David D. Smith, executive chairman of one of the country’s largest television station operators and a leading voice in conservative media circles, has purchased The Baltimore Sun, it was announced this evening.
The Hunt Valley businessman, who heads the Sinclair Broadcast Group, personally purchased the state’s biggest circulation print and online newspaper for an undisclosed sum from the Media News Group, a part of hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
The deal, announced in an article in The Sun, took staff by surprise.
“Don’t really have words, we got an email about a minute before this story published,” tweeted reporter Sanya Kamidi.
In buying Baltimore Sun Media Group, Smith will also acquire the Towson Times, Carroll County Times, Capital Gazette papers in Annapolis and several community outlets.
Sinclair owns Fox 45, a TV station started by Smith’s father, which is known for its focus on crime and intense criticism of city officials.
Dabbling in City Politics
Smith himself has become increasingly active in Baltimore politics, spending over $500,000 backing a group that successfully launched and won voter approval of a 2022 ballot measure that placed term limits on the mayor, comptroller and city council.
For years a funder of Republican candidates and right-wing causes, he recently turned his energies to backing former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, using Fox 45 as a platform for promoting her return to City Hall in the upcoming Democratic Party primary against incumbent Mayor Brandon Scott.
In an interview with The Sun, Smith described himself as a First Amendment advocate who believes in “an absolute responsibility to serve the public interest.”
He said he believes that old-line media like The Sun “can be hugely profitable and successful and serve a greater public interest over time” by focusing on local and community news and adapting better to the internet and social media.
He said local ownership will benefit the struggling newspaper, which began publishing 186 years ago, but has lost circulation and hemorrhaged staff under Alden.
Among his plans are future partnerships between The Sun and Sinclair Broadcast to promote stories and co-branding.
Smith says he has brought in one partner, Armstrong Williams.
The conservative political commentator is a longtime associate of former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who is on Sinclair’s board of directors.
Statement to Sun Staff
Below is the memo to staff issued by Trif Alatzas, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Sun Media Group:
In a few minutes, we will publish an article on baltimoresun.com with news that Baltimore Sun Media has been sold to David D. Smith, a Baltimore County businessman who is also executive chairman of Sinclair, which owns Fox 45 News and almost 200 other television stations across the country.
David personally purchased The Sun and its affiliates. This was not a Sinclair transaction. It’s the first time in 38 years The Sun has been under local ownership. I know many of you have questions about what this means going forward.
I had dinner with David, and he explained some of his ideas to help Baltimore Sun Media grow. He told me this purchase was made to support his hometown newspaper. David will visit us at St. Paul Plaza for a staff meeting to introduce himself, discuss this transition and to answer questions at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 16, on the 22nd floor. This meeting will be in person. Please make every effort to attend. Lunch will be available.
David is also setting up an email to answer questions from employees. That address, which should be live by tomorrow morning, is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for all you do.
From the Guild
The union representing Sun employees, meanwhile, released this brief statement:
“While this news came as a surprise, we are eager to learn more in the days to come,” said Christine Condon, unit chair of the Baltimore Sun Guild.
“The Sun has a proud history of journalism that holds the powerful accountable, and we would expect any new owner to help us preserve those values.”