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Fly on the Wall 1550

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Dammit, Gannett

It's early Wednesday morning. After a long, ugly campaign, midterm elections are finally over. With so much hanging in the balance, Commercial Appeal subscribers picked up their newspaper looking for results and analysis only to discover there wasn't any. How can that possibly be? According to a report in The Nashville Scene, Gannett's editors were informed that print deadlines wouldn't be extended to to cover elections. "As a result, Wednesday's editions of The Tennessean, Commercial Appeal, and Knoxville News-Sentinel will not have final results for some of the most closely contested statewide races in years," the article stated.

"We do not believe print is a vehicle for breaking news," Tennessean vice president and editor Michael Anastasi was quoted as saying.

The Commercial Appeal has since framed the delay — a byproduct of rising print costs and early deadlines — saying, "Election Day breaking coverage will be showcased on digital." For 48 hours after the election, web access will be free.

Ken Doctor at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism weighed in on Gannett's decision: "[N]ot adding any extra pages of newsprint for election results does save money ... At the same time, it is those incredibly loyal print readers — the ones who have stood by newspaper companies through cut after cut in staff and in the product — who will now see that loyalty tested, again." Doctor further explained that, as with other newspapers, a considerable percentage of Gannett's print subscribers are over 70.

"What those numbers tell us," Doctor writes, "is that that road to a mostly/fully digital future gets narrower month by month. Digital subscriptions are gaining ground much too slowly. Given the combination of higher prices, a lesser product, and even increasingly erratic home delivery, print subscribers may provide less of a lifeline to the digital future than Gannett and other publishers now assume in their whiteboard calculations." Dammit.

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