Hedge fund Alden Global Capital on Monday offered to buy newspaper chain Lee Enterprises for about $141 million, too much for local-news advocates, the Associated Press reported.

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Lee Enterprises has small, local papers in more than two dozen states, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Omaha World-Herald.

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Alden is one of the biggest newspaper owners in the country, having bought Tribune Publishing earlier this year. The AP reported that Alden has a reputation for cutting costs, laying off and selling newspaper real estate.

In Monday’s news release, Alden, which already owns 6 percent of Lee’s stock, offered to buy the remainder at $24 a share. The company said its offering is “a confirmation of our substantial commitment to the newspaper industry and our desire to support local newspapers over the long term.”

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However, local newspaper advocates think differently. Steve Waldman, president of Report for America, an organization that places journalists in local newsrooms, including the AP, asked the Justice Department to look into the impact of the deal on local communities. He told the AP that the buyout offer is a “wake up call.”

“What we’ve seen in the past, especially with Alden, is that it has cut reporting staff, and in many cases worse and worse coverage of communities,” Waldman said. “We can’t accept these mergers as if we can’t do anything about them.”

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Lee’s stock jumped 22 percent to $22.59 on Monday. An Iowa company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company had over 5,000 full-time employees as of September 2020.

Alden scuttled Tribune’s newspapers earlier this year in a deal that was strongly opposed by the Tribune company’s own journalists and community leaders in Tribune’s markets, who eventually went without success, including the Baltimore Sun and the Chicago Tribune. Seeked to find local buyers for papers. Alden also owns the Denver Post, the Orange County Register and the Boston Herald.

Alden has a reputation for cost reduction that goes well beyond the newspaper industry’s overall turn in that direction. The newspaper business is going strong as it struggles with a digital transition and shrinking revenues, and financial firms like Alden have taken an increasingly prominent role as owners.

Newsroom jobs nearly halved from 2004 to 2018, according to Pew Research, and the pandemic has exacerbated those stresses. Nearly one-quarter of the nation’s newspapers have closed in the past 15 years, according to research from the University of North Carolina.

The Lee company expanded significantly in 2020 when it bought billionaire Warren Buffett’s newspaper chain from Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. At the time, Buffett said, “we had no interest in selling the group to anyone else for one simple reason: We believe Lee is in the best position to manage the industry’s challenges.”

Buffett did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

In a series of tweets on Monday, the Omaha World-Herald’s Association of Journalists denounced the acquisition by Alden, calling the hedge fund “terrible” and “mercenaries” who harass newsroom staff and papers. Raise membership prices in an attempt to extort money from ,

“We would expect that Lee Enterprises, being a longtime newspaper company and controlling print newspapers in Omaha and Lincoln, essentially the majority of the population of the state of Nebraska … you would expect them to resist the temptation of investors.” “They have a lot of money in their face and hold the idea that solid local newspapers are important to communities,” said Professor Jeremy Lipschultz of the University of Nebraska-Omaha.