Gannett Co., the owner of USA Today and more than 250 daily newspapers across the company, is shrinking the publications' editorial sections because it believes the opinion pages are becoming obsolete and they're alienating readers because of their biases.
Traditional features like editorial cartoons and syndicated columns are being dropped, political endorsements and letters to the editor are being reduced, and the full editorial sections in USA Today and the more than 250 dailies Gannett owns nationwide are being published for just a few days a week, reports The Washington Post.
The move comes after the company pushed for the cutbacks for years, but editors from Gannett newsrooms across the country asked for the cuts during a committee meeting in April.
"Readers don’t want us to tell them what to think. They don’t believe we have the expertise to tell anyone what to think on most issues. They perceive us as having a biased agenda," the editors said in an internal presentation.
They also commented that readers frequently cite editorial pages as a reason for canceling subscriptions, even though that section is "among our least read content."
Gannett said it's not making the recommendations mandatory, and that most of its newspapers will keep their editorial and commentary pages, but at least four companies have cut their opinion offerings significantly.
Last week, the Arizona Republic announced that it plans to print its opinion section just three days a week so it can "refocus" on "a deeper dialogue on key issues affecting Arizonans."
Gannett-owned Treasure Coast Palm in Florida and the Cape Cod Times in Massachusetts last week said they only plan on having two editorial pages a week, and the New Bern Sun Journal in North Carolina is cutting back to just one editorial page a week.
Gannett has made further recommendations, including cutting back on editorials that have no byline, limiting political endorsements to local races, and restricting letters to the editor to appear in print only, not online.
The company said internal research through reader surveys suggested that editorials and other guest commentary are no longer as relevant, considering the amount of opinions shared on social media every day.
Further, the editorial committee said that audiences are not often able to tell the difference between opinion content and news reporting, also causing a challenge for traditional editorial pages.
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