Gannett Co., the nation's largest newspaper company, is buying the Detroit Free Press from Knight Ridder Inc., and MediaNews Group Inc. will take ownership of the Detroit News from Gannett, the companies said Wednesday.
Gannett and Knight Ridder also announced an exchange of newspapers in Florida, Washington and Idaho. Terms of the transactions were not disclosed.
Gannett is acquiring the Tallahassee Democrat and will get an undisclosed amount of cash from Knight Ridder. Knight Ridder is buying Gannett's newspaper in Boise, the Idaho Statesman, and two Washington state newspapers, the Olympian in Olympia and the Bellingham Herald. All the swaps are subject to regulatory approval.
The Detroit News, which primarily publishes in the afternoon, will become a morning publication, the companies said. And instead of publishing a combined paper on Saturdays and Sundays, the News and Free Press will each publish separate Saturday editions and the Free Press alone will publish a Sunday newspaper.
"Two daily newspapers, competing editorially in the city of Detroit. That's the bottom line of today's transactions. Detroit is the winner here, and Gannett is proud we were able to make this happen," said Craig Dubow, Gannett's president and CEO.
Knight Ridder said it is selling its partnership interest in the Detroit Newspaper Agency LP, the joint operating agency that handles business, advertising, production and delivery operations under a 1989 joint operating agreement. Under the new arrangement, Gannett will be the general partner and MediaNews Group will be the limited partner.
In Tallahassee, the Democrat's publisher, editor and senior vice president in charge of circulation, operations and human resources will leave after the ownership changes next month.
"Readers are not going to see any immediate changes to the newspaper according to the Gannett folks who were here today," Mizell Stewart III, the newspaper's editor, said Wednesday. "Gannett has certainly proven itself as a company that looks for opportunities to strengthen newspapers and try to boost readership and grow revenue. I am hopeful that this transition can only mean good things for the readers."
Democrat publisher Mike Pate will continue working for Knight Ridder and then retire at the end of the year. Stewart will also work for Knight Ridder in an undetermined role.
"The mood in the newsroom is one of surprise. This is not something that any of us were anticipating," Stewart said. "This is a strong newspaper with an outstanding staff. I'm sorry that this decision means I'll be leaving, but I'm confident that this staff will not only weather this change, but will survive in the future."
The Democrat has a circulation of 51,095 daily and 66,828 Sunday.
MURDOCH TAKES OVER AT POST
Rupert Murdoch is becoming publisher of the New York Post, replacing his 33-year-old son Lachlan, who abruptly resigned last week. The Post said the elder Murdoch would retake his place at the helm of the newspaper, a position he held from 1976, when his media company News Corp. bought the paper, until 1986.
_ ASSOCIATED PRESS