Got News?

Recently (June 2015) the Columbus Dispatch announced the finalization of its sale to New Media Investment group, a holding company. Gatehouse Media is now the publisher of the Dispatch. Gatehouse Media used to be Liberty Group Publishing (sounds pretty liberating, doesn’t it?) until it went belly up (bankrupt) and became (reorganized as) Gatehouse Media. Confused? You thought New Media Investment “bought” the Dispatch? Don’t be. They are all just entities existing only in contemplation of the law (SCOTUS definition of a corporation along with now being persons). Liberty Group, or Gatehouse sell stock to raise capital to run their operation to make a profit to pay a dividend to the stockholders who supplied them the capital through the purchase of the stock. In turn, New Media Investment is likewise an entity existing only in contemplation of the law. However, New Media (a holding company) operates by owning and manipulating the stock of other companies (and the companies themselves), thereby giving them ultimate say through either “holding” the majority shares of stock or all the shares outright (“wholly owned subsidiary”). Their day to day work (if one dares designate it as such) is buying up cheap or undervalued companies, restructuring companies (reorganizing, regrouping, downsizing, selling assets, etc.), as well as selling/trading the acquisition’s stock, etc. (money making money). Such New media Investment is now doing with the Dispatch through their anticipated move to a smaller building and eventual sale of the archive Dispatch location (an expendable asset). Leaner and meaner in the digital age though the Wolfe’s retained control of their broadcasting subsidiaries (acting in turn as a holding company with majority interest in WBNS, etc.). Gatehouse, however, will be printing the paper not only for the Dispatch but also for the Advocate, owned by Gannett Company, Inc. Confused again? Don’t be. The Wolfe family sale was the last major city, family owned paper to relinquish control and sell out to a corporate entity (Liberty, Gatehouse, New Media, etc. are all corporations while the Wolfe’s were, like Buffett or Pickens, majority stock holders in their own legally defined entities). It is the new now. Although Gatehouse, like Gannett, will have a digital presence online, it will focus on paper. In the paperless age, how is this possible? Scott Timberg, author of Culture Crash (2015), quotes from Robert Levine’s book, Free Ride – “According to statistics from the Newspaper Association of America, a print reader is worth an average of about $539 in advertising alone, while an average online reader is worth $26. The money saved on printing and distribution doesn’t come close to covering the difference.” Hence, Gannett owns the small town central Ohio papers, Gatehouse likewise does The Other Paper in Cols. as well as the local weeklies. What does that have to do with the news? Afterall, newspapers have always relied on advertising revenue, even when family owned. The difference lies not with where the money comes from, but where the money goes. Family owned, or employee owned for that matter, implicates integration in the very fabric of the locality, city or region that the business draws its customers as well as its employees. Profits earned in the community, directly or indirectly, return to the community. Gannett Company, Inc., which owns the Advocate, operates no different than New Media Investment Group. Ditto moving the Advocate newspaper operation to a smaller facility in anticipation of selling off its headquarters building downtown (after liquidating its printing operation – selling off assets). Advocate profits ultimately go to the Gannett corp and the shares bought and sold in the financial districts of Wall Street NYC. Profits earned in the community leave the community. Investment in the community consists primarily in lip service. The what, where, when, how and why of news now becomes solely a function of advertising priorities. Hence the lopsided Advocate focus on business news and sports. State, national and international matters follow Gannett’s USA Today “journalism of hope” – rewriting press releases, “reader’s digest” USA Today rehashes, and anything/everything favoring business, local or otherwise. This is evidenced by the almost total absence of any local writing in the Op Ed section where a stable of syndicated “columnists” provide the tennis game at center court. Ditto “letters to the editor.” One is led to believe that there is an absolute dearth of critical thinkers, writers or scholars within Newark on anything pertaining to the Newark community. Newark must be dumb. Woodward and Bernstein would be hard pressed to find employment with the Advocate for they totally relied on the backing and support of their editor and publisher. Shearer and Gannett are completely committed to advertising. Got news?


Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: