Sunday, August 25th, 2019

Gannett buying the Journal Sentinel


In case you missed it because you stopped subscribing to the newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is joining the McPaper family. The Wall Street Journal reported,

USA Today owner Gannett Co. has agreed to buy Journal Media Group, owner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other newspapers, in a sign a long-awaited round of consolidation in the beleaguered industry may be under way.

The deal, announced by the companies Wednesday evening after The Wall Street Journal broke news they were nearing a deal, values Journal Media at $280 million. Journal Media had a market value of $192 million at Wednesday’s close, meaning Gannett paid a relatively big takeover premium. Gannett had a value of $1.7 billion.

Over at RightWisconsin, Charlie Sykes has an “autopsy” of the newspaper’s failure to remain independent, and quotes yours truly:

While the newspaper was off pursuing prizes or trying to put Scott Walker’s head on a pike, stories that the public would really be interested in were left ignored. For example, how many resources were spent trying to prove a type of plastic is dangerous just to win a prize that nobody in Milwaukee cared about, and then the story turned out to be flawed? By the way, when do they get around to reporting that?

So while they assigned staff to vanity projects like Politifact, they stopped covering the surrounding communities. I think the kid that covers Waukesha finally got his driver’s license. By the way, those are the communities that actually read newspapers.

The autopsy gets into the economics of newspapers today, and how the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s business and editorial decisions made their problems worse.

Speaking of the newspaper, it does cover the merger.

Though the deal will cost Milwaukee a corporate headquarters, Journal Sentinel Publisher Elizabeth Brenner said the newspaper will remain local in its approach.

“Look back on when Journal Media Group started. All of the news decisions, the editorial decisions, the community support — everything we do isn’t going to change,” Brenner said. “We’re still here. We make our decisions and run our newsrooms out of Milwaukee, not anywhere else. We serve our advertisers and subscribers out of Milwaukee, not anywhere else. And we support causes that are important to our community from this building. So all of that, it’s not going to change.”

Brenner forgot to add, “I, for one, welcome our new McPaper overlords. I’d like to remind them that as publisher, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground graphics factories.”

Obviously the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel should have sold the building to the Milwaukee Bucks when they had the chance. I never understood their stubborness. They’re not in the real estate holding business, they’re in the newspaper business. What difference does it make where they produce the newspaper? They certainly won’t be needing all that space now. (In an interesting coincidence, the Chicago Tribune announced today the Tribune Building is for sale.)

With the expected purges (“the deal will yield about $10 million in immediate savings and the potential for $25 million more over the next two years”), news coverage of Wisconsin will certainly change. Even the sports department will probably not be immune since Gannett already owns the Green Bay Press Gazette. How many Green Bay Packer reporters does one newspaper chain need?

By the way, anyone hoping for a more conservative newspaper obviously hasn’t picked up a local Gannett product. They’re not going to be bringing a standard of unbiased journalism or high ethical standards.

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