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How Could GateHouse, Gannett Merger Impact Local News?

The Herald Times Building

GateHouse bought the Hoosier Times group, which includes the Herald-Times, earlier this year. (Steve Burns, WTIU/WFIU News)

Plans for GateHouse Media to acquire USA Today owner Gannett have some communities worried about the future of local news coverage.

The merger would result in the largest newspaper company in the country.

GateHouse bought the Hoosier Times newspaper group earlier this year, which includes the Bloomington Herald-Times and nine other southern Indiana newspapers.

Dean of Indiana University’s Media School Jim Shanahan says mergers of media giants like GateHouse and Gannett can impact local coverage.

"I think it’s fair to say a lot of people would be concerned about the effect of this on diversity of voices, quality of coverage, numbers of folks in newsrooms, that kind of stuff," Shanahan says. 

But Shanahan says consolidation can also be necessary to the survival of some newspapers.

A study from the University of North Carolina says the U.S. has lost nearly 1,800 newspapers since 2004. The report says about half of those that remain are in small, rural communities.

Shanahan says local papers often serve as watchdogs.

"If we look at communities that don’t have a real strong local news function, local governments will be free to act with a little more not looking over their shoulder about 'How are my constituents looking at what I’m doing,'" Shanahan says.  

The companies expect the merger to be official by the end of the year.

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