The big idea lately in newspapering — poor, beleaguered newspapering — has been the proposition that newspapers of the billionaires, by the billionaires, and for the people might just be the best kind of newspapers. (One well-known billionaire, goes the logic, is better than anonymous private-equity firms or, worse, Hassan Elmasry.) The proposition hasn’t worked out quite as believers hoped in Philadelphia, and in Boston Jack Welch hasn’t even been allowed to try. But this morning Chicago’s Tribune Company — owner of the eponymous paper, plus the insurrectionary Los Angeles Times, Long Island’s Newsday, and other newspapers, TV stations, and a baseball team — announced that it has accepted an offer from local billionaire Sam Zell.
Assuming it goes through — or even if it goes instead to his rival and temporarily trumped competitors, Eli Broad and Ron Burkle — it will be by far the largest experiment of the billionaires-are-best proposition, and, soon enough, we will see whether that newspaper company, or any newspaper company so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. (Or, at least, endure the way newspaper people hope it will.) If it does, well, then we’ll dedicate, consecrate, and hallow this deal.