Will newspaper merger further decimate local newspapers?

By Pete Kaliner

August 12, 2019

Founder of Ashvegas.com, Jason Sandford, has a good write-up about the impending merger of Gannett and Gatehouse newspaper companies - and the potential impact on our local dailies.

On the ground in Asheville: Gannett owns the Asheville Citizen-Times, as well as the weekly newspapers in Black Mountain and Marshall. It also owns the daily newspaper in Greenville, S.C. Gannett’s printing plant for these newspapers is located in Upstate South Carolina. (The Asheville newspaper printing plant was a victim of cost-cutting a decade ago.) GateHouse owns the daily Hendersonville Times-News, as well as the daily in Spartanburg, S.C. Across North Carolina, GateHouse owns the newspapers in Fayetteville, Kinston, Gastonia, Burlington, Shelby and more.
Consolidation: It’s easy to imagine that the new newspaper company, to be called Gannett, will seek to save money by combining offices and staffing. News for Asheville and Hendersonville could be easily produced by reporters and photographers managed out of one office by one set of editors. Advertising, human resources and circulation duties would also likely be consolidated.

One really surprising data point in Sandford's post is how the Citizen-Times has gone from about 75 reporters to just 13 over the past 20 years. That's an astounding attrition rate, but one that is all too common in the newspaper industry - as well as broadcast media.

The constant demand to "do more with less" is universal, and many of the people making the decisions on where to cut costs have little interest in understanding what it takes to actually create the content the Sales Department is selling. The problem is compounded by choices these decimated newsrooms make on what stories to cover and how to cover them.

Sandford also links up a piece from the Nieman Lab which predicts the daily delivery of the dead tree copy of the paper is likely going to disappear within the next 3-5 years.

It's a death spiral - prompting talented journalists to leave for better opportunities, thereby decreasing the quality of the content and hastening the demise of the industry.

Pete's Prep: Monday, Aug. 12, 2019

  • John Hood at the Carolina Journal: "If your goal is to reduce carbon emissions in electricity generation, the primary tools available are to replace coal with lower-emitting natural gas and to expand nuclear. Criticizing Duke Energy’s policies is fair game. Demanding that it break the laws of physics is not."
  • Brian Gordon writes that the Citizen-Times: "To erase the educational achievement gap between white and black students in Asheville City Schools, Lauren Evans says the phrase “achievement gap” itself needs to be more scrutinized."
  • Meanwhile, Joel Burgess writes: "The unusual sentence of an officer convicted in a high-profile assault is facing criticism from black officials and residents who say his jail-less punishment is another example of systemic bias." 
  • Jason Sandford at Ashvegas has a rundown of development projects coming down the pike. Of note - a large apartment project on the South Slope.
  • The Editorial Board at the News & Observer is kind of ticked off that a black Democrat didn't get a harsher sentence.
  • If you want to offer ideas how to spend tourism money extorted from the TDA, you'll have three opportunities this week to do so. Or go online here.
  • Washington Free Beacon: "The European Union is poised to mandate that Israeli products made in contested territories carry consumer warning labels, a decision that could trigger American anti-boycott laws and open up what legal experts describe as a "Pandora's box" of litigation..."

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