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The GateHouse newspaper chain will consolidate 50 Massachusetts publications into 18 next week, as the company mulls a possible merger with Gannett Co., according to reports.
The consolidation plan affects local, weekly papers, according to an internal GateHouse memo posted online by Media Nation blogger and Northeastern journalism professor Dan Kennedy.
Many of the newspapers have focused on single towns but now will merge to cover more than one. Goodbye, Hopkinton Crier, Shrewsbury Chronicle, Northborough Villager, Southborough Villager and Westborough News. Hello, Village News.
GateHouse Media did not immediately respond to an interview request.
In the memo, dated Friday, GateHouse executives wrote that "this consolidation will reduce production expenses and represents a necessary next step in our evolution, while creating a stronger product for both our subscribers and advertisers."
"I think that what they would like to do is make the transition to digital as quickly as possible, and this is probably an interim step," said Boston University journalism professor John Carroll.
Carroll said a complete digital transition isn't practical yet because most newspapers can still charge higher advertising rates in print.
The GateHouse memo said advertisers will benefit from "increased print market reach," under the consolidation plan, while subscribers will enjoy "additional reporting from nearby communities."
The memo did not say whether consolidation will lead to staff cuts. The company recently laid off approximately 200 workers. Mike Reed, CEO of GateHouse's parent company, New Media Investment Group, said in an interview with Poynter that those layoffs were part of "a small restructuring."
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that GateHouse is in merger talks with Gannett, whose flagship paper is USA Today.
GateHouse says it publishes 156 daily newspapers and, before consolidation, 464 community papers nationwide.
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