Mail merge

Gannett to merge Somerville and Medford weeklies

National news channel Gannet plans to cease print publication of 19 weekly newspapers in eastern massachusetts and merge nine other articles in four, from this month. Tufts host communities will have their papers – the transcript of Medford and the Somerville Journal – merged into one. The combined document will always be distributeded in the weekly press.

Following these transitions, Cambridge will remain one of only three cities in the state to have its own reporter Gannettwhile the neighboring towns of Arlington and Winchester will see their documents merged into one weekly publication.

This ad by Gannet – the the largest newspaper publisher in the country and parent company at USA Today — follows a national trend of caccumulation of corporate debts and closures of local newspapers. Job in the newsroom Across the country decreased by 26% Between 2008 and 2020. In Massachusetts only, 27% of newspapers folded between 2004 and 2019with overall circulation down 44%.

According to Gannett, the closures and mergers come in response to attransformed media landscape.

“Strategies for reaching our audiences have evolved significantly, as well as the capabilities of our digital platforms improved,” a Gannett Spokesperson wrote in an email to the Daily. “We remain committed to the future of local journalism and encourage our readers to continue to support our trusted, accurate and community-focused news sources across all of our platforms.”

How did we get there ?

Jon Chestothat covers business for the boston globedescribes the transitions in business ownership that, with the digitization of classified ads and the rise of social networks, to have contributed to this series of closures in an interview with the Daily.

At 191990s, Fidelity Investments owned many Massachusetts newspapers under the Community Newspaper Society Publisher. After being sold to Pat Purcell of the Boston Heraldthe newspapers were acquired by Liberty Group Publishing in 1998. Fortress Investment Group bought Freedom In 2005by renaming the company Gate House Media.

“The investment thesis then was that GateHouse would continue to buy newspapers and consolidate the business functions and [would] use this better buying power to negotiate better rates for newsprint and other expenses,” Chesto mentioned.

The acquisition of mass newspapers lasted only a short time. The Great Recession led to bankruptcy, after which point Guard house was renamed publicly listed New Media Investment Group. To finish, GateHouse acquired Gannett in 2019, taking the latter company’s name.

Chesto explained that this transition made publishers responding to investorsforcing them to continue higher profit margins.

“It’s unfortunate that these corporate-level machinations have a downstream impact on local news, but that’s exactly what happened.“, Chesto mentioned.

Erica Pereldirector of the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that private investment firms do not view information as their primary mission.

“[Investment companies] are betting that this industry is not a growth industry”, Perel mentioned. “But they will try to squeeze as much money out of it as possible while there is still some.”

Perel also describes the cyclical nature of newspaper sales. As corporations deprive newsrooms of resources, the quality of the papers decreases, contribute to decline in readershipshe says.

Executive Director of the Center for State Policy Analysis to Jonathan M. Tisch Evan Horowitz College of Civic Life added that the newspapers were not limited to the news.

“It’s not like older people really care about local politics,” Horowitz mentioned. “The story is that they cared about movie times, and they still care about movie times, but they don’t need to incorporate local politics into movie times.”

Local journalism and civic engagement

Perel says the loss of local journalism has been linked to drop in voter turnout.

“When a community loses its newspaper, especially if that newspaper was of high quality, … there is a loss of civic engagement. … people are less likely to vote,” she says.

Chesto said the wider community loses when newspapers close, a trend he says is worrying for democracy.

“You lose the general public. Activists will always be engaged, but in time the general public will take less and less interest in civic affairs,” Chesto mentioned. “Community affairs will be dominated by groups that have a certain inclination.”

According to Horowitz, local newspapers play a vital role in monitoring and follow-up.

“[Lack of local journalism] seems to increase corruption,” he said. “The great function [of newspapers] is really monitoring the politics in your city.

Despite these observations, Perel says it is important to consider shortcomings of journalism, citing institutional racism integrated into the medium-sized city heritage newspapers. Additionally, she explained that other forms of information — local radio, cable, television — can make up for some of the lost content.

To advance

Chesto said he believed the local journalism model could still have potential if it had the right sources of funding.

“The model can still work”, Chesto mentioned. “It’s… when you insist on having a profit margin that goes to a larger corporate entity, it becomes problematic. »

Chesto sees the promise in a non-profit model for journalism, where contributors can get a tax benefit by donating, though he acknowledged the model is not without its challenges. Chesto added that the subscription model – which the Boston Globe uses – provides a more rreliable source of funding.

Perel supports a “news ecosystem” model for its emphasis on collaboration and diversity of perspectives in media.

“I think very much about this idea of ​​a ‘news ecosystem’…where instead of having one monopolistic player in a market, you have multiple news outlets that somehow work together and all of which take a piece of the community’s history,” she says.

Creating a successful ecosystem model requires a change in mindset, Perel mentioned.

“Local media organizations traditionally see themselves as competitors, and that’s not really helpful because the competitor is Facebook and the competitor is Netflix and the competitor is Amazon. …in terms of ad revenue, attention and time,” she says.

The Tufts Community

The Medford Transcript and the Somerville Diary aren’t the only weeklies that cover Tufts’ home communities. Somerville’s time was free, locally owned weekly newspaper since late 60’s.

Bobbie Toner, publisher of the Somerville Times, says she understands why local newspapers had to close, citing increased printing costs and wages.

“Sometimes we forfeit our paycheck just to do it because…if there’s no advertising, then how do you pay the printers and everybody else?” she says.

Tonic — who handles the paper largely by itself — works closely with her editor and a team of committed columnists. She said the Somerville time had a full-time staff of at minus 10 people when it started, a number that has dropped to just two today. The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for the newspaper, which has reduced its page count and distribution capacity in response.

Despite the challenges of working in local journalism, Tonic said she is grateful to have the support of the community and continues to strive for the highest quality content possible.

That we have a paper [or] 10 papers, I will always have my mindset of trying to do the best I can,” Tonic mentioned.

In addition to Somerville timeinhabitants of Somerville and Medford can read The many student publications of Tuftswho occupy a range of news, literary and pop culture niches.

Chesto and Horowitz agreed, however, that cities the size of Medford and Somerville deserve professional journalists. They said that student journalism alone cannot shut down the gap in local news created by closures and mergers.

“The traditional operation of a student newspaper is that it serves as a kind of apprenticeship for people who want to become journalists,Horowitz mentioned. “And this is an extremely precious and important thing.

Perel added that student journalism has a unique opportunity to determine the information needs of young readers, encouraging student journalists to “[give] people what they need in a format they want.

She said that successful student journalists ffocus on their local communities instead of emulating national publications like The New York Times.

“[Have] a constant focus on the needs of your community,” Perel mentioned. “For too long, student media has tried to be a mini version of mainstream media, and mainstream media is failing, so we have to reinvent it.