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Tech company goes on a shopping spree for Missouri Community Newspapers | State news

For more than 160 years, the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune has been the seat of news for Livingston County. However, in recent years, as with many other local newspapers across the country, a staff shortage has resulted in poor local coverage, a decline in readership and a loss of advertising revenue.

For example, at the Constitution-Tribune, community coverage was left to one person covering everything from news to sports.

“There were only two pages for local news,” says Angela Hutschreider, editor of the newspaper.

A month ago the Constitution-Tribune got a new lifeline – so the hope. Gannett’s own newspaper was bought by CherryRoad Media Inc., a technology company looking to buy up small, rural print media. While company executives did not reveal details of the deal, media analysts say CherryRoad Media’s acquisition of the Constitution-Tribune, along with three other small Missouri community newspapers, could mark some kind of renaissance for local print news.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, more than 90 local newsrooms across the country have closed their doors – most of them weekly in small communities with few competitors. Many have shifted from paper to purely digital platforms. But in communities like Chillicothe, which lack robust internet connections, CherryRoad Media is betting that readers will still be useful in the printed news.

“In many rural communities, internet bandwidth is not that great, so there are many people who do not have good access to online content and need the printed newspaper,” said Jeremy Gulban, CEO of CherryRoad.

CherryRoad Media Inc., based in New Jersey, is a subsidiary of CherryRoad Technologies, a software modernization and consulting company. CherryRoad Media’s successful takeover of the Cook County News Herald in Minnesota last year sparked a kind of shopping spree: The company has bought 26 more small newspapers in recent years (in Missouri also The Examiner, Boonville Daily News and the Linn County Leader) . Year. Media analysts say the purchases not only help CherryRoad profit, they also serve to keep the watchdog mission going.

Gulban also says that small newsrooms owned by large national conglomerates – like Gannett, which owned over 1,000 local newspapers in 2020 – lack local content. “I think there was a feeling that the newspapers weren’t really serving the community,” he said.

Randall Smith, professor of business journalism at MU, isn’t surprised that a tech company would buy troubled papers. By creating locally-focused journalism and experimental investigative projects, CherryRoad has an opportunity to win back lost markets, he said.

“Small communities are hungry for news and all kinds of news,” said Smith.

Mark Maassen, executive director of the Missouri Press Association, is equally optimistic about community newspapers. “Missouri has zero news deserts,” said Maassen. “There is a newspaper in every county in this state, and not many places can claim that.”

According to Maassen, an IT company like CherryRoad Media could equip print media with digital tools to make them more efficient and profitable. But first, he said, “they need to win back public trust”.

To this end, CherryRoad Media meets with employees and members of the local community to come up with ideas to improve their reporting, hire new staff, and evaluate how their technological resources can be used to revitalize an old institution.

Hutchschreider, who runs the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune together with two other CherryRoad Media newspapers, is encouraged. “My experience was very calming and invigorating,” she said. “I look forward to turning the paper over, getting more control and further developing the paper into a better product.”

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