The Mobil Oil Corp. has considered purchasing several other newspapers besides the defunct Long Island Press, which it is currently looking at, company vice president for public affairs Herbert Schmertz revealed today.
The Oakland Tribune and The Denver Post, which current owner have indicated are up for sale, are among the properties Mobil has studied.Schmertz said that Mobil officials "talked about these papers in terms of availability" but decided "not to even pursue it" because it "just didn't seem worthwhile."
In addition, Mobil in the past has analyzed the possibility of starting a newspaper from scratch but this "hasn't been discussed recently," Schmertz added. He said the petroleum company had "no place in particular" in mind when it was considering starting a newspaper when asked about reports that Mobil had studied Fairfax County, Va.
What remains a live possibility, however, is that Mobil Oil, the country's third largest oil company, will purchase the now [WORD ILLEGIBLES] Long Island Press, a Newhouse [WORD ILLEGIBLES] paper which closed its foors on March 25 after publishing for 157 years in New York City's Queens borough.
"It's a 50-50 kind of imposition," Schmertz volunteeered. He said that "a systematic and undramatic accumulation of all kinds of [WORD ILLEGIBLES] on the remaining physical asset of the newspaper and the potential difficulties with ten newspaper unions is underway. When the process is completed in about another week, Mobil will decide whether to go ahead with negotiations to purchase the paper's plant.
The Mobil executive, who is in charge of the company's very visible advertising presence and its extensive underwriting of the arts and public television programming, indicated that Mobil was looking to the Long Island Press as a financially-oriented afternoon newspaper for the New York City market that would compete head-to-head with The New York Post.
"What we're interested in is what kind of news or information is lacking so far as the public is concerned, rather than an editorial voice," he noted.
"One of the things we are looking at is, is there a market for more news and information in the business and financial area," Schmertz said. "More and more newspapers have been coming to the conclusion that their treatment of financial news has been a second-class operations for a while."
"One of the questions that should be asked is whether there is need for more hard news in this area," he added. "If there is a desire and a thirst for that and no one else to fulfill it, maybe we should fulfill it."
He said Mobil had in mind in-depth business coverage and features similar to those found in the Financial Times of London, one of the world's premiere economic and business newspapers.
"When you look at the newspapers on the newsstands in the afternoon today," in New York City, "I don't see a great abundance of that," Schmertz said.
The New York Post, recently purchased by Australian publisher Rupert Murdoch, is now New York City's only afternoon newspaper. It has been expanding its financial coverage in the last few weeks. In addition, Newsday, primarily a Long Island newspaper, appears at a handful of the city's newsstand in the afternoon.
Independent oilman John Shaheen has also had longstanding plans for a afternoon New York City financial newspaper to be called the New York Press. But the starting date for publication has been delayed reapeatedly and many observers believe the paper will never appear.
Schmertz said Mobil was not pursing a possible purchase of the Long Island Press with the idea of profits in mind - the Newhouse paper with a circulation of about 260,000 in its final months was closed because of what its management called an eroding economic base - but would al least like to break even.
"We have set up two criteria," he said: "If we're convinced that the resurrection of The Press (caps) would serve a useful public service," and whether "it can be done within an acceptable and viable economic structure."
Mobil Oil is a subsidiary of Mobil Corp. which also includes the ontgomery Ward retail chain and the Container Corp. of America. Worldwide sales last year totaled $25 billion.
The company has said that it is considering whether to relocate its New York headquarters to Falls Church, Va. Washington area and Fairfax and New York City officials have indicated that they have been led to believe such a move is likely, although the company contends that no decision has yet been made.