New Jersey newspaper group buys four Central Mass. weeklies from Gannett

Millbury Town Hall, 1900. Photo (cc) 2017 by the State Library of Massachusetts.

Some really good news for Central Massachusetts: a small but growing newspaper chain based in New Jersey is buying four weeklies from Gannett. The sale of The Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, The Grafton News, The Landmark of Holden and the Leominster Champion to CherryRoad Media gives all four of them a new lease on life — literally in the case of The Landmark, which had been scheduled to shut down Sept. 15, David Dore reports in the Chronicle.

According to the CherryRoad website, the company “is focused on using technology to strengthen communities through their local newspapers. We believe the newspaper is an essential resource for developing strong communities. By using technology, we can supplement the printed newspaper with enhanced digital capabilities.”

“Very welcome journalism news in a place in need of it,” tweeted Mark Henderson, whose aggregation project The 016 tracks local media in the Worcester area.

In her recent “State of Local News” report, Northwestern University journalism professor Penny Abernathy identified the rise of regional chains such as CherryRoad as being among the trends to watch as money-losing Gannett unloads newspapers. “Two-thirds of the 82 papers Gannett sold in the past two years were snapped up by two regional chains, CherryRoad Media and Paxton,” she wrote. “Six of the 10 largest owners in 2022 are regional chains, with between 50 and 142 papers in their growing empire.”

Now, though, it appears that CherryRoad can no longer be regarded as a regional chain. Most of its 71 papers (including three it acquired in Michigan just last week) are in the central part of the country, from Minnesota to Texas. The Massachusetts papers are its first on the East Coast. There are plenty of other communities in Massachusetts that need reliable local news coverage, so I hope we see more. There’s no substitute for local ownership, but a chain that’s actually committed to local journalism is surely the next best thing.

Last fall, my “What Works” co-conspirator Ellen Clegg wrote about CherryRoad’s move into Minnesota.

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