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Gannett Co., Inc.

Gannett Co., Inc.

1100 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22234
U.S.A.
(703) 284-6000
Fax: (703) 558-4638
Web site: http://www.gannett.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1923
Employees: 39,400
Sales: $5.12 billion (1998)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: GCI
NAIC: 51111 Newspaper Publishers; 51312 Television Broadcasting

The largest newspaper group in the United States, Gannett Co., Inc. owns 75 daily newspapers, including USA TODAY, the largest-selling daily newspaper in the country. Gannett also owns more than 20 television stations covering roughly 17 percent of the United States. Although the companys focus is primarily on its newspaper and broadcasting properties, it operates a news service and is also involved in commercial printing, telemarketing, data services, and news programming. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Gannett maintains offices in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the United Kingdom.

Origins

Gannett was the brainchild of Frank Gannett, who paid his way through Cornell University by running a news correspondence syndicate; when he graduated he had $1,000 in savings. Gannett got into the media business in 1906 when he and several associates bought the Elmira Gazette in Elmira, New York, with $3,000 in savings, $7,000 in loans, and $10,000 in notes. They bought another local paper and merged them to form the Star-Gazette, beginning a pattern of mergers to increase advertising power that the company would follow throughout its history. Six years later, in 1912, Gannett bought the Ithaca Journal, beginning his toehold in upper New York state. The company gradually built up a portfolio of 19 New York dailies by 1989.

In 1918 Gannett and his team moved to Rochester, New York, a city whose papers would turn out to be among the companys strongest. Many of Gannetts rising executives were groomed at the Rochester papers. The group purchased two newspapers upon their arrival and merged them into the Times Union. The papers holdings were consolidated under the name Empire State Group. In 1921 the Observer-Dispatch of Utica, New York, was acquired. In 1923 Gannett bought out his partners interests in the Empire State Group and the six newspapers the group then owned, and formed Gannett Co., Inc. Gannett appointed Frank Tripp general manager. Tripp helped run the everyday business of the papers, and the two were close allies for years. The Northeast was Gannetts focus for the next 25 years, and the company expanded aggressively with acquisitions there. Another key executive, Paul Miller, joined the company in 1947, becoming Gannetts executive assistant. By then, the company operated 21 newspapers and radio stations.

The companys role as a leader in technology began in 1929, when Frank Gannett co-invented the teletypesetter. Gannett newsrooms were among the first to use shortwave radios to gather reports from distant sources. In 1938, before color was used much in newspapers, many Gannett presses were adapted for color; with its USA Today, the company would continue to be a leader in color use. Other advantages included a corporate plane that helped reporters get to the site of news quickly. Frank Gannett died in 1957, but not before he saw Miller named president and chief executive officer. Miller oversaw the companys expansion from a regional to a national chain in the next decade.

Gannett News Service, as the company became known, was founded in 1942 as Gannett National Service. The wire service subsidiary provided the companys local papers with national stories from Washington, D.C., and 13 bureaus. The stories often featured a local angle or local sources. A television news bureau was added in 1982. Through all these years, Gannett grew by buying existing newspaper and radio and TV stations. In 1966 it founded its first newspaper, Florida Today. It was the work of Allen Neuharth, who later was to become the founder of USA Today. Neuharth brought the new paper to profitability in 33 months, an incredible feat in the newspaper business, according to analysts. Because the paper was near the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), it was dubbed Floridas Space Age Newspaper. The paper was ultimately redesigned to emphasize state and local news and was promoted and sold with USA Today, which provided national and international coverage.

Gannett went public in 1967. In 1970 Miller assumed the title of chairman, and Neuharth was promoted to president and chief operating officer from executive vice-president, making him the heir-apparent to the top position in the company. Neuharth went on an acquisition spree, leading the company to its current size and status in the media world. He became chief executive officer in 1973 and chairman in 1979.

