A new report claims that the merger between Gannet and GateHouse Media, owned by the New Media Investment Group, will result in the cancellation of USA Today’s print edition.
“Two knowledgeable sources” told Poynter Institute Wednesday that a “move away from USA Today in print is part of the calculations for the new enterprise.”
USA Today Publisher Maribel Perez Wadsworth pushed back on the claim saying, “Gannet has no plans to discontinue the print edition of USA Today, which remains an important part of our business.”
“Gannett remains committed to high-quality journalism for the communities we serve and our ongoing digital transformation, and we are pleased to have found a like-minded partner in New Media,” she continued. “We believe the combination of our two companies will transform the landscape in the print and digital news business and, following the close of the transaction, we look forward to delivering on the compelling benefits for audiences, customers, employees and shareholders.”
One source said that Gannett CEO Paul Bascobert “has indicated that he is not impressed with USA Today.”
As reported in August, Gannett, known for buying local newspapers and then cutting back on operations, announced a “merger” with GateHouse Media, which will acquire 50.5 percent of Gannett.
Gannett owns USA Today and about 109 local newspapers around the country, plus more than 160 news operations in the United Kingdom. Gannett owns six local newspapers throughout Tennessee, including The Tennessean, which still publishes a print edition.
One Gannett editor told Poynter that Bascobert called an “all-hands meeting” with regional papers after the merger was announced and “not once was there a single mention of print.”
Bascobert will serve as CEO of the merged companies and will receive a base salary of $725,000 and $4.5 million in bonuses and stock.
According to Poynter, USA Today’s most recent audited circulation report showed a print subscriber base of 520,000, compared to the 2.2 million print subscribers it had in 2007.
“I’ve been told that the hotel print distribution still makes money. But if it doesn’t, there is basically nothing left,” another Gannett editor said. Hotel distribution accounts for 342,000 of Gannett’s print subscribers, according to Poynter.
“Let’s face reality,” one Gannett editor said. “We’re still going to have to radically transform.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Gannett Building” by Patrickneil. CC BY-SA 3.0.