The former Orlando Sentinel newspaper headquarters has sat mostly empty since the height of the pandemic in 2020 when reporters began working from home and the company stopped paying its rent. The offices closed permanently in late October 2020 but its legal fight against its landlord raged on until just last week, according to court documents.
Midtown Opportunities VIB sued the Sentinel in 2020 and accused the newspaper of defaulting on its lease by not paying rent. Midtown said the newspaper owed $635,158 from April 2020 to September 2020, according to an amended lawsuit filed in September 2020.
The unpaid rent continued to accumulate with Midtown alleging the newspaper was now “responsible for millions of dollars of damages in unpaid rent” for the building at 633 N. Orange Ave. — the paper’s home since 1951 — in an October 2021 court filing.
The lawsuit sought unpaid rent as well as interest and legal expenses.
But now, Midtown has voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit and both sides are responsible for their own legal fees, according to an Orange County Circuit Court document filed Thursday. The court documents do not provide details of any settlement.
Florida Politics reached out to attorneys representing both the newspaper and its ex-landlord for a request for comment but did not immediately hear back Tuesday afternoon. Julie Anderson, the Sentinel’s editor-in-chief, declined to comment.
The newspaper’s union issued a statement Tuesday night, criticizing the newspaper’s owners for its decision to close the newsroom and quit paying rent.
“Tribune Publishing and Alden Global Capital took away a community resource when it shuttered our newsroom. Every day, everywhere it does business, Alden hurts the people who live there. By cutting public access to crucial information, enforcing pay discrimination, and undermining communities who deserve more and better coverage — not less — Alden extracts from Central Florida. It never gives back,” the Sentinel Guild Unit Council said. “If you skip rent, you can lose your home and your life. When Alden Global Capital does it, it gets to cash in along the way. This must change. Alongside our allies in the region and beyond, we are determined to fight Tribune, Alden and their owners wherever they hoard the wealth that belongs to our communities.”
Meanwhile, most of the newspaper’s staff continue to work from home and the paper continues to publish seven days a week, a boast that’s rare these days in journalism.
The newspaper now rents a small space for $1,000 a month at the University of Central Florida’s downtown campus, according to a license agreement. UCF and the Orlando Sentinel extended the arrangement through Jan. 23, 2023, according to an agreement signed earlier this month by the school and the newspaper.
UCF spokesman Chad Binette said the newspaper pays its rent on time.
With close access to the paper, UCF journalism students are also getting educational and professional opportunities at the Sentinel, according to a memo of understanding between UCF and the Sentinel.
The landlord’s lawsuit against the Orlando Sentinel occurred during what has been a hard time in the journalism industry.
The Sentinel and other newspapers in its chain were bought last year by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, which is notorious for making cuts. At many newspapers across the country, there’s not much left to cut besides people.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Orlando’s sister paper which is a non-unionized newspaper in a mostly unionized chain, lost 25% of its staff in layoffs before the July 4 holiday, according to the union guilds representing the other papers.
Editor’s Note: Gabrielle Russon worked at the Orlando Sentinel from 2015-2021 and was a former co-chair of the Orlando Sentinel Guild.