The Journal News is part of the Gannett newspaper chain of 82 dailies. Many of those papers have distinguished histories as the journalistic pillars of their communities. But in recent years, Gannett has become a conservative company that eschews controversy; to the extent it has been in the news in the past few years, the reports have been about the business reverses and accompanying rounds of layoffs and furloughs it has suffered amid the general decline of the newspaper business. Although Gannett has recently received some good press for increasing revenue by charging for its websites’ content, the news has still been about Gannett’s business, not its journalism. Yet now, Gannett, through the Journal News, has stepped front and center into America’s highly charged post-Newtown debate over guns.
So far, although the Journal News’s publisher has publicly supported her editor’s decision to publish the gun permit story and website map, I haven’t come across any statements one way or another from Gannett’s corporate officers. I would love to see a story about how the company is handling this.
For starters, did anyone at the Journal News check with the home office before running the story, or even offer a heads-up in advance of what those involved had to know would be a firestorm of controversy? What policies are in place, if any, for how the parent company deals with locally generated controversy?
In the aftermath of the story, gun rights supporters have tried to organize a boycott of not only Journal News advertisers but of all of Gannett’s newspapers and even its 23 television outlets. How is Gannett trying to deal with that? Is the apparent silence so far from headquarters part of the strategy? Does America’s most prominent newspaper chain have a media strategy that includes ducking the press?
Similarly, who is making what decisions, on what basis, about how Gannett’s flagship national newspaper, USA Today, is covering the Journal News controversy? USA Today ran this straight news story last week, but I’m wondering what extra levels of review, if any, it got before it was published.
3. The Al Jazeera buyout of Current:
Can’t some reporter get more details on how the $500 million Al Jazeera is reportedly paying for Current is actually getting split up among the owners? How can it be possible, as has been reported, that former Vice President Al Gore stands to get $100 million because he had a 20 percent interest in news and talk channel Current.
Assuming Gore didn’t put any money up in the first place, wasn’t his equity payable only after the real investors got their money out (with some interest, I assume) off the top? In other words, if, say, $300 million had been invested in Current over its six years of losses (including expensive contracts to people like former anchor Keith Olbermann), then the investors would first get that $300 million back, plus, let’s say, $30 million in interest. That would leave $170 million, of which Gore would receive his reported 20 percent, or $34 million. Still not bad for a colossal business failure, but I do wish the reporting on stuff like this was a bit more sophisticated.
One more angle on the Current deal: What’s going to happen with Olbermann’s $70 million suit against Current and the counterclaim brought by Current against him? (I wrote about it last August, noting all the juicy charges in the dueling court papers.) Al Jazeera’s owner, the government of Qatar, doesn’t seem to care much about writing big checks. So did the buyers agree to pick up that potential, albeit dubious, liability from Gore and company? And will they now just write a check to get rid of Olbermann, making the Al Jazeera deal not only a booby prize bonanza for Gore but for Olbermann, too?