Gannett Editors Use Same Words, Similar Phrasing in Letters Explaining New Plan


  • The Tennessean/The Commercial Appeal
Depite a promise that The Commercial Appeal would maintain "its strong voice in Memphis," the paper's first output after its Gannett "transformation" Wednesday seemed to have corporate fingerprints all over it.

CA editor Louis Graham's letter from the editor Wednesday explained that a new structure at the paper would allow it to more easily integrate with other Gannett properties in Nashville, Knoxville, Jackson, and more as part of "the USA Today Network - Tennessee."

He noted the layoffs that came with the new plan. He promised to aggressively expand the paper's digital content. He also talked about some of the staff changes and that some staffers would remain on their beats.

He talked about the Memphis-based beat focused on diversity issues. Also, that the Knoxville News Sentinel would cover the aftermath of the Smokey Mountain wildfires. Further, he noted that network reporters in Nashville would cover state issues from gun control to education funding.

Funny thing was, though, Graham's Nashville counterpart, Maria De Varenne, executive editor of The Tennessean, said the same things, using almost the exact same words.

Here's an excerpt from De Verenne's letter:

"Digitally, we'll be providing all of this to you faster than ever, and more comprehensively with in-depth video and other storytelling techniques. Our goal is to provide news and information when and how you want it throughout the day: print, your mobile device, our website, and on social media."

Here's an excerpt from Graham's letter:

"Digitally, we'll be bringing all of this you more quickly and comprehensively. Our goal is to be wherever you are, which, for so many of our visitors, is on multiple platforms throughout the day: print, your mobile device, our website, and on social media."

The two editors' Wednesday letters appear above side by side. The sections marked in green show where Graham and De Varenne used almost exactly the same words to explain the same things, as in the example above. The section in yellow shows where the two diverged, only to explain some details that pertain to their own newsrooms.      

The similarities in the two letters were quickly noted by Memphis media blogger, Richard Thompson, on his Mediaverse blog.

"How stupid does Gannett think its readers are?" Thompson asked on Twitter. "I mean, really. Cut and paste letters from the editor. Seriously? Come on, man!"

The similarities in the two letters also got a mention from Memphis Daily News reporter and columnist Bill Dries who noted the two editors explained the changes to reader "in letters that in places used very similar phrasing."

See related PDF CA_Tennessean_letters_from_the_editor.pdf

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