Bye Bye RG

The death of an independent paper

The death of a locally owned community newspaper isn’t a pretty sight, and unfortunately we’re watching it happen all across America, including right here in Lane County.

Based on stomach-wrenching day-one gutting of Register-Guard employees by its new general manager, GateHouse Media, it’s probably safe to say that the full story of the media juggernaut that’s scored a direct hit on our own community won’t be page one Register-Guard news. So it seems only fitting that Eugene Weekly should report on “Who’s Going or Gone at The Register-Guard” (3/1). Thank you, Eugene Weekly.

The departures listed in the Weekly were headed by the RG’s fairly new publisher, Logan Molen; Baker family managing editor, Dave Baker; and longtime editorial page editor, Jackman Wilson, who unfailingly wrote editorials with unadorned and straight-to-the-point words that provided readers with the clarity needed to understand complex issues.

The 17 others listed were also key players in the award-winning running of the business, including long-time investigative reporter Sherri Buri McDonald, who fully educated readers about every important issue she covered. Because EW reported that reporters and photographers have so far been retained, it’s probably safe to say that reporter Buri McDonald’s departure was voluntary, perhaps based on principle or another job, or both. It’s rumored the jobs of the nine copy editors listed were shipped to a central location in Texas. This jaw-dropping piece of work is vintage GateHouse management.

Japanese multinational corporation SoftBank Group Corp. in mid-February 2017 acquired Fortress Investment Group, the parent company of GateHouse, which is owned by New Media Investment Group, which is in turn managed by an affiliate of Fortress, giving SoftBank the entire portfolio of New Media’s community print publications, which at the time of acquisition totaled 564.

New Media’s website states that its strategy is “to acquire and operate traditional local media businesses and transform them from print-centric operations to dynamic multi-media operations, through our existing online advertising and digital marketing businesses.”

That explains the hiring of Shanna Cannon as the RG’s new publisher. According to records available to the general public, her newspaper experience centers on advertising. She started as an “ad-visor” while a student and continued on to positions that included national and major accounts manager, advertising director, and vice-president of advertising and general manager. In 2006 she was hired to replace the president and publisher of an E.W. Scripps Co. newspaper who’d been named Scripps’ advertising director. Scripps tagged Cannon as “an experienced newspaper publisher with a solid background in advertising sales and general management.” Scripps is on the same media-buy-up track as GateHouse/SoftBank.

The $3.3 billion SoftBank Group cash deal closed in December 2017. Also of particular note, SoftBank’s CEO met in December 2016 with newly elected president Donald Trump, pledging $50 billion and 50,000 new jobs in the United States. It’s unknown if the two events are related (“Japanese firm to buy GateHouse Media’s parent company for $3.3 billion,” Boston Business Journal, 2/17/2017).

Will the last Baker-family-hired employee who leaves please turn out the lights?

Nancy A. Olson has worked in the publishing industry for 30 years, 17 of them at The Register-Guard.

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