What does the merger of GateHouse and Gannett mean for education news?
This past week, the two largest newspaper publishers in the country, GateHouse Media and Gannett, announced plans to merge. The new company will operate under the Gannett brand and will own more than 250 daily newspapers and hundreds of weekly and community papers in 47 states – claiming a print circulation of 8.7 million and more than 145 million unique online visitors every month. To put that in perspective, the New York Times’ print circulation is 580,000, with 29 million online visitors
When the deal was announced, the companies said there would be cost synergies in the $200 to $300 million range. In recent years, both companies have created “regional hubs” to slow the decline of local newspapers, moving to group editors with responsibility for several papers. But, media-watchers will be paying close attention to the potential impact a merger like this may have on newsroom staffing, and beat reporting.
So what does this mean for education coverage?
Trades will play an increasingly important role to augment the expertise of local newsrooms. Education specific outlets like The Hechinger Report and Chalkbeat, which have regional focus, are increasingly important. For example, in addition to its national coverage, Chalkbeat has seven regional hubs. The Hechinger Report has a dedicated Mississippi beat and a content sharing model to provide mainstream outlets with in-depth education coverage. And, veteran higher education reporters Sara Hebel and Scott Smallwood are launching Open Campus, a new nonprofit to provide local newsrooms with access to higher ed expertise.
USA Today’s national education team, led by Chrissie Thompson, will have a broader reach. The team will have an opportunity to support local outlets on investigative projects.
Local education teams will continue to get smaller, a reflection of newsrooms in general. For example, the Detroit Free Press doesn’t have a full time K-12 education reporter and relies on a partnership with the nonprofit education news network Chalkbeat for K-12 stories.
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