When I started out as a reporter, I was hired by The Pottstown Mercury, the newspaper in my small town by the Schuylkill River and along the Reading Railroad (yes, Monopoly players, there really was a Reading Railroad). The paper was run by Shandy Hill, who lived down the street from us, which is why I knew him, and backed by William M. Hiester (I just did the requisite googling -- I never knew his name until two minutes ago).
Photo credit: Peachhead -- thanks!
A few years later, the paper was sold to the Ingersoll newspaper chain as part of a trend in the late 1960s: Little local papers were starting to be picked up by larger publishers. Today, it appears to be owned by an investment firm after its latest parent filed for bankruptcy (NB: I'm pulling this info together really quickly so the details on this last bit are subject to greater digging).
This local quake was nothing compared with the latest newspaper news: First in early August of this year, Boston Red Sox owner (and billionaire) John Henry scooped up the Boston Globe for a mere $70 million (after its having been sold to the NY Times 20 years earlier for more than $1.1 billion). That was big news for 48 hours -- until billionaire Jeff Bezos (Amazon et al) bought the Washington Post for $250 million. Now, two-and-a-half months later, billionaire Pierre Omidyar (eBay and a bunch of great stuff) is starting from scratch with a digital-only approach, details TBD, though he's started by partnering with investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald, who has left The Guardian.
The blogs are abuzz trying to make sense of this. (My friend -- and seer -- Nova Spivack has been sending me great links.) These guys (they're all guys so far but maybe Oprah is not far behind) are not the new robber barons, i.e. they're not going after gold mines. They're more like city dumps, in which, they must believe, great riches can be found. No one's got the new model yet; maybe Omidyar's on the right track, starting from scratch, which is what Mathew Ingram says in this good piece, "Battle of the new media billionaires: one trying to save something old, one trying to start something new."