Courier-Journal owner Gannett Co. says it isn’t imposing an editorial agenda on the Louisville newspaper

Gannett Co. is increasingly coordinating news coverage between The Courier-Journal and its approximately 100 other daily newspapers via what it calls the USA Today Network. But the company’s chief content officer — equivalent to a super-editor — tells Nieman Lab it isn’t imposing a top-down editorial agenda.

Joanne Lipman

“A really important part of the network is empowering journalists in any newsroom to come up with an idea,” says Joanne Lipman, a former Wall Street Journal editor who’s been leading the network since January. “We can support them on any idea that they might have.” She offered an example:

“A reporter at one of our smaller properties in Florida came up with a really fun sports idea and realized that pretty much every local market had a similar thing going on. He and his editor sent a note to me. We put together a small team of people — editors from a couple of our publications — to talk through the idea. It’s grown into something that you will see in the next month or so. It starts at the local level and ladders up to USA Today.”

She continues: “This isn’t top-down. It isn’t: ‘USA Today comes up with an idea and imposes it on the rest of the world.’ Any one of our 4,000 reporters can come up with an idea and if it scales across the network, we will help them scale it.”

The USA Today Network expansion comes at a challenging time for Gannett. In the first quarter, revenue tumbled 8% to $659 million from a year before, continuing a multi-year slide that’s been seen at all newspaper publishers. Earnings fell an even steeper 10% to 26 cents per share. Advertising, which accounted for 53% of all revenue, dove 12%. The company doesn’t break out results for individual newspapers.

Gannett will report second-quarter financial results July 27.

Gannett has a significant presence in Louisville. In addition to the CJ, it has a regional newspaper production hub designing several dozen other Gannett papers, plus a regional customer service center. Also, starting Aug. 1, the CJ will start printing the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Gannett continues to press a hostile takeover of Tronc, the former Tribune Publishing Co. that owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other large daily papers. Tronc’s opposition may be easing, however. A year ago, Gannett divided is newspapers and television and digital properties into two different companies. The broadcasting company, called Tegna, owns Louisville’s WHAS.

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