1970s: Growth Through Acquisitions

Two notable mergers were those with Federated Publications in 1971 and with Speidel Newspaper Group in 1977. Two years later, Gannett merged with Combined Communications, the biggest such merger in the industry at that time, for $400 million. The Evening News Association joined the Gannett family later when Gannett bought it for $700 million. One near merger was with Ridder Publications. That companys president, Bernard H. Ridder, Jr., was a golfing mate of Miller. Ridder had concluded that the only way his small, family-held companys stock would ever reach its full potential was for Ridder Publications to merge with a big media company. The two talked, but Ridder proved to be more interested in Knight Newspapers because it had less geographic overlap with Ridder than did Gannett. But in 1989 Gannett and Knight-Ridder implemented a joint operating agency to combat the decline in newspaper advertising revenues in Detroit, Michigan. The cooperative venture was the largest ever merging of two competing newspapers business operations. The arrangement called for the Knight-Ridders Free Press and Gannetts Detroit News to divide revenues equally. Since Gannett held more of Detroits market share before the merger, it took a loss during the ventures first year, 1990.

In 1986 Neuharth retired as chief executive officer, passing the baton to John Curley. Curley had been president and chief operating officer since 1984; he joined Gannett in 1970. Curley took on the title of chairman in 1989. A newsman like most of Gannetts heads, Curley was editor and publisher of several Gannett papers and was founding editor of USA Today.

Neuharth continued as chairman of the Gannett Foundation, which was established in 1935 by Frank Gannett to promote free press, freedom of information and better journalism, adult literacy, community problem-solving, and volunteerism. Neuharth spent as freely at the foundation as he had at the company, giving $28 million to various programs in 1989 alone. Despite criticism from some Gannett newspaper executives, Neuharth also oversaw the Foundations move from Rochester, New York, to Arlington, Virginia, where USA Todays offices were located. Interior design of the charitys new headquarters ran to $15 million.

With expenses rising faster than assets, Neuharth sold the Foundations ten percent share of Gannett Co. back to the company for $670 million. On July 4, 1991, the philanthropys name was changed to the Freedom Forum, and its mission was changed to focus on First Amendment and other strictly journalistic issues. Gannett Co. created a $5 million fund to replace money withdrawn from the Gannett Foundations more community-oriented charities. Other accomplishments of the company in the early 1990s included: increasing the companys use of recycled newsprint to 20 percent of total usage, over 180,000 tons; being named one of the United States top 20 places for African Americans to work; and becoming the first news service to syndicate a weekly newspaper column dedicated exclusively to gay and lesbian issues.

Neuharth had said in 1982 when he started USA Today that it would begin making annual profits in three to five years. By 1990 the paper had had quarterly profits but never a full year of profitability. Between 1982 and 1990, USA Today sapped the company of an estimated $500 million. September 1992 marked ten unprofitable years for USA Today. But with 6.6 million readers daily, the United States most widely read newspaper also celebrated record advertising and circulation revenues. USA Today executives claimed that had the U.S. economy not been in recession, the paper would have been in the black by 1990. Fortunately, the rest of Gannetts business was strong enough to offset USA Todays annual losses. Curley, the papers president and publisher, hoped that cost-containment measures, lower newsprint prices, and other savings in the production-distribution process would bring USA Today into profitability.

The year 1991 was Gannetts most difficult since the company went public in 1967. The company slipped from second to third in rankings of the top U.S. media concerns as a result of Time Warners leapfrog to first place. Annual revenues dropped two percent and net income was down 20 percent from the year before. Fifty-five of Gannetts 86 local dailies raised circulation prices, and circulation barely rose.

Yet the national daily newspaper was another demonstration of Gannetts leadership role in the use of technology, as well as journalism. The paper also was an innovator in graphics, especially in the use of color. Media observers credited USA Todays use of color as the spur for industrywide interest in color graphics. The copy for the paper was composed and edited at USA Todays Arlington, Virginia, headquarters, then transmitted via satellite to 36 printing plants in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Company Perspectives:

Strategic vision: Create and expand quality products through innovation; Make acquisitions in news, information and communications and related fields that make strategic and economic sense.

$5 Billion in Revenues: 1990s

Gannetts most significant activity during the 1990s took place in the divestiture and acquisition arena, an area that some observers believed the company needed to explore more fully. Critics contended that Gannett, renowned for its financially conservative approach, should loosen its purse strings and adopt a more aggressive acquisition strategy. Confronted with suggestions that the company should purchase a movie studio or a television network, Gannett management demurred, preferring to keep its focus set on its core businesses. We arent complicated people, Curley informed the Wall Street Journal in late 1995. We like newspapers and TV stations. If you run them very well, they can do very well.... Despite the companys penchant for financial discipline and its steadfast adherence to its existing businesses, the 1990s saw Gannett explore new business opportunities and express more than a modicum of acquisitive might.

Gannett began the process of adding and paring away businesses in 1995. That year, the company shouldered past rival bidders such as Ellis Broadcasting and NBC in its $1.7 billion acquisition of Greensville, South Carolina-based Multimedia, Inc. The acquisition gave Gannett 11 daily newspapers, 50 other newspaper publications, five network-affiliated television stations, two radio stations, and production and syndication control for television shows hosted by Phil Donahue, Sally Jesse Raphael, Rush Limbaugh, and Jerry Springer. The acquisition of Multimedia also ushered Gannett into the cable business, giving the company 450,000 cable television subscribers. As the company delved into the previously foreign territory of operating cable television systems and controlling television programming, it withdrew from two other businesses. In 1996 the company sold its outdoor advertising division to Outdoor Systems of Phoenix, divesting the business to free its resources for the development of its newspaper and broadcast properties and to facilitate the incorporation of the Multimedia properties into its fold. Louis Harris & Associates, Gannetts polling subsidiary, also was sold in 1996, a year that saw the company enter into a joint venture with Knight-Ridder and Landmark Communications to form an Internet service provider called InfiNet, created to help publish newspapers online.

Deal-making continued to predominate at Gannett headquarters as the company entered the late 1990s. The company had exchanged six of its radio stations for a television station in Tampa, Florida, in 1996; in 1998, it exited the business entirely by selling its remaining five radio stations to Evergreen Media. As the companys radio properties disappeared, the number of its television stations increased with the acquisition of three stations in Maine and South Carolina. Before the end of the decade, the company completed two more significant deals, which, in keeping with the trend established in the 1990s, included a divestiture and an acquisition. In 1999, the company sold the cable assets obtained in the Multimedia acquisition. According to company officials, the decision to divest the cable properties was not based on a strategic decision, but represented an opportunity to realize a significant profit. Gannett sold the cable business to Cox Communications for $2.7 billion, a move that the companys treasurer described as a grand-slam deal in the July 31, 1999 issue of Editor & Publisher. In a separate announcement, Gannett revealed that it was acquiring 95 percent of Newsquest plc, the largest regional newspaper publisher in England.

The cumulative effect of the acquisitions and divestitures completed during the latter half of the 1990s lifted Gannetts revenues above $5 billion by the end of the decade. Although the company shied away from headlong leaps into other areas of the media industryunlike many of its competitorsGannetts consistent record of financial growth suggested that there was no pressing need to develop into a comprehensive, broadly diversified media conglomerate. For Gannett, the future held no greater prospect than maintaining its stature as the largest newspaper group in the United States, an objective management intended to fulfill by remaining tightly focused and conservative in its leadership during the 21st century.

Principal Subsidiaries

Gannett Direct Marketing Services, Inc.; Gannett News Service; Gannett National Newspaper Sales; Gannett Telemarketing, Inc.; USA Today; Newsquest plc (95%); Gannett Offset; Multimedia Cablevision; Gannett Newspaper Agency (50%); Gannett Media Technologies International; Gannett New Business Product Development; Gannett Retail Advertising Group; Gannett U.K. Limited.

Further Reading

Boulton, Guy, Gannett Co., Nations Largest Newspaper Chain, to Acquire Multimedia Inc., Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, December 3, 1995, p. 12030214.

Calabro, Lori, Douglas McCorkindale: Confessions of a Dealmaker, CFO: The Magazine for Senior Financial Executives, March 1991.

Case, Tony, Two Old Marketplace Enemies End Up the Best of Partners, MEDIAWEEK, March 15, 1999, p. 18.

Cosco, Joseph, Loyal to the Core, Journal of Business Strategy, March-April 1996, p. 42.

Cose, Ellis, The Press, New York: Morrow, 1989.

Crain, Ranee, Readers Find Newspapers Boring... Dull, Advertising Age, September 14, 1992.

Donaton, Scott, Media Reassess As Boomers Age, Advertising Age, July 15, 1991.

Endicott, R. Craig, 100 Leading Media Companies, Advertising Age, August 10, 1992.

Fisher, Christy, A Decade of USA Today: Color It Red, Advertising Age, August 31, 1992.

Fitzgerald, Mark, Stockholder Proposal Seeks Closing of USA Today, Editor & Publisher, April 4, 1992, p. 12.

Foust, Dean, Patching the Cracks in the House That Al Built, Business Week, December 16, 1991.

Gannett: USAs Tomorrow, Economist, November 25, 1989.

Garneau, George, A Flat Year Expected for 1992, Editor & Publisher, the Fifth Estate, January 4, 1992.

________, Gannett Foundations Revised Mission, Editor & Publisher, the Fifth Estate, June 8, 1991.

________, Newspaper Financial Reports, Editor & Publisher, the Fifth Estate, August 8, 1992.

Goldsmith, Jill, Cox to Buy Gannett Biz for $2.7 Bil., Variety, August 2, 1999, p. 25.

Henderson, Barry, Gannett to Sell Off Recently Acquired Cable Systems, The Kansas City Business Journal, September 1, 1995, p. 3.

Kerwin, Ann Marie, Advice for the Next Century: Future Role of Newspapers Discussed by Panel, Editor & Publisher, the Fifth Estate, August 8, 1992.

McClellan, Steve, Multimedia Buy Boosts Gannett into Top 10, Broadcasting & Cable, July 31, 1995, p. 36.

Moses, Lucia, Gannett to Shed Cable Business, Editor & Publisher, July 31, 1999, p. 18

Mott, Frank Luther, American Journalism: A History, 16901960, New York: Macmillan, 1962.

Powell, Dave, Technology and Imagination Are the Stuff from Which Businesses Can Be Built, Networking Management, March 1991.

Rengers, Carrie, Where Gannett Went Wrong, Arkansas Business, October 19, 1992, p. 22.

Sacharow, Anya, The Merger, MEDIAWEEK, November 27, 1995, p. 12.

Lisa Collins and April Dougal

updated by Jeffrey L. Covell

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Gannett Co., Inc.

Gannett Co., Inc.

1100 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22234
U.S.A.
(703) 284-6000
Fax: (703) 276-5548

Public Company
Incorporated: 1923
Employees: 36,700
Sales: $3.38 billion
Stock Exchanges: New York
SICs: 2711 Newspapers; 4832 Radio Broadcasting Stations; 4833 Television Broadcasting Stations; 7312 Outdoor Advertising Services

Gannett Co., Inc., is the United Statess largest newspaper group. In 1991 the company owned 81 daily newspapers (including its flagship USA Today), more than 50 nondaily publications, and the weekly newspaper magazine USA Weekend, among other holdings. Gannetts dailies boast a total average paid circulation of over 6.2 million, more than any other newspaper group. The company also has owned and operated ten television stations, eight FM radio stations, and seven AM radio stations, many of which are in major markets. In addition, its Gannett Outdoor was the largest outdoor-advertising group in North America.

Gannett has been a leader in the application of technology and in media issues since its founding in 1906. It continues to be a leader todayalbeit a more controversial onelargely because of USA Today and former chairman Allen Neuharth. Current chairman John Curley wants to maintain the companys industry leadership role but takes a less flashy approach than his predecessor. He is also focusing more on the bottom line.

Gannett is the brainchild of Frank Gannett, who paid his way through Cornell University by running a news-correspondence syndicate; when he graduated he had $1,000 in savings. Gannett got into the media business in 1906 when he and several associates bought the Elmira Gazette in Elmira, New York, with $3,000 in savings, $7,000 in loans, and $10,000 in notes. They bought another local paper and merged them to form the Star-Gazette, beginning a pattern of mergers to increase advertising power that the company would follow throughout its history. Six years later, in 1912, Gannett bought the Ithaca Journal, beginning his toehold in upper New York state. The company gradually built up a portfolio of 19 New York dailies by 1989.

In 1918 Gannett and his team moved to Rochester, New York, a city whose papers would turn out to be among the companys strongest. Many of Gannetts rising executives were groomed at the Rochester papers. The group purchased two newspapers upon their arrival and merged them into the Times-Union. The papers holdings were consolidated under the name Empire State Group. In 1921 the Observer-Dispatch of Utica, New York, was acquired. In 1923 Gannett bought out his partners interests in the Empire State Group and the six newspapers the group then owned, and formed Gannett Co., Inc. Gannett appointed Frank Tripp general manager. Tripp helped run the everyday business of the papers, and the two were close allies for years. The Northeast was Gannetts focus for the next 25 years, and the company expanded aggressively with acquisitions there. Another key executive, Paul Miller, joined the company in 1947, becoming Gannetts executive assistant. By then, the company operated 21 newspapers and radio stations.

The companys role as a leader in technology began in 1929, when Frank Gannett co-invented the teletypesetter. Gannett newsrooms were among the first to use shortwave radios to gather reports from distant sources. In 1938, before color was used much in newspapers, many Gannett presses were adapted for color; with its USA Today, the company would continue to be a leader in color use. Other advantages included a corporate plane that helped reporters get to the site of news quickly. Frank Gannett died in 1957, but not before he saw Miller named president and chief executive officer. Miller oversaw the companys expansion from a regional chain to a national one in the next decade.

Gannett News Service, as it became known as, was founded in 1942 as Gannett National Service. The wire service subsidiary provides the companys local papers with national stories from Washington, D.C., and 13 bureaus. The stories often have a local angle or local sources. A television news bureau was added in 1982. Through all these years, Gannett grew by buying existing newspaper and radio and TV stations. In 1966 it founded its first newspaper, Florida Today. It was the work of Allen Neuharth, who later was to become the founder of USA Today. Neuharth brought the new paper to profitability in 33 months, an incredible feat in the newspaper business, according to analysts. Because the paper was near the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), it was dubbed Floridas Space Age Newspaper. The paper has since been redesigned to emphasize state and local news and is promoted and sold with USA Today, which provides national and international coverage.

Gannett went public in 1967. In 1970 Miller assumed the title of chairman, and Neuharth was promoted to president and chief operating officer from executive vice-president, making him the heir-apparent to the top position in the company. Neuharth went on an acquisition spree, leading the company to its current size and status in the media world. He became chief executive officer in 1973 and chairman in 1979.

Two notable mergers were those with Federated Publications in 1971 and with Speidel Newspaper Group in 1977. Two years later, Gannett merged with Combined Communications, the biggest such merger in the industry at that time, for $400 million. The Evening News Association joined the Gannett family later when Gannett bought it for $700 million. One near-merger was with Ridder Publications. That companys president, Bernard H. Ridder, Jr., was a golfing mate of Miller. Ridder had concluded that the only way his small, family-held companys stock would ever reach its full potential was for Ridder Publications to merge with a big media company. The two talked, but Ridder proved to be more interested in Knight Newspapers because it had less geographic overlap with Ridder than did Gannett. But in 1989 Gannett and Knight-Ridder implemented a joint operating agency to combat the decline in newspaper advertising revenues in Detroit, Michigan. The cooperative venture was the largest-ever merging of two competing newspapers business operations. The arrangement called for the Knight-Ridders Free Press and Gannetts Detroit News to divide revenues equally. Since Gannett held more of Detroits market share before the merger, it took a loss during the ventures first year, 1990.

Some industry critics have warned that media consolidation, such as Gannetts 1970s acquisitions, thwarts open debate and the exchange of ideas. Gannett defenders, however, claim that chain newspapers can be just as vigorous in promoting and defending the rights of a free press as independent newspapers. In an effort to illustrate that point, Gannett started its News 2000 project to preserve and advance First Amendment rights and develop a more positive image for newspapers in the process.

In 1986 Neuharth retired as chief executive officer, passing the baton to John Curley. Curley had been president and chief operating officer since 1984; he joined Gannett in 1970. Curley took on the title of chairman in 1989 and still headed the company in 1993. Curley, a newsman, as most of Gannetts heads have been, was editor and publisher of several Gannett papers and was founding editor of USA Today.

Neuharth continued as chairman of the Gannett Foundation, which was established in 1935 by Frank Gannett to promote free press, freedom of information and better journalism, adult literacy, community problem-solving, and volunteerism. Neuharth spent as freely at the foundation as he had at the company, giving $28 million to various programs in 1989 alone. Despite criticism from some Gannett newspaper executives, Neuharth also oversaw the Foundations move from Rochester, New York, to Arlington, Virginia, where USA Todays offices are located. Interior design of the charitys new headquarters ran at $15 million.

