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Gannett, the media giant that owns hundreds of newspapers across the country including USA Today, is reportedly scaling back its opinion pages in an effort to combat a perception of having a political bias.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday the newspapers “have begun to radically shrink and reimagine their editorial sections, publishing them on fewer days each week and dropping traditional features such as syndicated columns and editorial cartoons,” noting that “[e]ven political endorsements and letters to the editor are being scaled back.”
The Post reported a “committee of editors” from various newspapers gathered for a meeting in April and concluded “readers don’t want us to tell them what to think” and that they “perceive us as having a biased agenda.”
The committee also established that editorials and columns are “frequently cited” by readers as the reason they cancel subscriptions to various newspapers despite them being “among our least-read content.”
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The report listed actions that various Gannett newspapers had taken like the Arizona Republic announcing last week it would include opinion pages in its print edition only three days per week. Newspapers like Massachusetts’ Cape Cod Times and Florida’s Treasure Coast Palm are narrowing it to two days per week, while others like North Carolina’s New Bern Sun Journal is going just one day per week.
The Gannett committee urged its papers to roll back political endorsements by keeping them local and refrain from making presidential, House and Senate endorsements. It also called for papers to stop printing syndicated columns and restrict letters to the editor for rare instances in print editions.
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Internal research from Gannett found that young readers in particular “often can’t tell the difference between news reporting and opinion, especially online,” and readers “often mistakenly believe that news stories are dictated by the paper’s editorial side,” according to the Post.
Randy Bergmann warned Gannett that scaling back the editorial pages, which he oversaw for 18 years at New Jersey’s Asbury Park Press before he was laid off in 2020, would be a mistake, telling the Post, “I argued that opinion leadership was one of the most important functions of the newspaper… I saw the impact of the editorials that I wrote at a local level.”
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A spokesperson for Gannett told Fox News Digital, “While USA TODAY and the USA TODAY Network’s editorial approach to opinion pages has evolved throughout the course of many years, our commitment to challenging convention and sharing diverse opinions has not changed. We continue to ensure we balance the need for locally focused topics with national themes of relevance that resonate with our readers and the communities we serve.”
Among the most prominent newspapers Gannett owns alongside USA Today include The Des Moines Register, The Detroit Free Press, The Indianapolis Star, The Tennessean, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Louisville Courier-Journal and The Cincinnati Enquirer.
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