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A primer on NJ daily print newspapers

Mergers and acquisitions leaves 88% of dailies controlled by two owners

By David Wildstein, August 06 2019 12:37 pm

The announcement yesterday that GateHouse Media has acquired Gannett, becoming the largest daily print newspaper chain in the country, means that 15 of New Jersey’s 17 dailies will be under the control of two national media conglomerates.

None of the 17 newspapers are independently-owned.  The Trentonian is run by Digital First Media and The Press of Atlantic City by Berkshire Hathaway.

Within the last 27 years, New Jersey has dropped from 23 daily newspapers – all with local news bureaus and individual editorial boards – to 17 with staffs that are a fraction of the size of their past and in many cases, without editorial writers commenting on local issues.

The Star-Ledger, once New Jersey’s Newspaper of Record, started as The Newark Daily Advertiser in 1832, became the Newark Star-Eagle, and when S.I. Newhouse purchased it in 1939, he merged it with the Newark Ledger to create the Newark Star-Ledger.

For years, the Star-Ledger competed with the state’s top paper, the Newark Evening News.  After a year-long labor strike, the newspaper closed in 1972.

The Star-Ledger – it quietly dropped Newark from its banner in the 1970s – became the flagship of Newhouse’s Advance Publication properties in New Jersey.

Still, it’s hard to view them as New Jersey’s Newspaper of Record, since their archives beyond the last few years are not available online.  With online archives that go back to the 19th century, it is possible to argue that Gannett is the state’s Newspaper of Record

The (Trenton) Times, founded in 1882, was sold to the Washington Post in 1974.  Allbritton Communications, now the owner of POLITICO, purchased the Trenton Times in 1981.  After drastic cuts in the editorial budget, Allbritton sold The Times to Advance for a $40 million profit.

Advance bought the Jersey Journal (circa 1867) in 1945.  The Bayonne Times and The Hudson Dispatch were eventually purchased by Advance and folded into the Jersey Journal Their Spanish-language paper, El Nuevo Hudson, operated from 1999 until it was shuttered 10 years later.

The Express-Times has been around since 1855, first as The Easton Daily Express.  Thomson Newspapers, now the owner of Reuters, bought the paper in 1983 and sold it to MediaNews – now Digital First Media – in 1994.  Advance purchased it in 2000.

The (Bergen) Record, which was owned by the Borg family for 86 years, was sold to Gannett in 2016.

The Record also owns the Herald News, which opened in 1872 was once owned by Dow Drukker, a Republican congressman from Passaic.

Paterson once had two daily newspapers; the Paterson Evening News and the Paterson Morning Call.  They later merged into the Paterson News and Call.  They merged with The Herald News in 1980 under the ownership of Allbritton.  MediaNews bought the paper from Allbritton in 1985 and following a series of consolidations they became the North Jersey Herald & News.  The Borg family bought that newspaper in 1997.

The Burlington County Times has been around since 1958 when it was the Levittown Times.  The newspaper was acquired by GateHouse Media in 2018.

GateHouse announced earlier this year that they had purchased the New Jersey Herald, a daily newspaper in Sussex County.  The Herald has been around since 1829, was sold to American Newspapers in 1969, and to Quincy Newspapers in 1980.

The Trentonian was founded in 1946 when some members of the now-dissolved International Typographic Union left the Trenton Times to start their own newspaper.  It was eventually bought by Media News and is now part of the Digital First chain.  The newspaper was put up for sale in 2014, but there were no takers.

The Press of Atlantic City, founded by future New Jersey Gov. Walter Edge as the Atlantic City Daily Press in 1895, was sold to Albarta in 1951 and to Berkshire Hathaway’s BH Media in 2013.

Advance Media currently operates the South Jersey Times, which launched in 2012 after the consolidation of three daily newspapers that offered a razor-sharp focus on local news:

* The Gloucester County Times was operated as a family-owned daily newspaper from 1897 until it was sold to Texas-based Harte-Hanks in 1972.  MediaNews bought it in 1983 and sold it to Advance Publications in 2000.

* Today’s Sunbeam was the Salem County daily that began as the Salem Messenger in 1819 and grew my acquiring other Salem papers in 1972.  Media News purchased the paper in 1990 and then flipped it to Advance in 2000.

* The Bridgeton Evening News, operated from 1879 to 2012, was a family newspaper from 1879 until Sun-Times Media bought them in 1989.  Advance acquired them in 2000.

Gannett owns six other New Jersey dailies:

* The Somerset County-based Courier News, originally begun as The Evening News in 1884, was purchased by Gannett in 1940.   It is the oldest New Jersey daily newspaper in the Gannett Chain.

* The Courier-Post in Camden County was started as the Post in 1875 and later became the Post & Telegram.  Gannett bought it in 1959, their second New Jersey acquisition.

* The Asbury Park Press, founded in 1879, was purchased by Gannett in 1997.

* The Home News Tribune, once The Perth Amboy Evening News, was the result of a 1995 merger of Middlesex County’s two dailies, The Home News and the New Tribune.  Gannett acquired it in 1997.

* The (Vineland) Daily Journal launched in 1875 as the Vineland Times and merged with The Vineland Journal in 1942.  The paper was sold to the Evening News Association, which owned the Detroit News, in 1973.  Gannett purchased the Evening News Association in 1985.

* The Daily Record, founded in Morris County in 1900, was sold to the Goodson Newspaper Group in 1987 and to Gannett in 1998.

Defunct New Jersey dailies include: the Elizabeth Daily Journal, which was published from 1787 until it was closed in 1992; the Red Bank Daily Register, which shut down in 1991 after 113 years; and the Dover Advance, a Morris County daily which operated from 1923 to 1965.

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