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The Death Rattle of Print Journalism: Gannett Dumping Its Newspapers, Its Name

Even before the internet, newspapers across the country were struggling. There is an argument to be made that the market was a bit oversaturated; many cities had a pair of morning papers, an afternoon paper, and one or two evening papers. Now, most cities are lucky to even have one working newspaper. Today, Gannett Company, the owners of USA Today, own more than 80 daily newspapers and close to 1,000 weekly papers. However, that’s going to change.

Well, not exactly. Gannett Company will still own its newspapers, but the broadcast and internet properties it owns are spinning off into a new company. According to CNN Money, even though the print arm of the business is keeping the old name, “make no mistake: it’s the papers that are being shed.”

Simply put, the newspapers are considered “a drag” on the earnings potential of media companies, not just Gannett but also Tribune, Time Warner, and others, have all scrapped their print business, leaving them to fester and possibly die without being propped up by the other, more profitable divisions.

Even though cable, broadcast, and internet news dominates the market, most original journalism comes from those still fighting in the trenches of the print world. Most news sites, including this one, rely on newspapers to break or, at least, fact-check much of the news we report and analyze. Simply put, newspapers have the infrastructure and resources to do the type of investigative journalism outlets like Issue Hawk and others don’t have the will to do.

While the value of newspapers – culturally speaking – is self-evident, the shareholder value of these companies is more important it seems. According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, the newspapers “produce 70 percent of Gannett revenues, but broadcast produces 60 percent of the profits.” Yet, newspapers report close to one-hundred percent of the news, and without them we risk falling even further into an echo-chamber devoid of reporting and context.

Photo by Jon S via Flickr

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.

  • The_Truth_Seeker(TM)

    Interesting timing, given that there is a, as yet unreported, massive scandal, regarding a story that USAToday and the LA Times did back in 2004, which was essentially untrue, but which the papers refused to investigate or ever correct. They could both now be facing huge liability in this case.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/science/2004-12-06-siemens-prize_x.htm
    http://articles.latimes.com/2005/jan/05/local/me-class5

    Here are the simple historical facts betraying those 2004 “fabricated stories”.

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:GyroWaveGen(tm)

    Could such liability, eventually, even force one of the papers into bankruptcy, if they no longer have the financial backup of their original owners (and insurance wouldn’t cover such potential losses)? Is that one of the things the owners of these papers were worried about (and even a little fed up with, now they know how much this “mistake” could cost them)?