MediaNews Group, also known as Digital First Media, was the only qualified bidder for the Reading Eagle newspaper and its sister radio station WEEU, the Eagle reported on its website on Thursday.
Because there was only one qualified bid, Friday’s bankruptcy auction has been canceled.
“The qualified bid has neither been accepted nor rejected, and we continue to work with MediaNews Group/Digital First Media to resolve certain outstanding issues,” the statement said.
Digital First Media owns several newspapers in the Philadelphia suburbs, among them the Pottstown Mercury and Norristown Times Herald, and has a history of deeply cutting the newsroom staffs in the newspapers it acquires.
The Reading Eagle Co. also owns local radio station WEEU, a Schuylkill County weekly, and a website with 3.2 million page views a month. The company lost $4 million on $28 million in revenue in 2018. It’s partly owned by two of the richest families in America, the Barbeys and DuPonts. Famed Rabbit, Run novelist John Updike got his first writing job at the paper.
Reporters, printers, advertising reps, and others fear for their jobs. The company last week laid off six employees, and said on Monday that “it is impossible to speculate whether there will be more cutbacks in the future.”
According to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notice filed with the state, 209 Eagle employees could be laid off — the company’s entire staff. Reading Eagle reported on Wednesday that the notice will be updated to include 12 part-timers, bringing the total to 221 employees.