The group was led by Tennessean Publisher Ellen Leifeld. And after months of study, it reached this jaw-dropping conclusion: Print's future is all about local news and baby boomers, those 78 million Americans with deteriorating eyesight, spreading waistlines -- and a slightly perplexed expression when talk turns to avatars.
Newspaper division chief Sue Clark-Johnson sent the report to publishers in the last month or so. Although she's retiring in May, I suspect the recommendations will carry weight with her anointed successor, Robert Dickey.
Gannett spokeswoman Tara Connell declined to comment on the task force's recommendations, calling them an "internal matter."
The task force concluded that boomers are the ones "most inclined to be regular newspaper readers.'' And while Gannett still values the under-40 crowd, "we need to be realistic about the print platform. The primary audience of readers is over the age of 40 now, and that will not change.''
But you can already hear the collective oh shit, not again groan among editors as they read the first two of the report's 10 recommendations on pleasing boomers:
- "Hard news and local news remain our greatest strength and are Boomers' top news priorities; therefore, they should be ours. If editors must cut content, hard news and local news should remain untouched.''
- "Our watchdog role is perceived as central to our responsibility as a local newspaper. We must find a way to strengthen our watchdog reporting efforts.''
Confidential to the task force: Been there, done that -- got the Real Life, Real News t-shirt to prove it!
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[Image: today's Nashville Tennessean, Newseum.]