’s not clear what personal interest Mr. Murdoch might have had in this purchase, or what it is meant to achieve.
Mr. Murdoch isn’t new to Brooklyn. In Sept. 2003, he erected a “Brooklyn bureau” of indeterminate size for the New York Post, of which he made Mr. Kuntzman the first chief, in a job that precedes his current posting at The Brooklyn Paper.
Then, three years later, Mr. Murdoch bought Courier-Life, a company that publishes 12 weekly neighborhood papers in Brooklyn.
Is there a consolidation coming?
Brooklyn Paper staffers, said Mr. Weintrob, will be packing up their belongings and moving out of their charmingly messy offices in Dumbo and into offices in the MetroTech Building that will house Courier-Life as of March 16.
We asked Mr. Weintrob if News Corp.’s ownership represented a threat to the paper’s longtime tradition of independence.
“Um, not really,” he said. “Just looking at the way the [News Corp.] community newspaper group is operating, they want their papers to reflect the communities they cover. They understand that if the newspapers don’t reflect the sensibility of those communities, it won’t be a good business for them. The paper is a different type of paper, and Gersh is a different type of editor, and my sense is that they understand that.”
So will there be blood? Or just efficiencies?
Mr. Weintrob said that no staff would be laid off, and that his wife, Celia Weintrob, would continue to serve as publisher.
But whether The Brooklyn Paper would have to pool resources with Courier-Life was less clear.
“I don’t know exactly yet,” said Mr. Kuntzman.
He did add this: “We’re going to be the same great paper that you have always loved, and if you haven’t read The Brooklyn Paper, you should because we’re going to be giving you even more with their promise to build our advertising revenue,” he said.