With expenses rising faster than assets, Neuharth sold the Foundations ten percent share of Gannett Co. back to the company for $670 million. On July 4, 1991, the philanthropys name was changed to the Freedom Forum, and its mission was changed to focus on First Amendment and other strictly journalistic issues. Gannett Co. created a $5 million fund to replace money withdrawn from the Gannett Foundations more community-oriented charities. Other accomplishments of the company in the early 1990s include: increasing the companys use of recycled newsprint to 20 percent of total usage, over 180,000 tons; being named one of the United States top 20 places for African-Americans to work; and becoming the first news service to syndicate a weekly newspaper column dedicated exclusively to gay and lesbian issues.

Neuharth had said in 1982 when he started USA Today that it would begin making annual profits in three to five years. By 1990 the paper had had quarterly profits but never a full year of profitability. Between 1982 and 1990, USA Today sapped the company of an estimated $500 million. And September of 1992 marked ten unprofitable years for USA Today. But with 6.6 million readers daily, the United States most widely read newspaper also celebrated record advertising and circulation revenues. USA Today executives claim that had the U.S. economy not been in recession, the paper would have been in the black by 1990. Fortunately, the rest of Gannetts business was strong enough to offset USA Todays annual losses. Curley, the papers president and publisher, hoped that cost-containment measures, lower newsprint prices, and other savings in the production-distribution process would bring USA Today into profitability.

1991 was Gannetts most difficult year since the company went public in 1967. The company slipped from second to third in rankings of the United States top media concerns as a result of Time Warners leapfrog to first place. Annual revenues dropped 2 percent and net income was down 20 percent from the year before. Fifty-five of Gannetts 86 local dailies raised circulation prices, and circulation barely rose.

Yet the national daily newspaper was another demonstration of Gannetts leadership role in the use of technology, as well as journalism. The paper has also been an innovator in graphics, especially in the use of color. Media observers credit USA Todays use of color as the spur for industry-wide interest in color graphics. The copy for the paper is composed and edited at USA Todays Arlington, Virginia, headquarters, then transmitted via satellite to 36 printing plants in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

After the firms buying binge under Neuharth, analysts say it is likely that Gannett will take a slower pace in the next several years. In 1990 it purchased Montanas Great Falls Tribune from Cowles Media for $41 million, making it the companys 83rd daily paper. There are fewer great deals to be made on newspaper acquisitions in recent years, however, so Gannett has been working to improve the profitability and journalistic performance of its current holdings.

In the 1990s Gannett has sought to improve its financial performance by catering to both ends of the media spectrum: consumers and advertisers. For consumers raised on television who say they find newspapers boring, Gannetts flagship, USA Today, offers concise stories. The company also has been encouraging its local dailies to use more graphics and briefer stories. Advertisers are drawn to the print medias comparatively low costs and to USA Todays 1.7 million week-day and 2.2 million weekend circulation.

Principal Subsidiaries

Gannett Direct Marketing Services, Inc.; Gannett News Service; Gannett Outdoor; Louis Harris & Associates; Gannett National Newspaper Sales; Gannett Telemarketing, Inc.; USA Today Update; USA Today Books.

Further Reading

Mott, Frank Luther, American Journalism: A History, 1690-1960, New York, Macmillan, 1962; Cose, Ellis, The Press, New York, Morrow, 1989; Gannett: USAs Tomorrow, Economist, November 25, 1989; Calabro, Lori, Douglas McCorkindale: Confessions of a Dealmaker, CFO: The Magazine for Senior Financial Executives, March 1991; Powell, Dave, Technology and Imagination Are the Stuff from Which Businesses Can be Built, Networking Management, March 1991; Garneau, George, Gannett Foundations Revised Mission, Editor & Publisher, the Fifth Estate, June 8, 1991; Donaton, Scott, Media Reassess as Boomers Age, Advertising Age, July 15, 1991; Foust, Dean, Patching the Cracks in the House that Al Built, Business Week, December 16, 1991; Garneau, George, A Flat Year Expected for 1992, Editor & Publisher, the Fifth Estate, January 4, 1992; Case, Tony, Life from a Gay Perspective, Editor & Publisher, the Fifth Estate, July 11, 1992; Garneau, George, Newspaper Financial Reports, Editor & Publisher, the Fifth Estate, August 8, 1992; Kerwin, Ann Marie, Advice for the Next Century: Future Role of Newspapers Discussed by Panel, Editor & Publisher, the Fifth Estate, August 8, 1992; Endicott, R. Craig, 100 Leading Media Companies, Advertising Age, August 10, 1992; Fisher, Christy, A Decade of USA Today: Color It Red, Advertising Age, August 31, 1992; Grain, Ranee, Readers Find Newspapers Boring Dull, Advertising Age, September 14, 1992.

