Does Gannett merger signal the death of local journalism?


Being a little fish in a big pond usually means you get eaten:

The deal would combine the country’s two largest newspaper chains, with more than 260 daily papers, and hundreds more websites and community and weekly papers in 47 states. The new company, to be called Gannett even though New Media is the acquirer, would have a daily print circulation of 8.7 million, dwarfing the next largest chain, McClatchy, with daily circulation of 1.7 million. McClatchy owns The News & Observer of Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer.

The companies say the advantages of size and reach will attract more digital advertisers and save expenses by eliminating operations deemed redundant or expendable, helping to offset a two-decade slide in revenue from print advertising and subscriptions, which has imperiled the industry.

Bolding mine, because I'm pretty sure that's the exact same wording Berkshire Hathaway used just before cutting the Greensboro News & Record staff down to a skeleton crew. Admittedly, it's real easy for people like me to grouse about the erosion of investigative journalism, since I don't have to solve the financial problems that brought this about. But I am currently subscribing (paying) for 4 different news outlets, so I'm kinda doing my part. Needless to say, the journalists' unions are not happy about this:

NewsGuild-CWA, the nation’s largest journalists union, has called the deal a “threat to journalism.”

“This merger will hurt the communities these media organizations serve,” NewsGuild President Bernie Lunzer said in a statement. “To fund the merger, local papers will likely disappear, jobs will be slashed, and journalism will suffer.”

Advocates for the deal have characterized it as the opposite, saying it’s a step toward crafting a viable business model for an industry that has struggled in the digital age amid competition from tech giants such as Google and Facebook, which dominate the market for online ads.

“The reason that we are fighting so hard to transform our business model [is] so that we can ensure our local communities have trusted, high-quality journalism for the next 100 years,” Reed said on the conference call. Through a representative, he declined a request for an interview prior to the shareholder votes.

Yeah, methinks dodging the interview until after you've conned your shareholders makes that whole "help the communities" thing sound even more like bullshit.



There's a reason...

that the N&O is still a good paper and that's the fact that McClatchy still values good journalism. Newspapers were once the stalwarts of journalistic excellence and local reporting, but no longer for far too many places as the giant media companies have taken over and cut everything to the bone in the name of shareholder value. At least we'll still have some local papers willing and able to do the real work here in NC.

Local Journalism Died a Long Time Ago

When I moved here in 2006, I sub'd both the N&O and the Durham papers. There were local columnists, local news, even that stuff that has little interest to many like arrest reports etc. (remember when the N&O actually had sections for different regions within the triangle?) After the N&O dumped my favorite columnists, one I swore at regularly the other I wanted over for dinner, I dropped the N&O and stayed with the Durham paper. However that too was taken over by the same indifferent owners and soon became nothing more than the same paper as the N&O with a different banner. Today there is very little local news and reporting and many articles are just reproduced from other news sources.
Local news died a long time ago. they even took away the national weather map!