- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

DETROIT (AP) — Gannett Co., the nation’s largest newspaper company, is buying the Detroit Free Press from Knight Ridder Inc., and MediaNews Group Inc. will take ownership of the Detroit News from Gannett, the companies announced yesterday.

Gannett and Knight Ridder also announced an exchange of newspapers in Florida, Washington and Idaho. Terms were not disclosed.

McLean-based Gannett is acquiring the Tallahassee Democrat in Florida and will receive an undisclosed amount of cash from Knight Ridder. Knight Ridder is buying Gannett’s newspaper in Boise, the Idaho Statesman, and two Washington state newspapers, the Olympian in Olympia and the Bellingham Herald. All the swaps are subject to regulatory approval.

The Detroit News, which now publishes in the afternoon, will become a morning publication. Instead of publishing a combined paper on Saturdays and Sundays, the News and Free Press will each publish separate Saturday editions and the Free Press alone will publish a Sunday newspaper.

“Two daily newspapers, competing editorially in the city of Detroit. That’s the bottom line of today’s transactions. Detroit is the winner here, and Gannett is proud we were able to make this happen,” said Gannett President Craig Dubow.

Knight Ridder said it is selling its partnership interest in the Detroit Newspaper Agency LP, the joint operating agency that handles business, advertising, production and delivery operations under a 1989 joint operating agreement. Under the new arrangement, Gannett will be the general partner and MediaNews Group will be the limited partner.

Gannett, headquartered in McLean, publishes 101 daily newspapers in the United States, including USA Today. Knight Ridder, based in San Jose, Calif., is the nation’s second-largest newspaper publisher. Privately held MediaNews Group of Denver, headed by Dean Singleton, owns the Denver Post and 39 other daily newspapers in nine states.

John Morton, an independent newspaper analyst in Silver Spring, said the Detroit News has been struggling recently with declining circulation, partly because it publishes primarily in the afternoon.

Afternoon papers have struggled in recent years, especially in large cities where delivery of a timely paper is difficult and with increasing competition from other news sources such as television.

The most recent report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations showed that the News’ weekday circulation fell 2.9 percent to 218,841 in the six-month period ending in March, while the Free Press’ fell 2 percent to 347,447. The two papers publish combined editions on Saturday and Sunday. Those circulation figures were 488,012 on Saturday, down from 503,063 a year earlier, and 682,798 on Sunday, down from 705,212.

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