Gannett goes on a massive spree of closing and merging weekly newspapers

Photo via Max Pixel

Gannett is closing at least 19 print weekly newspapers serving at least 26 communities in Eastern Massachusetts, according to notices posted on those papers’ websites. In addition, nine weeklies are being merged into four.

“Local newspapers aren’t dying. They’re dead,” wrote Greg Reibman, president of the Charles River Regional Chamber and a former journalist at Gannett’s predecessor company, GateHouse Media.

The closings were announced with the same boilerplate language claiming that Gannett is committed to a bright digital future in which local news will be covered better than ever, children will play and every puppy will find a home. For instance, here’s a portion of the announcement published in the Bedford Minuteman:

This business decision reaffirms The Bedford Minuteman’s commitment to the sustainable future of local news. The Bedford Minuteman and its parent company, Gannett, understand many readers value and depend upon the news and information they find weekly in their print products. The company’s focus on digital news presentation helps ensure continued delivery of valuable community journalism and effective platforms for advertisers.

In fact, many of these titles have been zombie papers for quite some time, carrying little if any local news. And the current round of closures follows the revelation several weeks ago that staff reporters at nearly all of Gannett’s Massachusetts weeklies would be assigned to regional beats, pulling them off bread-and-butter coverage of local government and community events. The only weeklies not affected by that earlier change were the Cambridge Chronicle, the Old Colony Memorial of Plymouth and the Provincetown Banner.

Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the country, publishes more than 100 daily newspapers in 46 states, including the flagship USA Today. I can no longer even guess at how many weeklies it publishes, but in the not-too-distance past the number exceeded 1,000. As I’ve said before, I have no problem with moving to digital in order to save costs and invest in local journalism. But Gannett is cutting print and journalism simultaneously.

Fortunately, there are many sources of independently owned local news outlets in Massachusetts. Please support them.

The list of closures and mergers I’ve compiled may be incomplete. Over the past year, Gannett has whacked a number of print weeklies, so this is just the latest round. If you hear of any more, please let me know.

Closures

  • Bedford Minuteman
  • Beacon (Acton and Boxborough)
  • Beacon Villager (Maynard and Stow)
  • Billerica Minuteman
  • Brookline Tab
  • Burlington Union
  • Carver Reporter
  • Country Gazette (Bellingham)
  • Eagle-Independent (Chelmsford, Littleton and Westford)
  • Kingston Reporter
  • Needham Times
  • Newton Tab
  • Sudbury Town Crier
  • Waltham News Tribune
  • Watertown Tab
  • Wayland Town Crier
  • Weston Town Crier
  • Transcript & Bulletin (Dedham, Westwood and Norwood)
  • Times Advocate (Walpole and Sharon)

Mergers

  • Advocate & Star (Arlington Advocate and Winchester Star)
  • Coastal Mariner (Marshfield Mariner, Scituate Mariner and Cohasset Mariner)
  • Free Press & Advertiser (Saugus Advertiser and Melrose Free Press Observer)
  • Transcript & Journal (Medford Transcript and Somerville Journal)

5 thoughts on “Gannett goes on a massive spree of closing and merging weekly newspapers

  1. Laurence Kranich

    Gannett merged the West Roxbury and Roslindale Transcripts with the Allston-Brighton Tab around two years ago. Recently they closed the whole Transcript Tab print edition. They promised a continuation of local coverage and offered 6 months of access for $1. I took them up on it. I don’t think they’ve had a single story about West Roxbury, Roslindale, Allston, or Brighton since then. Usually their weekly newsletter has the exact same headlines as that of the previous week. It’s mostly a collection of irrelevant local stories from places like Plymouth and Franklin, and the occasional boilerplate regional story. It’s not even worth 16.7¢/a month.

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