Gannett has shut down the press in Memphis for the Commercial Appeal and is now printing the paper up the road in Jackson at the Gannett-owned Jackson Sun.
The move is the latest in a series of steps the corporate media giant has made to trim and consolidate operations in Tennessee. Gannett also owns The Tennessean in Nashville, the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro and the Knoxville News-Sentinel in East Tennessee. Gannett acquired the papers in Memphis and Knoxville just last year.
Last month, 17 staff members lost their newsroom jobs in Memphis, according to an article in the Nashville Scene. Three lost newsroom jobs in Middle Tennessee and 11 positions were eliminated in Knoxville.
According to the blog Smart City Memphis, 19 additional people are losing jobs in Memphis because of the press machine shutting down.
A story in the Commercial Appeal on the shuttering of its press said that the press in Jackson is newer, cleaner and more digitally advanced. Monday’s edition was the last paper printed in Memphis.
The Commercial Appeal piece chronicled the storied history of its historic press:
Over the past 176 years, Memphis printers have gotten the paper out come hell, high water or any other calamity, natural or man-made.
During the Civil War, two editors and a printer lugged a one-cylinder press around to half a dozen cities in three states.
For three years, they stayed one step ahead of the Union Army, publishing — sometimes with shoe polish — reports of Confederate victories and defeats.
They reported “THE FALL OF MEMPHIS” from 100 miles away in Grenada, Miss., then moved on before Grenada fell.
During the yellow fever epidemic in 1878, only two of the paper’s 75 employees were not stricken. The editor and one printer stayed well and never missed an issue.
Gannett’s growing presence in Tennessee has brought with it not only concerns about job loss but also frustrations with shrinking news coverage.
The Nashville Scene reported:
In recent months, all of Gannett’s Tennessee properties have been part of a campaign to brand the papers as part of the “USA Today Network — Tennessee,” a move that largely masks the decreasing amount of market-specific content in each paper. Readers in all three major markets have complained to the Scene in recent months about the increasing amount of state news in their papers.
What has Gannett wrought?
The country’s largest newspaper chain has already accomplished the unfathomable in Memphis. It’s made us look back to when E. W. Scripps Co. owned The Commercial Appeal as the newspaper’s glory days.
It is impossible to think of another corporation that has made a similar investment in our community that has shown such a callous disregard and lack of interest in learning about its new market and what the people who live in it would like to read.
Rather, it treats all of its markets’ distinctiveness as irrelevant, manhandling them for maximum profits on minimum news.
There was a time when we all laughed at Gannett’s USA Today as McNews.
No one is laughing now that we’ve seen it up close and personal. It’s about applying a rigid business philosophy to homogenize news so it can be printed in all of its newspapers while cutting local news coverage to the bone.