With Gannett in retreat, could Patch step up? Or how about the TAPinto model?

I’m not going to keep doing this, but it’s only Week 2 of The Transcript & Journal. My capacity for outrage hasn’t faded away yet. So here it is.

The T&J, owned by the Gannett chain, is sent to people in Medford and Somerville who previously subscribed to the Medford Transcript or the Somerville Journal. There’s not a single Medford-specific story on the front, and the story about rats only glancingly mentions Somerville. The inside consists of press releases, a story about a dog park in Billerica, a report from State House News Service and an obit from Cambridge. Nothing on the mayor’s office, the city council, the school committee or the police department — not even a civil-rights complaint filed against the police several weeks ago, which even Patch managed to write up.

It would be amazing if Patch saw this as an opportunity to go back to its old formula, at least in some communities — one full-time journalist and a modest freelance budget. I doubt that’s going to happen, though. They seem happy with their current, profitable model in which one person produces content for multiple cities and towns. But who knows? I thought this was pretty encouraging:

I’d also love it if someone wanted to start a TAPinto site in Medford. TAPinto is a franchise model that allows entrepreneurs to get up and running very quickly with a local news site. Ellen Clegg and I recently interviewed TAPinto founder and CEO Michael Shapiro on the “What Works” podcast. If anyone wanted to start such a project here, I’d be happy to make introductions.

Our local Gannett weekly has given way to a mash-up of regional news

Like COVID or an overdue tax bill, the debut issue of The Transcript & Journal made its unwelcome appearance in our home earlier today. The weekly paper is a mash-up of Gannett’s Medford Transcript and Somerville Journal, a move that was announced earlier this year as part of the chain’s decision to eliminate 19 Massachusetts weeklies and merge nine others into four.

Last week’s final issue of the Medford Transcript had local news on the front page — a story about a debate among city council members on whether they should continue to meet weekly or switch to every other week and a report on efforts to build a replacement for (or substantially renovate) Medford High School.

But the front of The Transcript & Journal, as promised, replaces all that with regional news such as the Fair Share proposal to implement a statewide tax on millionaires and the opening of new restaurants in far-flung locales such as Brighton and Kingston. Meanwhile, there’s nothing on a story reported by The Boston Globe earlier this week on a civil-rights complaint filed against the Medford Police Department in which two Black residents say they were unlawfully stopped.

There is one Medford article on the front — a feature on a 10-year-old walking loop that recognizes the city’s historic landmarks. It’s a good story about something I wasn’t familiar with. It was also written by a journalism student at Endicott College. Now, journalism students are some of my favorite people. But we see what’s going on here, right?

And that’s it for the A section other than press releases, obituaries and a story about restaurants at the Burlington Mall. The B section, devoted to local sports, seems pretty much unchanged, but it was thin to begin with.

At a webinar earlier this week organized by the Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, Mizell Stewart III, vice president of news performance, talent and partnerships for Gannett and the USA Today Network, described the move as an attempt to drive digital subscriptions and to focus on local news that has a greater impact on people’s lives.

“Covering local news continues to be very labor intensive and very expensive,” Stewart said. The idea is to take “a more regional approach” and focus on “commonalities and trends.” But isn’t that why we have regional media like The Boston Globe, public radio and local TV newscasts?

This will not end well.