Media consolidation continues in New Jersey; looks like Gannett, the media conglomerate that owns USA Today as well as Asbury Park Press (APP) and several other newspapers across NJ, will buy up The Record. It has been a fiercely independent news outlet, and privately owned. Lets hope for our sake it doesn’t get Gannettized, extruded into some formulaic, lesser version of itself.
In acquiring The Record, Gannett is landing an excellent squad of journalists, who among other achievements broke the key stories as the tangled Bridgegate affair came to light. But it will be interesting to see how many of The Record’s editorial staff stay on after the takeover. Gannett has earned its reputation for massive layoffs in their editorial departments – of copy editors, of reporters, and of editors. Like this. And this. And – ugh – this.
Three or four years ago, at a forum in North Jersey about news literacy, I told a Record editor (I can’t remember which one now) that their online presence hadn’t yet caught up with its quality journalism. This was after he said – not realizing there was a political blogger in the room (which others did) – that bloggers were “the Wild, Wild West” of “idiots.” I always thought those who run media organizations made a mistake not developing a filter to see what sites, writers, and new formats were worth looking at and maybe worth learning from (I didn’t mean Blue Jersey specifically, but I wouldn’t exclude us either). The same way, for example, that decent political bloggers know which reporters, columnists and news organizations were quality and which were dreck. I don’t know the solution to keeping news organizations – particularly dead tree outfits – alive and profitable. I hate, but understand, paywalls. APP is behind one now, to my daily annoyance in compiling our 6-day/week news roundups. It won’t surprise me to see The Record dive behind one. The 24-hour news cycle, with which daily newspapers now have to compete for readers and customers, has its values. Watching news occur in real time can make viewers feel connected to the events of the day like nothing else can. But it has also led to some shoddy journalistic decisions, when a less important story gets focused because it has exciting video, over a visually less exciting story that actually has greater impact on people’s lives. Newspapers – good ones – operate using different standards. No offense to anyone in television news, but they’re aren’t many Marty Barons in television news.
I hope Gannett, America’s largest newspaper publisher by daily circulation, does not dismantle what is good – and often excellent – about this paper, which is second in size only to the Star-Ledger, which not too long ago suffered mass layoffs (including in editorial) and the loss of its longtime Newark brick and mortar home.
The Record is 121 years old, and was known for many of those years as The Bergen Record. It now covers both the North Jersey region and also state news. The paper was purchased by the Borg family in 1930. Malcolm Borg is the the chairman; son Stephen is publisher and daughter Jennifer, is VP and general counsel. Gannett’s been in talks to acquire the north Jersey Media Group apparently for some months, which I hadn’t known.
I hope The Record does not become homogenized, or streamlined and more reliant on wire stories. This vignette hits home.
Whenever Malcolm Borg was asked whether he’d sell his beloved Bergen Record, he responded that it was for sale every day — on newsstands.