Newsday to Line Dolans' Bird Cage

Another paper falls to journalism know-nothings.

Newsday to Line Dolans' Bird Cage

Jim Dolan makes Rupert Murdoch seem like Jesus H. Christ. And that's why Cablevision's apparently successful attempt to swallow up Newsday is making us gag.

Blessed with the huge cash flow of a monopoly cable company (thanks only to cities long ago giving up a public utility to private companies), the Dolan family has enough gelt to spend $650 million to buy the behemoth Long Island newspaper. For a while, it looked as though Murdoch was going to land the whale, but call me Ishmael if the Dolans didn't sink their hooks in deeper.

No matter that the Dolans (Jim's rich daddy is Chuck) have no experience in the news business — Cablevision's News 12 operation doesn't count. At least Murdoch knows the business. When he owned the Voice years ago, he was too smart to turn it into a right-wing rag. The Dolans will further blandify Newsday.

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Wall Street's not exactly enthusiastic about the match, which makes about as much sense as the Dolan-owned New York Knicks spending a fortune to hire as coach Mike D'Antoni, who can't coach defense and inherits a roster ill-suited to his run-and-gun style.

Jim Dolan is the slack-jawed yokel who has screwed up the Knicks with his meddling into things he doesn't know about. His only experience with journalism is to squelch it. Colleagues have reminded me that the Knicks' policy toward reporters is unusually repressive and controlling.

When there's bad news brewing in the bowels of Madison Square Garden, Jim Dolan and crew make sure to clamp down hard to keep any of it from leaking out. Sure, every company does that, even newspaper companies, but the Knicks' operation is particularly harsh toward journalists.

Yes, these are the hard-hitting, courageous people we want running our newspapers.

You have to feel sorry for Newsday editor John Mancini (whom I used to work for at a now-defunct paper) and the other fine journalists who still have jobs there. That's because the Dolans' operations are relentlessly mediocre.

As a I said before, Wall Street's not particularly gung-ho. A story earlier this month in Newsday noted:

Louis Ureneck, chairman of the journalism department at Boston University, said bringing Newsday reporting into the mix at Cablevision's news channel certainly will add appeal, but he added, "The question is how do they monetize the strategy? Is there enough here to justify the kind of price they're offering?"

Wall Street doesn't appear to think so.

"The company needs to stick to its core business and not go out on entrepreneurial pursuits that are far away from its core expertise," said Richard Greenfield, an analyst at Pali Research in Manhattan.

David Joyce, who tracks Cablevision for Miller Taback & Co. in Manhattan, said he thinks Newsday is better-matched to Murdoch and his News Corp.

"Murdoch knows newspapers," Joyce said. "The Dolan family does not."

No matter. The newspaper business may be ailing, as its owners all over America keep moaning, but the New York Times pointed out yesterday that Newsday produced more than $80 million last year in profits on $500 million in revenue.

The Dolans will now have two cash cows, even if one of them is relatively sickly from eating too much newsprint.

The question is: What changed aging Chuck Dolan's mind? As Newsday's own Thomas Maier wrote Saturday:

Over the years, Charles Dolan, the billionaire founder of Cablevision Systems Corp., always seemed a bit coy when asked about the possibility that one day he might own Newsday.

"I have often thought it," Dolan told Newsday in 2006. "I thought it would be a wonderful thing to do, but I've also been smart enough not to try it."

Son Jim apparently isn't smart enough. But that's no surprise.


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