End of an Era: Massachusetts Gannett Newspapers Announces End of Multiple Print Editions, Now Web-Only
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BOSTON, MA – Gannett – the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, owner of USA Today and many local papers throughout the country – is in the process of closing at least 19 print weekly newspapers serving communities in Eastern Massachusetts, transitioning them into an online-only model going forward.
And when it comes to the remaining print publications covering the region, Gannett will be merging another nine newspapers into just four. The move represents the ongoing end of an era– the gradual obsolescence of print media in today’s day and age.
The shuttering of the 19 weekly newspapers across Massachusetts is currently slated to take place in early May of this year, with all of the publications in question then shifting to a digital format, a move that announcements on the respective paper’s websites refer to as reaffirming their commitment to the “sustainable future of local news.”
“Now, more than ever, it’s critical to support local journalism through subscriptions and advertising,” the statements on each of the 19 sites reads.
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In addition, Gannett has also been restructuring its existing reporter pool, pulling them from regular beats covering specific towns and instead reassigning them to cover broader topics – such as public safety or education – in the overall region.
Bernie Szachara, the president of Gannett U.S. Publishing Operations, issued a statement regarding the upcoming changes, saying that the company is undergoing a “digital transformation” in an effort to better reach their readers.
“Strategies for reaching our audiences have evolved significantly, as well as the capabilities of our enhanced digital marketing solutions,” he said. “We remain committed to the future of local journalism, and encourage our readers to continue supporting our reliable, accurate, and community-focused news sources across all of our platforms.”
However, many are calling the move on Gannett’s part a “hit on local journalism,” with Northeastern University Professor of Journalism Dan Kennedy saying that he understands the need for cost-cutting measures, but notes that the way Gannett is doing it is undermining the quality of the local coverage that they are providing.
“What they claim they’re doing, which is getting rid of the legacy costs of print while maintaining and even increasing their commitment to local coverage, I’d say is terrific,” he said. “But that’s not what they’re doing. They are eliminating print papers, even as they continue to downsize their news coverage.”
Several of the papers that are being closed have already been referred to as “zombie papers” in recent years, in that they have produced little in the way of local content.