WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Is Hedge Fund Saving Small Town Papers or Decimating Them?

May 15, 2018

A story on NPR's Morning Edition last week reported GateHouse Media is thriving in the beleaguered newspaper industry. Critics say GateHouse makes money by decimating news operations, but the company said it is saving newspapers with efficiencies of scale.

Mike Reed, CEO of New Media Investment Group, which runs GateHouse, contended that imposing corporate efficiencies on small-town papers is breathing life into them.

Shop Talk panelist Will Buss worked at the GateHouse newspaper in Kewanee last summer. He said the company is not breathing life into that operation. Instead it greatly decimated the newsroom and its resources.  He said the newsroom is about one-third the size it was when he worked there nearly two decades ago.

Buss said GateHouse is emphasizing advertising and promotions in small town papers while de-emphasizing journalism, which is a disservice to communities.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said she has seen GateHouse ads that promote the local paper’s web services while making no mention of journalism.  She doesn’t have a problem with the company making money but she feels its practices are hurting journalism and killing morale in its newsrooms.

Panelist Rich Egger said journalism does not seem to be part of the company’s mission.  He said that turns small communities into news deserts and discourages young people from pursuing careers in journalism.  He feels it’s similar to what’s happened with small radio stations that have cut staff sizes and produce little (if any) local news content. 

Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.