Good News for Gannett — and Us

Unexpected good news for Gannett, the U.S. newspaper (and other media) chain, arrived in the March/April issue of Columbia Journalism Review.

There, a story by David Cay Johnston, “Placing a Bet on USA Today,” described a recent strategy for both expanding readership for the firm’s national newspaper and bolstering readership for its numerous local newspaper outlets:

Front and center was Gannett’s Rochester (NY) daily, the Democrat and Chronicle.

Johnston details how the D&C, as it’s known locally, pioneered the initiative intended to offer readers national and international coverage while simultaneously freeing “up, and generat[ing], resources for more and better local news reporting and . . . to invest in the quality of its journalism.”

I’m no fan of USA Today. I’m a reader only while (very infrequently) staying at hotels providing free copies.

The paper’s intentionally clipped pace and terse coverage, in my view, offers the veneer of coverage while providing little.

Likewise, I’ve never believed the slogan that “less is more.” Less is less. And I’ve not once wanted less ice cream, less fun, less health care coverage or less money.

Nonetheless, I find myself in complete agreement with Johnston’s assessment of the Democrat and Chronicle: it “is much improved and has at times excelled.”

Frequently, if curiously, belittled by the locals, the D&C is, in fact, quite a good paper offering solid reporting and exceptional writers for local and regional news stories.

The D&C’s “Living” section I can take or leave and I remain perplexed by the lengthy (and ad absent) Sports section, especially when coverage of Business is thin, at best.

The recently reconfigured “A” section, focusing on local and regional news, typically gives readers three front page stories, each with depth and thoroughness.

Pulitzer Prize winner Johnston, a Rochester resident and professor at Syracuse University, shines a well-deserved bright light on a local journalism jewel. Both his story, and those presented by the D&C, are worth reading.

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