The newspaper business has collapsed to the point that properties in a major market have been given away — literally.

The wealthy owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com has decided he wants out after 19 months. Gerry Lenfest, along with a partner, bought the city’s established news sources in May 2014 for $88 million. His partner was killed in a plane crash shortly thereafter.

Now Mr. Lenfest is giving the two zombie morning papers (one a broadsheet, one a tabloid) and their website to a newly established nonprofit entity, the Institute for Journalism in New Media. He’s chipping in a $20 million endowment.

Mr. Lenfest made a fortune in cable TV before selling out in 1999 for billions.

“Money is a responsibility when you have that kind of wealth. I’ve tried to do right by it,” he told The Associated Press. “Perhaps the greatest opportunity came with the ownership of these newspapers. What would this city be without the Inquirer and Daily News?”

Said the man running away from a smoking trash can fire that has squeezed out every bit of cost savings it can and still had to lay off 46 newsroom employees just before Christmas. More grief for employees and Philly readers is on the way, and the good Mr. Lenfest doesn’t want any part of it.

Stupid, he ain’t.

The deal is structured so that the paper can pursue profits (dreaming there) while the nonprofit parent could accept donations earmarked for specific journalism work, like investigative reporting.

Some may see hope here. I see transparency issues and Mr. Lenfest’s $20 mil up in smoke before the Phillies are out of the NL East race.

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