The Bakersfield Californian’s ‘cowardly’ owner failed to inform staff of paper’s sale, union says

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The union representing employees of The Bakersfield Californian sent out a scathing email Monday blasting the paper’s owner for not informing employees of the paper’s sale before announcing it online Sunday evening.

The Harrell-Fritts family, owners of the paper for 122 years, have sold the Californian to what appears to be a newly-established entity called Sound News Media, led by by executive Steven Malkowich. The sale becomes final June 30.

That news came as a surprise to the Californian’s employees Sunday evening. An email was sent by the Moorhouse family, including the paper’s president, Virginia F. “Ginger” Moorhouse, to employees only after an article announcing the sale was posted on the paper’s website.

Executive Editor Jim Lawitz said it was “business as usual” at the paper.

“We will continue to serve our readers and advertisers with the same high quality content and superior customer service they have come to expect.”

Following is the union’s statement in its entirety:

“As I am sure you’ve all heard by now, TBC Media has been sold.
The previous owner has chosen to describe the new owner as a long time news man named Steven Malkovich under his new entity Sound News Media.  I wanted to make sure you were all aware it is a new entity, so if you try to google the company you will find nothing.

“Although the Union Board has been aware of a sale in process (not by any notification from the previous owner), positive details were not known.

“I sit here in disgust as I write knowing that the previous owner cowardly chose to notify the public of the sale on a weekend, while not showing an ounce of respect for their (now previous) employees by advising us first.

“It’s an ugly world out there and the previous owners have just made it uglier.  I have now lost any bit of respect I had for the previous owners.  I cannot fathom how they decided in good conscience to slap their employees in the face this way.

“Times have changed and a sale looked imminent since January, but to place the employees beneath the public nauseates me.

“As the primary representative of the employees, I am saddened for all of us.  We ALL deserve better!  I am truly sorry that this has transpired in this manner.

“Please know that as I obtain information into what effect if any this will have on the employees, I will again reach out to all of you.

“It remains important that we stand together as our venture takes another turn.”

Later Monday, Malkowich emailed his new employees:

“As you probably know by now, Harrell Holdings has agreed to sell the Bakersfield Californian, the Tehachapi Times and all its other publications and digital properties to Sound News Media Inc.  The closing of the purchase is expected to occur at the end of June. 

“Over the next week we will be reviewing all aspects of the operations of the publications, which will include meeting with employees on an individual basis in order to better understand the role, duties and expectations of each of you, and to explain a bit more about our plans for the publications.   

“For now, however, rest assured that we are making the purchase of the Bakersfield Californian and ancillary publications with the intent to continue on with the publishing of the daily newspaper in Kern County and to create a structure which ensures the  economic viability of the business and the important services you currently provide to the region well into the future.  

“Sound News Media representatives will be available to both on and off site to try to answer any questions that arise during the transition period. We ask all employees to be patient as we all work our way through this process. 

“We believe that our ultimate goal is the same as yours, which is to continue on with all aspects of the business and to carry on the fine traditions that have been established and exemplified by the Harrel Family.  

“We look forward to getting to know you over the coming days and weeks, and appreciate your cooperation during the next few weeks and we work together to ensure the future of our important publications.”

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