Now in the News: Gannett Positions For The Future By Cutting Today

September 23, 2022

Indiana Newspaper Owned By The Same Family Since 1898 Has Been Sold To Heartland Media Group

Co-owners and brothers Andy Heuring, who has served as editor and John Heuring, as ad manager, sold The Press-Dispatch of Petersburg and the South Gibson Star-Times of Fort Branch to entrepreneur and veteran newspaperman

Don Hurd on September 1. The papers will join Hurd’s Heartland Media Group. His enterprise now operates 22 newspapers in Indiana reaching approximately 250,000 readers every week.

The Press-Dispatch was founded by A.J. Heuring in 1898, and a succeeding generation merged two newspapers to create the South Gibson Star-Times in 1991. The brothers have agreed to stay on as Heartland employees for a brief transitional period.

The reason for selling is a familiar one. While the papers have been doing well, the brothers look forward to retirement, as the next generation of the Heuring family has pursued other careers. Andy hopes to spend more time with his granddaughters, on the golf course, working in his church and John expects to catch up on many tasks at home, expand his time working with church youth, and taking a long-awaited ski trip.

How And Why News On Digital Platforms Is Viewed More Sceptically Versus News In General

Levels of trust in news on social media, search engines, and messaging apps is consistently lower than audience trust in information in the news media more generally. We found gaps in trust for most platforms in all four countries, with news on Google sometimes at parity with news overall but news on other platforms typically viewed more sceptically. Trust was also considerably higher across the board in India compared to the other three countries.

A considerable portion of this trust gap is explained by lower levels of trust among people who do not use platforms. Many of the same people who lack trust in news encountered via digital media companies – who tend to be older, less educated, and less politically interested – also express less trust in the news regardless of whether found on platforms or through more traditional offline modes.

Despite comparatively lower trust in news on platforms, many hold broadly positive feelings towards them, especially Google and YouTube, as well as WhatsApp in Brazil and India. Relatively small numbers of respondents in all four countries expressed negative feelings towards the technology companies. This might indicate that people’s feelings towards platforms are largely unrelated to expectations around what news they may or may not find there.

Lee Enterprises Cuts Several Comic Strips

Lee Enterprises has pulled numerous comic strips from its newspapers. One was “Dilbert,” the popular strip about a workplace nerd. “’Dilbert’ was canceled in 77 newspapers this week,” cartoonist Scott Adams tweeted, according to the Seattle Times. Another was “Bizarro,” by Dan Piraro. “Lee Enterprises, a newspaper group that is majority-owned by a large investment firm, stopped running ‘Bizarro’ and many other comics in their papers this past week,” Piraro wrote on his webpage, the Seattle Times continues. Such strips as “Baby Blues,” “Red” and “Rover and Mutts” have also been eliminated. In a perhaps typical situation, the St. Louis Dispatch has gone from 34 comics to 10, according to The Comics Journal. The removals have dealt a financial blow to carrtoonists who rely on print newspapers for revenue. “Many readers figure that since ‘Bizarro’ is well-known, that I must be rich,” Piraro wrote. “That’s never been the case and as more people turn to reading comics exclusively online, the industry has continued to shrink along with my income.”

The company has not removed all comics: It still provides a comics page, leaving some readers to wonder if there was a political component to the choices. Lee Enterprises had not responded to a request for comment at deadline.

Gold Mountain California News Media Inc. Acquiring 11 Titles

Gold Mountain California News Media Inc. has entered into an agreement to acquire 11 California titles from Brehm Communications Inc. (BCI). Six of the titles are located outside of Sacramento and the other five in the San Bernadino Mountains and neighboring high desert region. Dirks, Van Essen & April, through its subsidiary CAL DVM, is representing BCI in the transaction. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The northern California cluster includes six tightly clustered titles within Placer and Sacramento County’s Gold Country region. The newspapers include the twice-weekly Auburn Journal, and the following weeklies: Folsom Telegraph, Roseville Press-Tribune, Placer Herald, The Loomis News and Lincoln News Messenger.

The group in the southern part of the state includes six weekly newspapers. The Big Bear Grizzly and Mountain News cover the resort and second home communities adjacent to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake. The other titles in the group, The Hi-Desert Star, The Desert Trail and The Desert Mobile Home News, serve residents of the Coachella Valley in the high desert just to the north of Palm Springs.

The new owners have newspaper assets throughout the United States and Canada, including several in California. These titles include the Marysville (California) Appeal-Democrat and the Lodi (California) News-Sentinel, as well as the recently acquired Grass Valley Union. Grass Valley is located less than 25 miles from Auburn.

“We are pleased to acquire these esteemed properties from the Brehm Communications family,” said Steven Malkowich of Gold Mountain. “Our plans are to continue with the well-established fine tradition which the family has been recognized for in their long and continuous history in the newspaper industry.” “This transaction is bittersweet as our family has been in the newspaper business for over 102 years, however we felt it was time to pass these amazing publications and employees to a new home,” said Ryan Schuyler, president and CEO of BCI. “We believe the new owners will carry on the important mission of community journalism for years to come.”

Gannett Positions For The Future By Cutting Today

Earlier this month, Gannett’s Michael Reed had an opportunity to set a new course for the nation’s biggest newspaper company after disappointing financial results in August. Instead, he doubled down. Reed doubled down on costcutting, promising to cut $200 million to $240 million from “declining parts” of the business — primarily print. He doubled down on paying off debt, which tops $1.34 billion. Most of all, he doubled down on boosting digital subscriptions, while also promising to expand a unit that specializes not in journalism, but in selling web services to small- and medium-sized businesses.

At a Wall Street conference just weeks after he posted a $53.7 million quarterly loss and warned of a loss for the year, Reed said his long-term strategy remains unchanged. Gannett’s print business will continue to fall, but its smaller digital businesses will grow. In two years, he pledged, digital revenues will grow enough to more than make up for the decline in Gannett’s “legacy” business. “We cross the inflection point in 2024,” said Reed, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. “The math is that simple. You see overall stabilization and it starts to grow.”

So far, Wall Street isn’t buying it. Gannett stock plunged 70% to $2.10 on Sept. 20, from a peak of $7 a year earlier, as Reed’s optimistic forecast for 2024 failed to move the share price higher. Also leaving investors unmoved was his decision to invest $1.2 million of his personal fortune in Gannett stock shortly after reporting the second-quarter loss. The stock spiked on the news, then went down again even more.

“I know there’s a lot of skepticism,” Reed said at the Sept. 9 investor conference. “I feel good about our future, and I would say that’s evidenced by the fact that just a couple of weeks ago, I bought 500,000 shares of stock in Gannett because I believe so much in the future.”