When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s parent group was acquired by the E.W. Scripps company this spring, it amounted to a trade of sorts. Journal Communications was split in half, with Scripps taking on the combined company’s broadcast outlets.
A separate company, Journal Media Group was spun off to operate the print publications. But the ink had barely dried on that arrangement when it was announced last week that the Gannett chain, which is best known for publishing USA Today, is set to buy Journal Media Group.
"The rapidity with which this took place was quite shocking in the organization, and I think it's sort of shocking to us outside of it too," says media writer Erik Gunn. Gunn is a contributing editor to Milwaukee Magazine and writes its Mediawatch blog.
If the plan is approved by shareholders and passes anti-trust hurdles, it could be a done deal by early next year. It’s been the source of a great deal of analysis for the impact it’d have on the award-winning Journal Sentinel.
"There are no questions, there's economies of scale here...the reason you have economies of scale is because you can do the same thing everywhere that you're doing in one place and do it with fewer people. And that inevitably leads to some homogenization," says Gunn.
Adding the Journal Media Group under the Gannett Co. umbrella will change its operations, but only time will tell if it changes the quality of the work being produced. However, Gunn believes that despite a purchase, Journal writers will still have the freedom to select their topics.
"They don't tell you what to do, they don't tell you what to write, they don't tell you what to cover. But they do tell you what your resources are going to be and bear down on that pretty hard," he says.