With a population just north of 200,000, Worcester is the second largest city in New England; surrounding Worcester County is home to more than four times that number of residents. Yet the 157-year-old Telegram & Gazette, the daily newspaper of record in Central Massachusetts, has lost most of its paid readership under the ownership of Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper chain.
According to Statements of Ownership that the T&G filed with the U.S. Postal Service on Oct. 1, average weekday paid circulation of the print edition stands at 8,698. The paper also reported an average of 4,133 paid electronic copies for a total paid average weekday circulation of 12,831. On Sundays, the numbers are 12,403 for print, 4,054 for electronic, and 16,457 for total paid average circulation. And as I pointed out the other day, digital circulation is reported using guidelines from the Alliance for Audited Media, which are somewhat inflated since AAN allows for some double-counting of print and digital.
Ten years ago, the T&G enjoyed paid circulation (print plus digital) of 74,000 on weekdays and 78,000 on Sundays, according to a story published just after then-new owner John Henry visited the paper’s offices, which means that circulation is down about 80% over the past decade. The aftermath of that meeting proved to be contentious, with T&G folks coming away from it believing that Henry — who acquired the paper as part of his purchase of The Boston Globe — had promised not to sell unless he could find a local buyer.
“It’s good to hear John Henry is focused on finding the right owner for the newspaper,” T&G publisher Bruce Gaultney was quoted as saying after meeting with Henry.
Henry later told me that he believed he’d promised only that he wouldn’t sell to GateHouse Media chain, which was notorious for laying off journalists and slashing coverage. Henry ended up selling to a Florida chain, which in turned handed it off to GateHouse, now Gannett. And Gannett has gutted the T&G, as it has so many of its properties.
Worcester is not a news desert. It has a number of other outlets, including the Worcester Business Journal, MassLive, the fledgling nonprofit Worcester Guardian, a GBH News bureau and several smaller outlets, including a lively aggregation service called The016. The once-mighty Telegram & Gazette, though, is barely a shadow of its former self.