Gannett, the parent company of the Burlington Free Press, has agreed to merge with New Media Investment Group, the parent company of the GateHouse Media newspaper chain.
Gannett and GateHouse are the two largest newspaper companies in America. The combined entity will be by far the largest, with 615 papers with a combined circulation of 8.7 million. (The second biggest chain will be McLatchy, at 1.7 million.) The Free Press is Gannett's only Vermont property; GateHouse has no holdings in the state.
New Media will reportedly pay $12.06 per Gannett share in combined cash and stock. News of the deal sent Gannett's share price up by 3 percent, while New Media's fell by nearly 8 percent.
The goal of the deal is to cut costs by combining operations. According to the Wall Street Journal, the companies hope to save up to $300 million annually.
Much of the savings will come from cuts in business and back-office operations. Consolidations in management, sales, printing and purchasing are likely to provide most of the savings. But newsrooms, as ever, will be under pressure.
The Poynter Institute's Rick Edmonds wrote last week that both companies have been consolidating editorial and layout functions and moving toward more regional journalism, with teams of reporters contributing to ambitious investigative projects. Which is fine, but it means even fewer resources for meat-and-potatoes local journalism — which is already in short supply at the Free Press.