What does that mean locally?
USA Today publisher Gannett Co. and Augusta Chronicle parent GateHouse Media are in merger talks, a possible deal that would bring together the nation’s two largest newspaper groups.
Gannett and GateHouse have discussed a deal that could help them “bulk up and trim costs,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Gatehouse is the largest publisher of daily newspapers in the country. The company owns 146 dailies, more than 10% of the total US market.
The merger talks have added another layer of concern to local employees of the former market dominating newspaper.
What would a merger look like? You could expect the company to “bulk up and trim costs,” according to the WSJ article.
By “bulking up” they mean buying more and more newspapers for pennies on the dollar. A recent check on Gatehouse shows, while in the midst of one of the largest newspaper layoffs in recent memory, they have spent over 1oo million dollars this year buying papers:
March 5-Austin American-Statesman for $47.5 million
March 27-The Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News $49.25 million
April 11-Akron Beacon Journal and its website, Ohio.com for $16 million
June 1-Pueblo (CO) Chieftain sale price undisclosed
An example of the brutal cuts around the country, after thirty years at the Augusta Chronicle, editorial cartoonist Rick McKee was let go recently.
His last day is July 19th.
According to unitedsketches.org, in 2015 McKee was syndicated by Cagle Cartoons to over 850 newspapers around the world, making him one of the most reprinted cartoonists working.
In 2013, McKee won first place in the Ranan Lurie U.N. cartoon competition. In addition to appearing in most major American newspapers, McKee’s award-winning work has been featured on CNN/Headline News, the Fox News Channel and in Newsweek.
The number of news reporters at the Chronicle has been declining for years. It is pretty astounding to think that the daily has only three reporters with over nine years of tenure at the paper, the other three have two years or less.
It is clear cuts to the newsroom will continue as the company looks to save money while purchasing cashflow, squeezing the last remaining dollars out of the outdated model of news once the dominate industry in media.
If the merger does go through, unfortunately more local journalists will lose their jobs. If Gatehouse’s history is any indication, it will be the ones with the institutional knowledge, the ones who know where the bodies are buried, that will be shown the door.
Local journalism is vital to keeping government in check. It is something everyone should be paying attention to, because if no one is paying attention to the details, citizens will lose 100% of the time.