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Saturday, August 7, 2021

Corporate media and the death of local news

Corporations gutted local newspapers and then wondered why people stopped buying them.

Almost ALL Rhode Island newspapers owned by TWO media conglomerates. List provided below

By Jim Hightower 

Courtesy of Getty Images
Mega-investor Warren Buffett once held a big portfolio of daily and weekly newspapers.

He specialized in squeezing out competitors so each held a local monopoly. Then he’d chop staff and news content, letting him glean annual profit margins above 30 percent.

Alas for poor Warren, along came the internet, allowing people to root around for free to find local information missing from his hollowed out papers. They began losing readers, advertisers, and profits. So in 2020, Buffett sold out his entire portfolio.

But rather than concede that maybe his slash-and-burn, profit-maximization approach had produced inferior products, “The Oracle of Omaha” (as Wall Street had labeled him) blasted the whole idea of local newspapers as dinosaurs. They’re “toast,” he proclaimed.

But wait your Oracleness, when done right, local publications both chronicle and help shape a community’s story. And that’s a social benefit that’s as valuable — and as marketable — as ever.

It’s not that people have given up on local news, but that corporate-owned papers did. Many of them aren’t local, aren’t newsy, and aren’t of, by, or for the workaday people in our communities.

For example, nearly every corporate daily publishes a business section, which mostly amounts to yesterday’s stock prices, corporate press releases, and syndicated filler. Does even 1 percent of the population read that stuff?

Meanwhile, how about economic news of interest to the great majority of locals who are workaday families?

Where’s the regular section that digs into the area’s wages, job losses and openings, workplace conditions, childcare availability, unionizing efforts, and other real-life issues that confront this majority on a daily basis?

The relevant indicator of the wellbeing of nearly every American family is not the Dow Jones Average (which newspapers cover obsessively), but the Doug Jones Average. How are Doug and Donna doing? That’s news that would sell papers. 

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. Distributed by 

Rhode Island newspapers owned by conglomerates

Gannett/GateHouse Media Inc. 

Gannett/GateHouse Media Inc. was an American publisher of locally based print and digital media. It published 144 daily newspapers, 684 community publications, and over 569 local-market websites in 38 states. Its parent company, New Media Investment Group, merged with Gannett in 2019.

The Providence Journal of Providence, owned by GateHouse Media, covering all of Rhode Island

The Newport Daily News of Newport, owned by GateHouse Media, covering most of Newport County

Mercury, published monthly and owned by Gatehouse Media. An alternative weekly-style paper covering arts, entertainment and food in Newport and Middletown.

RISN Operations

RISN Operations also called Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers, is a privately owned publisher of three daily newspapers and several weekly newspapers in Rhode Island as well as in other states. The company was founded by Illinois-based newspaper executives in early 2007 to purchase the Rhode Island holdings of Journal Register Company, which it did for $8.3 million.

In 2013, RISN acquired the Yuma Sun and the Porterville Recorder from Freedom Communications.

In 2018, RISN acquired its former competitors South County Newspapers and its publications The Independent and South County Life from GateHouse Media, who had bought the papers from Edward A. Sherman Publishing in 2017.

In 2019, RISN acquired The Westerly Sun and Sun Publishing Company from the Record-Journal Publishing Company of Meriden, Connecticut. Also in 2019, RISN acquired The Union Democrat in California.

Here are all of RISN's Rhode Island newspapers: 

The Call of Woonsocket, owned by RISN Operations, covering northern Providence County

Kent County Daily Times of West Warwick, owned by RISN Operations, covering most of Kent County

The Times of Pawtucket, owned by RISN Operations, covering eastern Providence County

The Westerly Sun of Westerly, owned by RISN Operations, covering western Washington County

The Chariho Times of western Washington County

The Coventry Courier of Coventry

The East Greenwich Pendulum of East Greenwich

The Narragansett Times of Narragansett

The Standard-Times of North Kingstown

The Independent, covering South Kingstown, North Kingstown, Narragansett and The University of Rhode Island

The Express of Westerly