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GateHouse, Gannett to create newspaper giant

The Associated Press

The Taunton Daily Gazette newspaper office is seen in Taunton, Mass., on Monday.

The Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — Two of the largest U.S. newspaper companies have agreed to combine for roughly $1.4 billion, creating a new industry giant that hopes to manage the crisis of print’s decline through sheer size.

GateHouse Media, a fast-growing chain backed by an investment firm, is buying USA Today owner Gannett, promising to speed up a digital transformation as readers shift online. The companies say they are committed to “journalistic excellence” — while also cutting $300 million in costs every year.

The resulting company would be the largest U.S. newspaper company by far, with a print circulation of 8.7 million, 7 million more than the new No. 2, McClatchy.

Local papers, faced with the complex and expensive process of building digital businesses to replace declines in print ads and circulation, have been consolidating madly in recent years. Although papers with national readerships like The New York Times and The Washington Post have had success adding digital subscribers, local papers with local readerships find it much more difficult. Hundreds of such papers have closed, and newsrooms have slashed jobs.

According to a study by the University of North Carolina, the U.S. has lost almost 1,800 local newspapers since 2004. Newsroom employment fell by a quarter from 2008 to 2018, according to Pew Research, and layoffs have continued this year.

Both GateHouse and Gannett are known as buyers of other papers. Bulking up lets companies cut costs — via newsroom layoffs and other measures — and centralize operations. The combined company would have more than 260 daily papers in the U.S. along with more than 300 weeklies. Those cuts could give the owners “a cushion of time” to figure out how to improve their digital businesses, industry analyst Rick Edmonds wrote Sunday.

GateHouse’s owner, New Media, is taking on new debt to get the deal done — a $1.8 billion loan from private equity firm Apollo Global Management.Speech

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