NewsGuild asks Gannett board to report on its commitment to journalism

Dec. 17, 2019 – Members of the NewsGuild-CWA have submitted a shareholders’ proposal to Gannett’s Board of Directors asking the company to prepare an annual “journalism report” detailing its commitment to its core product – news.

The proposal seeks to ensure that community journalism is measured and maintained. “Studies have shown that areas where local news has been severely diminished, where civic institutions aren’t monitored as closely, have seen municipal bond rates increase and civic involvement decline,” a supporting statement says.

“Recent research from the University of Illinois–Chicago and the University of Notre Dame found that communities that have become ‘news deserts’ also pay higher taxes and are at greater risk of political corruption.  Other studies show lower voter turnout and increased partisanship.”

Although the company currently measures revenue, expenses, and profitability, “It does not reveal to investors the impact its choices about news coverage might be having,” the statement points out.

“Brand and reputation matter,” it concludes. “Companies with a good reputation perform better financially than companies with poorer reputations,” it notes. “This proposal helps to protect the brand and reputation of our company. Measuring and reporting how we report the news is the first step in protecting our brand, nurturing the watchdogs, and continuing to act as the Fourth Estate.”

A supporting statement accompanying the proposal is replete with examples of high-quality journalism by papers in the chain.

“Reporters at The Arizona Republic and the USA Today Network covered the fallout of President Trump’s plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The work won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2018,” the statement notes.

“The Indianapolis Star broke the story — which eventually went national, — about sexual abuse allegations at USA Gymnastics. The Star was the first to identify Larry Nassar, the team doctor, as a suspect. Nassar has since been accused of molesting more than 150 girls and is now serving a 175-year prison sentence. The reporting won an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for investigative reporting in 2016,” it says.

“Reporters at The Sarasota Herald Tribune linked deep budget cuts within Florida’s mental health system to a spike in systemic violence and abuse at its state-run hospitals. It won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2016,” the statement points out.

“This is high quality journalism, and we could cite many other examples at Gannett papers,” the statement concludes.

What’s yours?