By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

It’s all about the debt

Boston Herald reporter Christine McConville quotes me today in a story about GateHouse Media’s ongoing financial woes, which have now extended to closing the chain’s weeklies in Taunton and Avon.

As best as I can figure out — and I’ve been making some inquiries — it’s all about GateHouse’s $1.2 billion debt. But as McConville notes, when you talk to insiders, you can’t help but be surprised by lack of panic.

What you hear is that the debt has been structured in a way that makes it quite a bit less onerous than outside analysts assume. The truth? Well, it’s out there, I guess.

As for the closing of those two papers, it’s always a shame when the doors are padlocked, but this doesn’t strike me as a huge deal. The weekly Taunton Call and Avon Messenger operated in the shadow of the Taunton Gazette and the Brockton Enterprise, dailies also owned by GateHouse. The company’s Wicked Local Web sites for the two communities remain intact.

Regional publisher Mark Olivieri explains here and here.

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  1. Anonymous

    You’re right, Dan, it’s not a huge deal. These 2 papers were not money makers and they were in the shadow of the two dailies you mention. When a company buys another company you sometimes end up with papers that cover the same turf. When once they competed, now they don’t need to. That’s probably what this was about.

  2. Anonymous

    Our Gatehouse daily just went through a redesign which includes a bunch of packaged, cookie-cutter corporate ideas that mean less time for investigative pieces and enterprise stories and more content that could be generated by a 19-year-old college intern. Through the whole reprogramming, I couldn’t help but wonder if the company will still be around at the end of the year. I mean, really, why bother?

  3. Anonymous

    While I agree with the closing of the Avon Messenger makes sense because Gatehouse never put any resources into it, I cannot not agree with the closing of the Taunton Call just because it was “in the shadow of a daily.”Saying this wasn’t a big deal is not any different than the thinking of corporate management that says quality isn’t important in today’s journalism. Journalists should be the last ones looking at this decision from that angle.Plus there many CNC weeklies “in the shadow” of the Enterprise, what does this mean for all of them?Have any of you read the Taunton Call? It seems some are subscribing to the notion that just because it was a weekly that it was of less quality than the daily covering the same town. It’s the CNC weeklies help keeping all of the dailies afloat with the revenue they generate as the dailies continue to hemorrhage cash. What this was all about is Gatehouse management making too many bad decision and quality becoming the sacrificial lamb along with the employees that have been laid off in the two rounds of layoffs GHMNE has had so far this year. More than 90 positions frozen and employees let go while GH continues to go out and accrue more debt. It is foolish to think that the TDG is going to get any additional resources for their under-staffed newsroom from the closing of the Call. Even if they did, it would be taken away during the next round of layoffs that seem to always be on the horizon. So it is hard for me to believe It seems GateHouse is well past cutting the “fat” or even stripping their newsrooms to the bone, they seem to be digging for marrow at this point.

  4. Anonymous

    To Anon 10:46:00In my post I wasn’t dismissing the Taunton Call only because it was in the footprint of the TDG but because, in the scheme of things in these really ugly times for newspapers, sometimes something has to give. I don’t like the idea of killing off a newspaper but if closing down an unprofitable weekly or two can ward off cuts somewhere else, at least for the time being, I’ll vote for that before I vote for layoffs. GateHouse has a sucking chest wound and I think this part of the company is trying to keep some cash flow by finally biting the bullet and closing really unprofitable publications so maybe some of the truly good, entrenched community weeklies can survive. Call me a dreamer.

  5. murdoc78

    There’s nothing to see here, folks, move along.What’s that? We’ve just been de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange?Two more papers folded?Nothing to worry about there. Just move along please. What’s that you say? An iceberg up ahead. No, that’s just some unstructured debt. Move along.

  6. Gladys Kravitz

    For me, it matters a lot that the Taunton Call is going away.The Call was printing factual stories and lengthy editorials submitted by casino opponents while the Enterprise was keeping all editorials under two inches, faithfully keeping the inevitability myth alive, and forgetting to mention article 3 at the Middleboro town meeting vote, and the Taunton Daily Gazette – it was busy putting on it’s front page, a misleading, completely unresearched and innacurate story cannonizing a local pro-casino advocate who’d just happened to have given me a death threat. When our calls and letters to their editor got excessive the Call promised us equal time. We’re still waiting.We’ve gotten to know the papers we can trust and the one’s you can’t. I’d take the Call over the Enterprise or Gazette any day.

  7. Anonymous

    The Enterprise has no “shadow.” They abandoned downtown Brockton this month. What is left of the editorial department is moving into a storefront on Belmont Street. Advertising moved to Randolph two years ago, the pressmen were axed when the printing went to The Globe, and now the drivers (who better be actively seeking other jobs) are operating out of a warehouse in Braintree. Best of luck.Oh, yeah, and “The ‘Prize” (their name, not mine) editorializes constantly about businesses and agencies fleeing downtown Brockton (see bs editorial on DA’s office in April) but haven’t written A SINGLE WORD about their own exodus. After 150 years as a downtown anchor, said “prize” is utterly silent.That’s why journalism is going down the tubes – because the journalists only tell the story they want to.

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