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

GateHouse faces downsizing

Media Nation is picking up reliable buzz that GateHouse Media, which owns some 100 community newspapers in Eastern Massachusetts, will be announcing significant downsizing moves in the very near future.

GateHouse owns midsize dailies such as the MetroWest Daily News of Framingham, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy and the Enterprise of Brockton as well as scores of weeklies, from the Cambridge Chronicle, the Somerville Journal and the Newton Tab to tiny papers in the exurbs.

Not good news.

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  1. NewsHound

    Stock has gone from a low this year up 800 percent as of today’s close at 24 cents – not bad. Positive cash flow before interest (mostly to major stockholders who hold debt) and depreciation (non-cash – and who’d worry about wearing out and replacing a printing press these days?) Cutting back might result in many newspapers becoming financially healthy with more money to be gained owning stock because of cost cutting and improving profits. Of course, time will tell if their adapting methodology will pay off.

  2. Ron Newman

    Would it make sense to combine some of the neighboring community weeklies? The Allston-Brookline-Newton Tab? The Camberville Chronicle-Journal?

  3. luscious-purple

    Ahem … I’ve worked for several of the papers that have since been sucked up into the GateHouse vortex. Granted, that was in the era of Compugraphic, never mind the Internet, but still… I don’t see how any more people can possibly be cut. Granted, I don’t read these Wicked Local sites in depth every week because it’s been 20 years since I lived in Greater Boston, but does Lexington have only two GateHouse reporters covering it now? There used to be four in the not so distant past. Some towns seem to have one solitary journalistic soul. (Every time I click on “Contact,” I see many more advertising people listed. Hmm.)Don’t tell me that covering a town is easier now than it was 20 years ago, either. All those links for “Submit Obituary,” “Submit Letter to the Editor” and “Submit Engagement/Wedding/Birth Announcement” just generate a blank e-mail with [name of town] in the “To:” line. Somebody has to rewrite those obituaries coherently, make sure the letter writers are real people and proofread the social announcements to make sure we didn’t mix up the groom with his long-dead brother. Or don’t editors do that anymore — on top of covering all the town-government meetings, interviewing people for features, and dealing with the local gadflies who criticize every last little thing?

  4. endangered coffee

    There were only two reporters covering Lexington when I worked there almost a decade ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is down to one and an editor now. Reporters, we don’t need no stinkin’ reporters.

  5. Bryan Mahoney

    One reporter and one editor in the Lexington office these days. On Thursday, we get an intern.

  6. Bill H.

    GateHouse owns the Taunton Daily Gazette, once a fine old family-owned paper. It now passes as a parody of a newspaper: journalism as press release, oversize photographs, do-it-yourself obituaries; meanwhile softshell “human interest” stories have replaced the really significant local news, etc. If they close the Gazette, Taunton will be without a local newspaper for the first time since the 1840s, but what GateHouse does is hardly journalism.

  7. moxieboy

    I don’t believe GateHouse can cut anymore from it’s Massachusetts weeklies without shuttering some publications. I worked for the company until 2007. The majority of those publications are now one-person shows. They’ve yet to figure out a way to produce a paper without any people at all.It’s unfortunate. There are some really talented people at that company. The situations they are thrust into do not afford them the opportunity to shine as much as they should and could.

  8. endangered coffee

    Not only one person shows, if I remember, but some of the smaller combo papers had one person covering two towns.

  9. ShelT

    Must be unfavorable loan rates and losses incurred by dailies in Quincy and Brockton. Hard to believe weeklies in Needham, Lexington, etc. are losing money. They are lean-staffed, pay poorly (many of my former journalism students have passed through), and are laden with press releases, police logs, and other filler.

  10. luscious-purple

    I appreciate hearing from folks who have more recent knowledge of the GateHouse situation (we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of my leaving the last of those small newspapers — and they were all with different owners at the time). I too wonder if the losses are bigger at the dailies, although I’ll bet even the weeklies have been hurt by drops in classified ads. The last of the weeklies I worked for had an office in the town we covered, and people really treasured being able to walk into the office to place a classified ad. They were aghast when the classified-ad-taking function was relocated to the regional office in the next town over.Yes, there were some really talented people at those papers when I was there; a few have even been mentioned in this blog on occasion. They went on to bigger and better things. A couple are no longer with us.I’m sure it’s frustrating to some residents in GateHouse communities that reporters pass through so quickly and then leave, so that the local paper ends up with virtually no institutional memory. OTOH, people who are asked to work long hours for ridiculously low pay — and then face the slings and arrows that get hurled at them on a regular basis — cannot be blamed for pursuing more reasonable jobs. The stories I could tell about the hard work and the slights I received….I would take issue with the notion of the police log being just fller, though. It used to take real work to go through a week’s worth of police reports in a shot, and in some towns the log is the best-read section of the paper. I remember carting my portable manual typewriter to the “cop shop” to type up the log (instead of filling up a notebook with my handwriting) so that it would already be typed up for the typesetter (yes, this was a while ago).

  11. ShelT

    Didn’t mean to disparage police reporting. It’s an important part of a reporter’s job to comb through the police log and to remind officers now and again about “Open Record” laws.One small newspaper I worked for not only printed the widely read police log, but also listed divorces granted by the probate court. My point is that understaffed local papers would rather send a reporter to the police station than have him or her delve into municipal budget skullduggery and “executive session” intrigue among elected boards.

  12. wick

    coffee, we must know each other. i was working in the lex office at that same time. having worked for another one of gatehouse’s properties in more recent times, after leaving cnc, all i can say is godspeed to those left behind. my experience with gatehouse was not a pleasant one.

  13. endangered coffee

    hey wick, I was there for a pretty short time, basically around 99-2000 for about a year. I also worked for the beverly CNC paper in more recent years, as well as some other nonCNC, gatehouse papers (there are still a few out there)

  14. arthur

    Whenever I see the unsold copies of our local Gatehouse paper stacked up Wednesdays at local outlets, I wonder if their advertisers are aware of it or are they just told the press run ?

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