The trend over the past decade that saw large newspaper chains and hedge funds purchasing smaller local papers—including the 2019 acquisition of The Herald-Times by Gannett—may be reversing, according to a story published July 27 by the journalism industry website poynter.org.
According to Poynter, citing a story published originally by Northwestern University’s Medill Local News Initiative, Gannett, which owns more than 100 daily newspapers and nearly 1,000 weeklies, recently sold off 23 newspapers to local investors.
Bernie Szachara, president of U.S. publishing operations for Gannett, told Medill in an email: “Our mission is to empower communities, and our decisions are driven by our commitment to best serve them. Having been approached by prospective buyers, we’ve carefully considered what was best for both our company and the community, and we’re pleased that in several situations, a local owner will continue to lead these brands into the future.”
In the original story by Medill, Tim Franklin, senior associate dean and John M. Mutz Chair in Local News at Medill, says, “After decades of consolidation in local news ownership, we could be on the cusp of a back-to-the-future moment with more local operators, especially in smaller communities. … There are civic-minded investors who are concerned about lack of news in their communities after years of downsizings.”
South Bend, Indiana–based Schurz Communications sold The Herald-Times along with its other Indiana newspapers in January 2019 to GateHouse Media, a newspaper company controlled by hedge fund New Media Investment Group. In November 2019, New Media purchased Gannett and merged it with GateHouse Media to become the largest newspaper publisher in the U.S.