Gannett Unites Divisions, Picks New Unit President

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Gannett Co. will consolidate its two newspaper divisions, with Gary Watson as president of the new group, effective Oct. 1.

Watson, 45, a 21-year veteran at Gannett, will oversee all of Gannett’s daily papers, except USA Today. Gannett is the nation’s largest newspaper chain, with 137 daily and non-daily papers.

Watson has been president of Gannett’s 60-member community newspaper division since December, 1985. The division will be combined with Gannett’s metropolitan newspaper group, whose current president, Brian J. Donnelly, will become executive vice president reporting to Watson.


Mimi Feller, Gannett’s vice president for public affairs, confirmed the promotion and the consolidation but denied speculation that Watson would become second-in-command to Gannett Chairman and President John J. Curley.

Feller said the company’s vice chairman and chief financial officer, Douglas H. McCorkindale, and USA Today Publisher Cathleen P. Black would remain in those positions.

Watson’s office said he was traveling and was not immediately available for comment.

Watson, according to the Washington Post, told the newspaper Wednesday that the consolidation of the two divisions was partly in response to the increasingly tough environment for newspaper advertising.

Gannett’s newspaper revenue fell 2% in the second quarter, compared to a year ago, and was down 1% for the first six months of this year.

But Feller said the Post was “off base” when it implied that economics was the reason for the change. She said the consolidation and promotion of Watson “just makes sense organizationally.”

She said Gannett created the two newspaper divisions in 1985 when “we were making some larger acquisitions of papers. . . . But now we’ve found that it would be better to have it in one place. You don’t need to have the overlap.”

She said the change would not mean any reductions in personnel.

“It’s totally an administrative restructuring, not a reduction in personnel or savings in costs,” she said, noting that both divisions previously had been operating under one corporate staff. “The corporate staff stays the same. The folks running the papers in the field stay the same.”

Watson started with Gannett in 1969 at its Rockford (Ill.) Register Star newspaper. He held various editing and reporting jobs with the company, and later was named president of its Midwestern newspaper division and president of the Cincinnati Enquirer.