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Berkshire Eagle Parent Mulling Newspaper Sales

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Eagle's parent company revealed it may be looking to sell off all or parts of its newspaper business.

Digital First Media CEO John Paton announced on Friday that the company is using investment bank UBS to review "strategic alternatives."

"Strategic alternatives — what does that mean exactly?

"Well, it could mean we decide to sell the company. Or sell parts of it. Or expand it. Or stay the course," Paton posted on his blog.

It's been rumored the company has been trying to cut $100 million out of its overall operating budget this year.

DFM operates Digital First Ventures, 21st Century Media and MediaNews Group, under which New England Newspapers falls. The regional group consists of The Eagle and Vermont papers the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and the Manchester Journal.

MediaNews Group, based in Denver, purchased the local papers in the 1990s and declared bankruptcy in 2010. The newspaper group and the Journal Register group, which also had been through bankruptcies, were both acquired by Alden Global Capital; DFM was created to manage the properties and develop a digital strategy.

The results have been mixed. New England Newspapers closed the 170-year-old North Adams Transcript and the weekly Advocate in January. There also have been a number of layoffs and outsourcing within the local papers over the past few years, and a series of layoffs at DFM's other holdings over the past few months.

DFM in April shuttered its much ballyhooed "Thunderdome" news project and last month put a number of its newspaper buildings up for sale, including. Newspaper Guild staff working at some of its major properties have advertised for "local, community-minded buyers for their newsrooms."

Paton, however, in his post said, "After a rocky five years, the newspaper industry is firmly back on its feet again."

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