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."