Gracia Martore, president and CEO of Gannett, probably doesn’t care too much about The Journal News in suburban New York.
Since assuming the position of Gannett CEO in late 2011, Martore went to work reorganizing the then struggling Gannett, launching a campaign to re-brand the age-old company with an aggressive digital strategy.
Martore’s sound leadership has also been rewarded by Wall Street with an increasing stock value – something rare for media properties these days.
During her tenure, however, not every cog of Gannett’s machinery has been on the upswing. Foremost among the struggling parts is the once-popular suburban newspaper, The Journal News. The paper's increasingly liberal activism on a variety of issues, most notably gun control, is probably the reason for its declining readership and shredded reputation.
On December 22, 2012, for example, The Journal News published an interactive map of the names and addresses of all the legal handgun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties.
Twenty eight days later, following a wave of criticism from both the public and local law-enforcement officials, the newspaper removed the interactive map (it later added a snapshot of a gun ownership map without the original full content and interactivity).
The about-face was seen as a major journalistic faux pas. To make matters worse, several of the houses identified in The Journal News’ original piece suffered burglaries that involved either an attempted or successful theft of a gun-safe.
Seen at best as liberal activism, and at worst a cheap stunt, the daily paper’s left-wing bias was no doubt an embarrassment to Martore and other Gannett officials.
The paper’s leadership has repeatedly refused to apologize for or acknowledge their mistake despite having scrubbed the original map from its website.
In an apparent doubling down on the gun issue, the paper ran a column by Cara Matthews last week, in which she presented the divergent views of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski —both suburban New York residents—on gun control.
According to Matthews, the Newtown shooting and the map’s publication together “prompted New York’s elected officials to strengthen gun control laws and allow permit holders to opt out of having their name and address publicly disclosed”—hardly a modest view of The Journal News’ influence.
Further, rather than presenting the two sides of a divergent public policy issue, Matthews used the opportunity to lambast not just Ailes’ and gun-control critics’ views, but Ailes’ leadership and Fox News in general.
In a strange turn away from the piece’s focus, Matthews writes, “Ailes, 73, keeps a close eye on the network’s shows and isn’t afraid to speak up when he disagrees with something.”
Really? Active management is now an odd occurrence? Maybe it is in Matthews’ newsroom but it certainly has worked well for the president of the #1 cable channel on television.
Continuing on the tangent, she attempts to further discredit Ailes’ management style through reference to a disgraced former Fox News Producer Joe Muto – a typical talking point of the left.
Matthews goes on to whine that Fox News’ coverage of The Journal News map incident was “exhaustive” and “outraged” -- another sure sign that Matthews and The Journal News are on a sinking ship.
Since when did it become fashionable for a journalist to criticize exhaustive news coverage of a public outrage?
Ironically, her paper has used no ink to discuss MSNBC’s biased treatment of the issue, a cable news network a Pew Research Study recently concluded fills 85% of its on-air time with opinion.
While the bias may be unsurprising to those familiar with the mainstream media, Gannett’s Martore certainly cannot be happy being on the hook for The Journal News’ liberal agenda. Though the interactive gun permit map was certainly the epitome of the problem, it is far from the only instance of the Journal’s consistent liberal activism.
Every day The Journal News’ writers fill the news and opinion pages with articles attempting to discredit Republican and conservative candidates and elected officials, without so much as mentioning the follies of their liberal colleagues.
While Martore’s list of concerns undoubtedly spans topics of far more importance than the activities of a local newspaper with a dwindling circulation, it would be well within Gannett’s interests to bring Martore’s re-branding mindset to their news division and clean house at The Journal News.