6 Unusual Things Owned by Newspapers

Getty Images
Getty Images

The Tribune Company has been in the news lately as it works towards selling off one of its prized assets, the Chicago Cubs. The company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and a slew of other papers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month, so it could really use whatever cash selling the Cubbies can bring in. While it might sound odd for a newspaper company to own a baseball team, the Cubs are just one unusual property held by newspaper conglomerates around the country. Here are a few others:

1. The Boston Red Sox

The Cubs aren't the only Major League Baseball team partially owned by a newspaper. The Boston Red Sox are a subsidiary of New England Sports Ventures LLC, which also owns Fenway Park and the majority of the New England Sports Network. While John W. Henry is the principal owner of this group, the New York Times Company also owns a piece. The publishing giant shelled out $75 million for a 17.5% stake in New England Sports Ventures in 2002, which makes it the company's second-largest stakeholder. In addition to the Red Sox, this share also gives the Times a stake in Roush-Fenway Racing, the NASCAR team that fields drivers Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Matt Kenseth among others.

However, like the Tribune's ownership of the Cubs, this arrangement might not last too much longer. Declining ad revenues have forced the Times to divest assets that aren't related to its core publishing business, and reports have circulated in recent weeks that the paper is actively seeking a buyer for its share of the sports empire.

2. Manheim Auctions

You may not have heard of it, but Manheim Automotive Services is the world's largest car auction company. The auctioneer has 145 locations around the world where interested wholesale customers can pick up a new set of wheels. Since 1968, it's been a part of Cox Enterprises, a media conglomerate whose portfolio includes such large dailies as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Dayton Daily News, along with several dozen other papers. The auction business isn't Cox's only foray into the automotive world, though. It also owns Auto Trader magazine, friend of anyone in search of a used ride, and Dent Wizard, a company that specializes in paintless dent removal.

Cox once owned an even quirkier asset to go along with its newspapers: Zack Morris. Well, maybe not exactly Zack Morris, but his syndication rights. For a period of time after 1988 Cox owned Rysher Entertainment, which held the distribution rights for Saved by the Bell. That the Atlanta Journal-Constitution never gave Screech Powers a weekly column is a reprehensible oversight.

3. Kaplan, Inc.

Kaplan, the savior of anyone with standardized test anxiety, is a subsidiary of the Washington Post Company. Founder Stanley Kaplan sold his tutoring company to the publisher in 1984, and the Washington Post quickly expanded the test-prep business by gobbling up competitors through acquisitions. The plan seems to have worked perfectly; while newspapers may be in trouble, Kaplan raked in around $2 billion for its parent company last year.

The Washington Post Company actually holds a number of interesting non-paper assets. In addition to magazines like Newsweek and websites like Slate, it also owns Cable ONE, a cable and Internet service provider for homes in 19 states.

4. eCRUSH.com

If you're a teenager who's too bashful to tell someone you've got a crush on them, eCRUSH.com will do the legwork for you. The site lets users anonymously make lists of people on whom they have crushes, and if two people list each other, then BAM! The site notifies them, and it's time for some hot hand-holding action. Hearst Media bought the site in 2006, and it now resides in the company's portfolio along with papers like the San Franciso Chronicle and magazine titles like Esquire. This sort of site probably wasn't what William Randolph Hearst envisioned when he started his publishing empire, but hopefully everyone will agree that it could really help spice up any sequels to Citizen Kane.

5. Metro Fiber & Cable Construction

This Toledo contractor can service all of your fiber-optic installation needs. It's also a subsidiary of Block Communications, which publishes Toledo's daily The Blade as well as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

6. The Scripps National Spelling Bee

The E.W. Scripps Company publishes 15 newspapers, including the Rocky Mountain News and the Knoxville News-Sentinel. It also owns and operates an asset that's probably more familiar to anyone who's flipped through ESPN in May or June: the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Scripps now runs the bee, which started in 1925, on a not-for-profit basis in conjunction with several hundred sponsors. It proudly touts itself as the nation's largest and longest-running educational promotion.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

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By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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Where Did the Term Lame Duck Originate?

Not a lame duck.
Not a lame duck.
Saeid Anvar, Pexels

Since new U.S. presidents and members of Congress elected in November don’t actually take office until the following January, this creates an awkward gap for their predecessors. With diminished influence and little time to enact new policies, they’re often referred to as lame ducks. In other words: Their capabilities are limited and their days are numbered.

It’s not exactly true that lame-duck politicians can’t get anything done during that period. Because they no longer have to worry about keeping their constituents happy enough to get reelected, they’re free to make decisions that might not be popular with the people they govern. But while the term lame duck is now often used to refer to any outgoing politician in general—regardless of whether or not they’re figuratively limping through the end of their term—it wasn’t always that way. In fact, the phrase didn’t even originate in politics.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest known reference to the phrase is from a letter written by British nobleman Horace Walpole in 1761. “Do you know what a Bull, and a Bear, and a Lame Duck are?” he asked. Walpole was alluding to the London Stock Exchange, where lame duck described an ill-fated investor who defaulted on their loans. Ten years later, playwright David Garrick mentioned the phrase in his prologue for Samuel Foote’s play The Maid of Bath: “Change-Alley bankrupts waddle out lame ducks!”

An illustration of the London Stock Exchange in 1810.Thomas Rowlandson, Augustus Charles Pugin, John Bluck, Joseph Constantine Stadler, Thomas Sutherland, J. Hill, Richard Harraden, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

British citizens continued to utter “lame duck” when discussing the stock exchange throughout the 19th century, at which point it started to gain traction among U.S. financiers, too. Before long, the term had bled into other spheres of influence. Writer George W. Bungay, for example, co-opted the phrase to call out early temperance supporters who had lost faith in the movement.

“In Wall Street, New York, we have a class of men known as ‘lame ducks': they have met with financial disasters, and can not keep pace with their more successful competitors. We have lame ducks in our temperance associations, and I will briefly classify some of the men and women who do not and who will not keep up with our progressive organization. The lame ducks were once out-and-out friends of ‘the cause,’” Bungway wrote in 1869. “When they have attempted to swim in whisky, they have become ‘dead ducks.’”

The phrase might have made some small impression on Bungay’s teetotaler readers, but where it really started to stick was in politics. According to The Phrase Finder, The Congressional Globe used lame duck to describe “broken down politicians” back in 1863, and it had started to appear in newspaper articles referencing politics not long after.

In the early 1920s, lame duck made one final, flying leap to the highest office of the land. A 1926 editorial from Michigan’s Grand Rapids Press, titled “Making a Lame Duck of Coolidge,” speculated about how the upcoming Senate elections could affect the last two years of Republican Calvin Coolidge’s presidential term. If voters managed to flip the Senate to a Democratic majority—or at least closer to it—they could possibly render him ineffective.

In that case, the phrase lame duck wasn’t used in reference to the time between getting elected (or reelected) and taking office, but it soon became linked to that period specifically. Back then, presidential inaugurations occurred in March—the same month a new congressional session began. The lengthy interlude between November and March gave rise to lots of lame duck politicians, and Congress finally decided to shift the start of congressional and presidential terms from March to January. The 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, was even sometimes called the “lame duck amendment.” Lame duck behavior may have decreased after that, but the phrase’s popularity still hasn't waned.

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