This week the newspaper industry giants Gannett and GateHouse Media announced that they are merging and will make cuts on the expense side of the ledger, including layoffs, though pledging to avoid big cuts to the newsrooms, according to The Wall Street Journal. The combined company will own 261 daily newspapers and of weeklies in 47 states, publishing about 30 percent of all newspapers circulation in the country. Gannett owns the newspapers in Reno and St. George.
This past Friday, after announcing the company was having liquidity problems — including announcing it cannot make a $124 million payment to its pension plan next year, asking its largest creditor to restructure its debt and taking a $300 million write-down on the value of its newspapers — McClatchy stock fell 66 percent, according to Forbes. The financial situation is so dire the company may face bankruptcy.
GateHouse briefly owned the Las Vegas newspaper in 2015, buying it and 60 other Stephens Media newspapers for $102.5 million and selling the R-J and two weeklies for $140 million to casino owner Sheldon Adelson, according to Politico.
The possible outlook for the newspaper industry is getting even more gloomy. WSJ quotes Pew Research Center as saying newspaper editorial jobs in the U.S. fell from 71,000 in 2008 to 38,000 in 2018.
Despite its pledge otherwise, GateHouse has a reputation for laying off journalists to save money on the bottom line.
Former R-J business writer Howard Stutz points out that GateHouse paid $102.5 million in April 2015 for all of Stephens Media, which included the R-J and 60 other newspapers. The Adelson family — eight months later — paid $140 million for the R-J and the two weeklies in Boulder City and Pahrump.
The fewer reporters in the newsroom the more I fear for the future of our republic.
Nobody but newspaper reporters will sit through the school board meeting and county commission meetings to follow the ins and outs of what happens in the shadows or looks through the police blotters or talks to the cops that are bothered by what they see in their departments and want to talk to someone and then take the time to compile and put that info out in a professional format free from obvious bias.
Newspapers and to a lesser degree local and network news level out the extremes in bias in state wide and national/world news coverage. Cable news (Fox, MSMBC and the like) and websites that live in their own bubbles listen only to their own echo chambers and nobody hears from the middle. This is where the belief that if the news doesn’t conform to your own narrow band of perceived reality then it is “Fake News” comes from and the world is worse off for it.
Tom, I do not know what the business case is going to be for newspaper in the long term, I hope that somehow they can make a living on the internet but I am not optimistic. For the sake of the republic I hope they figure it out.
So do I.