Lisa Collins

updated by April Dougal

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"Gannett Co., Inc.." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Gannett Co., Inc.

Gannett Co., Inc.

1100 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22234
U.S.A.
(703) 284-6000
Fax: (703) 276-5548

Public Company
Incorporated:
1923
Employees: 36,600
Sales: $3.44 billion
Stock Exchange: New York

In 1990 Gannett Co., Inc. owned 82 daily newspapers, including its flagship USA Today; 66 nondaily publications; and the weekly newspaper magazine USA Weekend, among other holdings. The company also owned and operated ten television stations, eight FM radio stations, and seven AM radio stations, many of which are in major markets. In addition, its Gannett Outdoor was the largest outdoor-advertising group in North America.

Gannett has been a leader in the application of technology and in media issues since its founding in 1906. It continues to be a leader todayalbeit a more controversial one, largely because of USA Today and former chairman Allen Neuharth. Current chairman John Curley wants to maintain the companys industry leadership role but takes a less flashy approach than his predecessor. He is also focusing more on the bottom line.

Gannett is the brainchild of Frank Gannett, who paid his way through Cornell University by running a news-correspondence syndicate; when he graduated, he had $1,000 in savings. Gannett got into the media business in 1906, when he and several associates bought the Elmira Gazette in Elmira, New York, with $3,000 in savings, $7,000 in loans, and $10,000 in notes. They bought another local paper, and merged them to form the Star-Gazette, beginning a pattern of mergers to increase advertising power that the company would follow throughout its history. Six years later, in 1912, Gannett bought The Ithaca Journal, beginning his toehold in upper New York state. The company gradually built up a portfolio of 19 New York dailies by 1989.

Gannett and his team moved to Rochester, New York, in 1918, a city whose papers would turn out to be among the companys strongest. Many of the companys rising executives were groomed at the Rochester papers. The group purchased two newspapers upon their arrival and merged them into the Times-Union. The papers holdings were consolidated under the name Empire State Group. In 1921 The Observer-Dispatch of Utica, New York, was acquired. In 1923 Frank Gannett bought out his partners interests in the Empire State Group and the six newspapers the group then owned, and formed Gannett Co., Inc. Gannett appointed Frank Tripp general manager. Tripp helped run the everyday business of the papers, and the two were close allies for years. The Northeast was Gannetts focus for the next 25 years, and the company expanded aggressively with acquisitions there. Another key executive, Paul Miller, joined the company in 1947, becoming Gannetts executive assistant. By then, the company operated 21 newspapers and radio stations.

Gannetts role as a leader in technology began in 1929, when Frank Gannett co-invented the teletypesetter. Gannett newsrooms were among the first to use shortwave radios to gather reports from distant sources. In 1938, before color was in much use, many Gannett presses were adapted for color. Today, with its USA Today, the company continues to be a leader in color use. A corporate plane also helped reporters get to the site of news quickly.

Frank Gannett died in 1957, but not before he saw Paul Miller named president and chief executive officer. Miller oversaw the companys expansion from a regional chain to a national one in the next decade.

Gannett News Service, as it is known today, was founded in 1942 as Gannett National Service. The wire service subsidiary provides the companys local papers with national stories from Washington, D.C., and 13 bureaus. The stories often have a local angle or local sources. A television news bureau was added in 1982.

