Journalists horrified by consolidation of Gatehouse, Gannett

Yesterday, news broke that two of the nation’s largest media companies are planning to join forces.

Ownership of USA Today owner Gannett and GateHouse Media are reportedly very close to finalizing a deal wherein GateHouse parent company—New Media Investment Group—would acquire Gannett. Together, the two would control 265 dailies nationwide with a combined print circulation of 8.7 million, creating a newspaper megachain like the U.S. has never seen,” Neiman Lab reports.

The consolidation is reportedly a stopgap measure to buy time—two or three years—until the newly emerged entity can figure out how to monetize digital.

The revelation caused a surge in Gannett’s stocks, which have lost 30 percent of their value since January, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Far less enthusiastic than shareholders and Gannett executives, who some believe will receive generous golden parachutes in the deal, were current and former employees of both chains.

GateHouse is notorious for acquiring media companies, even profitable ones, and stripping them of assets and staff. In May, the company laid off at least 159 employees nationwide in a series of cuts that the CEO referred to as “not material.” Gannett has also experienced waves of layoffs and buyouts, most recently in January.

Many viewed the consolidation as another development that will benefit ownership and the C-suite at the expense of rank-and-file staff and the communities they serve.

“This is bad for journalists & journalism in the U.S. Only bankers & corporate executives w/ golden parachutes have benefited from media consolidation. Communities suffer as mega news corps who care only about money slash local journalists, creating news deserts,” Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Carson tweeted.

There were many calls for individual outlets to unionize as quickly as possible in an effort to minimize the fallout. “Two media companies known for death by a thousand cuts are talking about joining forces. If your Gannett or GateHouse newsroom isn’t unionized, think about it. We’re happy to help,” tweeted the L.A. Times Guild.

Reactions throughout the media primarily centered on horror and outrage. Lou Dobbs referred to it as “a very bad idea and even worse reality.”

Print isn’t dead (yet), but if two of the biggest companies can’t make it on their own, it’s hard to imagine a bright future for the industry.

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Claire Goforth

Claire Goforth

Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.