GateHouse, Gannett receive approval to merge

GateHouse and Gannett, two of the largest U.S. newspaper companies, have received clearance to merge, according to an internal memo obtained by FOX Business.

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The Justice Department’s antitrust division completed the review of the proposed merger acquisition and with the waiting period over, the firms reached antitrust clearance to combine, according to the memo.

The companies agreed in August to merge in a cash and stock deal for about $1.4 billion, making the new firm the largest newspaper business in the United States. The new company will be rebranded and operated under Gannett, and retain Gannett’s current headquarters in McLean, Virginia.

Gannett expects the transaction to close by the end of 2019.

With the purchase of Gannett, which owns USA Today, GateHouse will aim to ramp up its digital voice as customers shift from print to computer screen. The two firms will now have a print circulation of 8.7 million, 7 million more than the new No. 2, McClatchy, according to media expert Ken Doctor. The firms said they will seek to cut $300 million in costs each year.

The merger comes at a time when local newspapers continue to falter. Nearly 1,800 local papers in the U.S. have ceased publication since 2004, according to a study from the University of North Carolina, resulting in the loss of newsroom jobs from coast to coast.

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Between 2008 and 2018 employment in newsrooms has declined by a quarter, according to data from Pew Research. About 114,000 employees worked in five news-producing industries in 2008. Ten years later, the number fell to approximately 86,000 – a loss of roughly 28,000 jobs, with the newspaper industry leading the decline. Between the same period, the number of newsroom employees plummeted by nearly 50 percent from about 71,000 to 38,000, according to Pew.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.