Through all these years, Gannett grew by buying existing newspaper and radio and TV stations. In 1966, it founded its first newspapers, Florida Today. It was the work of Allen Neuharth, who later was to become the founder of USA Today. Neuharth brought the new paper to profitability in 33 months, an incredible feat in the newspaper business, analysts say. Because the paper was near the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), it was dubbed Floridas Space Age Newspaper. The paper has since been redesigned to emphasize state and local news and is promoted and sold with USA Today, which provides national and international coverage.

The company went public in 1967. In 1970 Paul Miller assumed the title of chairman, and Allen Neuharth was promoted to president and chief operating officer from executive vice president, making him the heir-apparent to the top position in the company. Neuharth went on an acquisition spree, leading the company to its current size and status in the media world. He became chief executive officer in 1973 and chairman in 1979.

Two notable mergers were those with Federated Publications in 1971 and with Speidel Newspaper Group in 1977. Two years later, Gannett merged with Combined Communications, the biggest such merger in the industry at that time, for $400 million. The Evening News Association joined the Gannett family later when Gannett bought it for $700 million. One near-merger was with Ridder Publications. Bernard H. Ridder Jr., president, was a golfing mate of Paul Miller. Ridder had concluded the only way his small, family-held companys stock would ever reach its full potential was for Ridder Publications to merge with a big media company. The two talked, but Ridder proved to be more interested in Knight Newspapers because it had less geographic overlap with Ridder than did Gannett.

Some industry critics have warned that media consolidation, such as Gannetts 1970s acquisitions, thwarts open debate and the exchange of ideas. Gannett defenders, however, claim that chain newspapers can be just as vigorous in promoting and defending the rights of a free press as independent newspapers.

In 1986 Neuharth retired as chief executive officer, passing the baton to John Curley. Curley had been president and chief operating officer since 1984; he joined Gannett in 1970. Curley took on the title of chairman in 1989 and still headed the company in 1991. Neuharth continued as chairman of the Gannett Foundation.

In 1989 the Gannett Foundation gave $28 million to various programs. It was established in 1935 by Frank Gannett to promote free press, freedom of information and better journalism, adult literacy, community problem-solving, and volunteerism. Neuharth spent as freely at the foundation as he had at the company. Neuharth put the foundations 10% ownership of Gannett up for sale in 1990, in the midst of questions about Neuharths spending priorities. In 1990 the foundations expenses were rising faster than its assets. Under Neuharth, the foundation spent $15 million on interior design of its headquarters, when it moved from Rochester, New York to Arlington, Virginia, where USA Todays offices are located.

Curley, a newsman, as most of Gannetts heads have been, was editor and publisher of several Gannett papers and was founding editor of USA Today. Neuharth had said in 1982 when he started USA Today that it would begin making annual profits in three to five years. By 1990 the paper had had quarterly profits but never a full year of profitability. Between 1982 and 1990 USA Today sapped the company of an estimated $500 million. The national daily newspaper was another demonstration of Gannetts leadership role in the use of technology, as well as journalism. The copy for the paper is transmitted by satellite to its 15 printing plants.

The paper also had been an innovator in graphics, especially in the use of color. Media observers credit USA Todays use of color as the spur for industry wide interest in color graphics. The paper is also known for the brevity of its stories, which many journalists have criticized but which many editors have imitated. USA Today in 1990 had a paid circulation of about 1.8 million.

Industry estimates put Gannett as the nations second-biggest media concern, with a market value of $7 billion, behind only Capital Cities/ABC, the largest, with a $10.2 billion market value. After the firms buying binge under Neuharth, analysts say it is likely that Gannett will take a slower pace in the next several years. In 1990, it purchased the Great Falls Tribune, of Montana, from Cowles Media for $41 million, making it the companys 83rd daily paper. There are fewer great deals to be made on newspaper acquisitions these days, however, so Gannett will probably work to improve the profitability and journalistic performance of its current holdings.

Principal Subsidiaries

Gannett Direct Marketing Services, Inc.; Gannett News Service; Gannett Outdoor; Louis Harris & Associates; Gannett National Newspaper Sales; Gannett Telemarketing, Inc.; USA Today Update; USA Today Books.

Further Reading

Mott, Frank Luther, American Journalism: A History, 1690-1960, New York, Macmillan 1962; Cose, Ellis, The Press, New York, Morrow, 1989.

Lisa Collins

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