Facing economic hardships, Maariv on the verge of collapse

Facing economic hardships, Maariv on the verge of collapse

JERUSALEM - The Associated Press
Facing economic hardships, Maariv on the verge of collapse

Former journalists and administrative workers of Israeli’s daily newspaper, Maariv, demonstrate against their dismissals. AFP photo

Israeli daily the Maariv, known as the “country’s paper,” the newspaper with the highest circulation and a cornerstone of Israeli media is now on the verge of collapse. Some say it is the victim of a Jewish-American billionaire who is a leading donor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, also a close friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, launched his free “Israel Hayom” or “Israel Today” daily five years ago. The tabloid has steadily gobbled up market share since then. Handed out by ubiquitous distributors clad in red overalls at busy intersections, it has become the most read newspaper in Israel.

 The 64-year-old Maariv has suffered in the fallout. The newspaper was sold this month by its cash-strapped owner to a rival publisher. Most of its 2,000 employees are facing likely dismissals.

The iconic newspaper has been hemorrhaging money for years and its downfall is linked to the struggles facing print media around the globe, with the emergence of online news sources and a steep drop in subscribers and ad revenue rendering the traditional newspaper economic model untenable.

But against the backdrop of a perceived anti-media blitz by the hard-line government, Maariv staffers believe their final blow was delivered by Israel Hayom. Adelson’s paper recently passed Yediot Ahronot as the top-read daily in Israel, leaving Maariv in third place, according to a survey by TGI, a leading Israeli polling company.