By: Tony Case

MediaNews Picks Up Marin Independent Journal

(Mediaweek) William Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group strengthened its already considerable presence in the San Francisco Bay Area with the addition of the 40,000-circulation Marin Independent Journal, a 139-year-old evening daily Gannett Co. has owned for 20 years.

No money changed hands in the unusual deal, announced Monday and expected to close by Oct. 1. Instead, Gannett will let MediaNews operate the Independent Journal under its California Newspapers Partnership in exchange for an increased stake – to 19.49%, from 12.7% – in the partnership. The partnership encompasses Gannett’s San Bernardino County Sun; MediaNews’ Alameda Newspaper Group, a chain of six Bay Area dailies led by the Oakland Tribune; and a dozen papers contributed by Arkansas-based Donrey Media Group.

The deal continues Singleton’s “clustering” strategy – combining several papers in a region, slashing costs by consolidating operations, and selling ad space across multiple mastheads. MediaNews now runs 22 California dailies – including the Los Angeles Daily News and Long Beach Press-Telegram – with a combined circulation over 960,000.

Maryland-based newspaper analyst John Morton said the deal makes sense for Gannett, considering the Independent Journal’s modest size and the dearth of Gannett interests in the area. Gannett’s largest properties in the state are the 57,000-circulation Desert Sun of Palm Springs and KXTV, Sacramento’s ABC affiliate.

Gannett has had its eye on bigger fish lately, laying out billions to acquire Central Newspapers – publisher of two major metros, the Arizona Republic and Indianapolis Star – and a string of dailies put up by Canada’s Thomson Corp.

Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher.

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