Gannett Won’t Extend Cincy JOA Beyond 2007

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By: Joe Srupp

Gannett Co. Inc., owner of The Cincinnati Enquirer, said Friday that it would not renew its joint operating agreement with its rival Cincinnati Post, owned by The E.W. Scripps Co., when the JOA is set to expire at the end of 2007.

The Enquirer’s ownership chose to announce the decision now because three years’ prior notification is required under the terms of the contract, which both parties signed on Sept. 23, 1977.

“Deciding not to renew the Cincinnati JOA was a sad but necessary step for Gannett to take,” Gary L. Watson, president of Gannett’s newspaper division, said in a statement. “Readership habits in Cincinnati and around the country continue to shift away from afternoon newspapers. As profitability declines and expenses rise, tough decisions needed to be made.

“We are sorry the Cincinnati business relationship with our long-time friends and partners at Scripps will be coming to an end,” Watson said. “We wish them well.”

Under the arrangement, the news and editorial operations of the Enquirer (Click for QuikCap) and the Post (Click for QuikCap) are separate. The Enquirer oversees the JOA, handling all non-newsroom aspects of the newspapers, including advertising, printing and circulation, in exchange for a contractually specified portion of the operating income of the JOA.

The current business arrangement is expected to continue until the Dec. 31, 2007, termination date of the JOA. There are no termination fees payable under the contract, Gannett said.

“There’s a lot of good work to be done in the next four years,” Mike Philipps, editor of the Post, said in a statement. “The Cincinnati Post and The Kentucky Post are going to continue to play the same important role about people and the events of the day.”

The Cincinnati JOA was created after Scripps declared that the Post newspapers were in danger of financial failure unless the business partnership was formed. Paid circulation of The Cincinnati Post and The Kentucky Post, at about 188,000 when the JOA was established, has continued to decline. The Post’s circulation in September 2003 stood at 42,219 daily and 57,543 on Saturday.

“Thanks to this joint operating agreement, newspaper readers in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati have been able to choose for many years between very different newspapers with very distinct editorial points of view,” said Alan M. Horton, senior vice president/newspapers for Scripps, in a statement. “The notification we received today gives Scripps four years to review whatever options we might have in the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky newspaper markets. We’ll take that time to thoroughly evaluate if there is a way the Post can move forward past the JOA expiration date.”

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