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Monday, February 18, 2008

University of Cincinnati's Student Newspaper: A Big Media Takeover Target?

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- An e-mailer passed along a link to a business story in today's New York Times about media giant Gannett Co. Inc.'s interest in acquiring college newspapers. Gannett owns the Cincinnati Enquirer, and its president and publisher, Margaret Buchanan, is a member of the University of Cincinnati board of trustees. That has led to speculation there may be some behind-the-scenes maneuvering under way by Gannett to purchase control of the News-Record, the campus paper owned by the University of Cincinnati.

U.C. is a state school, and its newspaper is already printed at a Gannett plant in Richmond, Ind. So there is a pre-existing relationship. The e-mailer wrote, "Gannett is moving in on college newspapers. It raises troubling issues of corporate editorial control, using free student labor, and their attempt to gain access to a demographic that spends a lot of money."

The Daily Bellwether phoned Len Penix, a lawyer and former Cincinnati Post reporter who now serves as faculty advisor at the News-Record. Penix says the campus paper circulates about 7,350 copies each of the three days a week it is printed. He said he has heard nothing about a potential sale to Gannett. He said the university owns the newspaper's name and gives it space to operate on campus. He said the paper self-funds through advertising revenue -- about $250,000 for the 90 issues that appear yearly. He said it has a board of overseers that includes a dean, the provost, students and faculty members. Penix predicted any move by the state school to sell the newspaper would trigger a backlash of campus opposition.

"I think the reaction would really be negative. The faculty wouldn't stand for it. The students wouldn't stand for it -- they'd probably all quit. We do have a relationship with Gannett, but it's not the Enquirer. All they do is print us. We self-fund, we pay for salaries and distributors. We're editorially independent of the school, they passed a rule several years ago that the News-Record will be editorially independent. I have been here for 18 months, and I haven't heard anything about the paper being sold."


  1. .

    Not to mention the 'fishwRap's' wRong wingnut whacko, elephant dung propaganda, ideology !


  2. If your school is approached by the Gannett/USA Today Collegiate Readership Program, I hope that you will consider this: They want to steal your college newspaper advertisers! They will financially beat your college newspaper down by drastically reducing your ad revenue so that they can either take over your college newspaper if it has potential for profit or simply put it out of business.

    The USA Today Collegiate Readership Program has been cleverly marketed to colleges and universities across the country as a way to enlighten our students and improve the journalism skills of the campus newspaper writers. On Feb. 15, 2008 a joint initiative called Quadrantone was announced by Gannett, The Tribune Newspapers, Hearst Corp and the New York Times. This program creates an unprecedented on line advertising platform that will allow this newly formed oligopoly to offer localized on line advertising on their member online newspaper websites to local advertisers who have relied on the college newspaper to reach students. With Quadrantone, even the on line editorial content can be customized to reach different demographic groups.

    Here is the bottom line- This USA Today program is nothing more than a surreptitious way to curry favor with students and administrators under the guise of providing a valuable educational service to our community. Make no mistake about it. The goal of the USA Today readership program is not to enlighten our students and broaden their perspectives as they would have you believe. Their sneaky plan involves bringing USA Today and usually the New York Times on campus along with the local metropolitan newspaper (usually a Gannett publication)- often “free of charge” to the students but paid for by the college administration or student government association. That way the program can count all of their newspapers on campus as paid circulation to justify ad rate increases. The typical metropolitan newspaper is written on an 8th grade reading level. Is that the kind of education and enlightenment that our students can look forward too?

    Once the USA Today Collegiate Readership program gets the local metropolitan newspaper on the college campuses, their goal is to steal college newspaper advertisers by offering below market display ad rates to local advertisers and below market on line ad rates through the Quadrantone platform. Gannett and the other large newspaper conglomerates share a common goal- put the college newspapers out of business or buy them for a fraction of what they are worth.

    Why are they doing this? The average age of today’s metropolitan newspaper reader is 56 years old! The newspaper industry has the same dilemma as the tobacco industry. Their older customers are hooked but the new generation is not buying. When today’s readers die, so goes their readership. Therefore, to survive, Gannett and the other Quadrantone members are aggressively trying to establish a foothold on college campuses.

    A few days after the local metropolitan paper and the two national papers are made available for free in nice shiny racks on the college campus, the multitude of ad reps for the local metropolitan paper and Quadrantone will be calling on every local business within a 10-mile radius of the campus and they will of course call EVERY national advertiser that has used the local college paper in the last 5 years. They will offer the college newspaper advertiser a display ad rate so low that the advertiser will jump ship. Now that Quadrantone can offer locally targeted online advertising, the college newspapers that have local online advertising revenue will no longer be able to compete.

    "Citizen Kane" is often considered by movie critics to be the best
    >movie EVER PRODUCED.

    "Citizen Kane" is a 1941 mystery/drama film. Released by RKO Pictures,
    it was the first feature film directed by Orson Welles. The story
    traces the life and career of Charles Foster Kane, a man whose career
    in the publishing world is born of idealistic social service, but
    gradually evolves into a ruthless pursuit of power."- Wikipedia

    It supposedly centers around the life of William Randolph Hearst, the
    undisputed giant in the newspaper industry in the early 1900's. He
    tried everything he could to ban the movie from reaching the theaters
    and almost succeeded. If you want to see what corporate greed in the
    newspaper industry looks like, watch the movie.

    But don't worry. When all looks lost, Gannett or some other newspaper giant might come to the rescue and buy out your college newspaper if it has the potential for profit. If not, they will just kill it by practically giving away their ads to the college market advertisers. If the college paper gets bought out, the students that are left now work for a huge multimedia conglomerate, and they can kiss goodbye the editorial freedom they have taken for granted.

    If the students start working for Gannett, they better not say something that Gannett does not agree with in the college paper, especially when it comes to politics. Study Gannett’s political mindset and commit it to memory or risk being shown the door. Gannett knows how the game is played. Gannett has already bought an independent college newspaper in Florida and is about to buy another student newspaper in Colorado. This is just the beginning. The alarming fact is that the USA Today Collegiate Readership Program marketers have duped students and their administrators into thinking that their motives are purely altruistic. That should insult the collective intelligence of our future leaders.

    The student newspaper, the last bastion of true freedom of expression in the print media, is slowly being destroyed by a modern day Citizen Kane.

  3. As a student journalist, I am appauled by Gannett's actions. Not only would this buyout take away student's freedom to talk about what they want and run a paper the way they choose, but it could take away many student jobs. At The News Record, we have ad representatives and a business manager who are working with us to make money themselves, but more importantly to gain experience in their field.

    Does Gannett even care about the educational aspect of this?

    I think we will learn a heck of a lot more if we are learning the ups and downs of the business ourselves. We can't learn if you take these jobs/roles away from us.

    I hope the other student newspapers who are approached by Gannett truly fight this. It's not right.

  4. As a student journalist, you should really know how to spell "appalled."

  5. USA Today and other Newspaper conglomerate Collegiate Readership Programs have flatly denied in print articles that they want to take away your college newspaper readers. “Gannett dismissed any suggestion that it planned to conquer student journalism.

    "There is no grand Gannett strategy," said Tara Connell, a spokeswoman at its headquarters in McLean, Va. "Gannett is not looking to buy college newspapers. We look at all sorts of things." (quoted in numerous online publications)

    Oh really? Read this article from The Rocky Mountain Collegian on Mar. 7.

    Excerpt from the University of Alabama Crimson and White online 2/13/08:
    “Barbara Hall, the USA Today representative who coordinated the UA (university of Alabama) program, said USA Today is trying to create a "learning environment on the University campus through the reading of newspapers."
    "If they're only interested in increasing student readership, why doesn't [USA Today] just give away the papers for free?" Isom (from the Crimson and White) asked.
    “Asked that question, Hall said she did not know, except that newspapers cost money to produce and distribute. She said, however, that USA Today is more for businessmen and that the paper "is not going after the college market anytime in the near future." End of quote (Crimson White Online- 2/13 /08)

    Remember- only paid circulation is recognized by the Audit Bureau of Circulation- the oversight organization that verifies circulation numbers that newspapers use to increase their ad rates. That Mrs. Hall, is why you can’t give away your newspapers, but of course you knew that already didn’t you? Just another example of the double talk that Gannett is known for.

    By the way- it is generally accepted that the USA Today Collegiate Readership program was started at Penn State. USA today would have us believe (per their website) that Penn State hatched the idea and USA today blessed it. Following is a link to an article published in 1989- 8 years before the "first USA today readership program."

    If they are not interested in acquiring college newspapers or “partnering,” why are large newspaper corporations lobbying almost every college and university in the United States, sometimes for years, to get their papers on your campus? Every free paper on your campus takes readers and advertisers away from your college newspaper. One can only read so many newspapers.

    A. Rooney