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December 27, 2006
Sane, Relatively Speaking

With the Minneapolis Star-Tribune changing hands from the McClatchy Company to the private investment group Avista Capital Partners, one has to wonder what effect the Strib's readers will see as a result. As I noted yesterday, the group's website gives little indication of their political bent; they describe their media acquisition strategies thusly:

Avista targets companies that have strong, often proprietary, positions in attractive niche sectors of the content-creation, content-packaging and content-distribution segments of the media industry. These businesses are characterized by stable cash flows, attractive margins and low capital-expenditure and working-capital requirements.

Avista prefers media businesses with lower technology risk and those that offer the opportunity to capitalize on Avista's operating expertise to build more robust revenue growth. In addition, Avista has particular interest in well-branded companies that can exploit additional and emerging distribution channels and/or improve the geographic reach of their content. Avista believes attractive investment opportunities will be found in niche markets and mid-sized companies that are not the focus of most mainstream media investors.

The current publisher of the Strib, J. Keith Moyer, described it differently to Strib employees, as Fraters Libertas noted. Moyers wrote that "They are progressive, very smart, good-hearted people who believe that no other media platform can reach a local audience as effectively as newspapers." It's hard to know whether he meant progressive in political terms or as a description of their management style. Brian "St. Paul" Ward drew an inference of the former from looking at a couple of the political contributions of Moyer's new Avista boss, Christopher Harte.

I decided to take a closer look at Harte's political activity, given the far-left positions taken now by the Strib's editorial board. His donation activity doesn't seem very strident or extreme, especially in comparison to the Strib. While definitely a Democratic partisan, his money appears to go towards more centrist candidates. In the 2006 cycle, this seems especially true.

The only two contributions listed at Open Secrets went to two Democrats associated with moderation -- $2K to Joe Lieberman and $1K to Hank Johnson, both contributions coming in the primaries. Lieberman faced off against the netroots candidate, Ned Lamont, while Johnson challenged Georgia loon Cynthia McKinney. I find it interesting that of all the races this last cycle, Harte only chose to contribute to these in the primaries (reporting is still out, I believe, on the general election contribution cycle), and that he chose the more moderate candidates.

Perhaps this will make little difference, as Harte has apparently committed to Moyer to keep current management in place, including Moyer himself. However, the massive drop in the Strib's value means that Harte and Avista will have to address the root causes of the erosion sometime, and the strident nature of the Strib might garner the attention of a man who puts his money towards moderation. And, quite frankly, anything at this point would be an iimprovement.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 27, 2006 5:42 PM

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