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Will David D. Smith’s Purchase of The Baltimore Sun Cause The Sun to Set?

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The purchase of The Baltimore Sun by conservative political advocate David D. Smith has Jerry Jackson and coworkers wondering what direction the paper is heading.

David D. Smith, the executive chairman of Sinclair Broadcasting Group, bought The Baltimore Sun on January 12th, 2024. As the largest daily newspaper in Maryland, The Sun is relied on by many for both news and employment. Jerry Jackson, a Stoneleigh resident, has been working for The Baltimore Sun for 28 years as senior photo editor. His wife, Karen Jackson, has been working in association with The Sun as a freelance photographer for roughly the same amount of time.

The transfer of ownership from Alden Global Capital to David Smith was shocking to all of the Sun staff; “It was out of the blue,” says Karen Jackson. Since the unexpected purchase of the Sun, fears have arisen among Baltimore Sun staff.

“I think one of the biggest concerns is the Sinclair stations,” says Jerry Jackson, referring to the various news stations that have been bought by Sinclair Broadcasting Group. “There are times when each one, each anchor has to read the same script.” This isn’t the only fear, Jackson tells Carver Center’s Catalyst. There is also the fear that The Baltimore Sun “will make changes that will drive people away,” says Jerry Jackson. 

One change that has already been made is the addition of Armstrong Williams, a conservative political commentator. With Baltimore being a traditionally blue city, it is possible that the inclusion of Armstrong Williams and his column will cause the Baltimore Sun to lose readers, a concern that Jerry Jackson and Karen Jackson believe isn’t far fetched after having seen various conservative newspapers fall out of business. Another change – not necessarily negative or positive – is the look of the paper itself. Rather than one photo being featured along with text, there are pages dedicated entirely to a collection of around four photos. 

With it being so early in Smith’s ownership of The Sun, most concerns regarding changes are purely speculatory. One of these speculations is that The Sun will have to hire more photographers and reporters in order to handle the push for local journalism. Since Karen Jackson started working as a freelance photographer, many newspapers have had to shut down. “I used to do a lot – I mean, I was working three to four times a week, and now I’m lucky if I get one assignment a week.” In the past, The Baltimore Sun had to rely heavily on freelance photographers because they stopped hiring photographers; now, with David Smith pushing more heavily for local content, “we’re gonna have to hire more reporters and photographers,” says Jerry Jackson. This could bring more employment to photographers and journalists, who rely on what some might call a dying business, but reduce employment opportunities for freelancers like Karen Jackson.

Unaware of where the Baltimore Sun is headed, Jerry Jackson says to readers and journalists alike, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

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