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Journal Register And MediaNews Group Join Forces Under Digital First Media

Journal Register

The Huffington Post   Katherine Fung First Posted: 09/07/11 01:40 PM ET Updated: 11/07/11 05:12 AM ET

Two of the country's largest newspaper groups are joining to create a new digital company.

The Journal Register announced on Wednesday that its CEO, John Paton, is also becoming the head of MediaNews Group, the second-biggest newspaper chain in the country. However, the two chains are not merging. Instead, the Journal Register is creating a new company called Digital First.

Paton will be the chief executive of Digital First, and also serve as CEO of both newspaper groups. The two companies will, however, continue to maintain their own boards.

Paton said in a blog post that the company's mission "will be to accelerate the transformation of both these great firms to a modern, multi-platform media company focused on local news."

The creation of Digital First Media is the latest development in the Journal Register's digital strategy. The name "Digital First" refers to the Paton's recent mantra: "digital first and print last." The company has been building its online platforms, and appointed digital news veteran Jim Brady as editor-in-chief in August.

The new company joins two newspaper groups with publications in eighteen states: the MediaNews Group's holdings are concentrated on the West Coast and the Midwest, while the Journal Register is a smaller publisher with papers on the East Coast. MediaNews is no stranger to consolidation, having acquired approximately forty newspapers in the past two decades. The company's CEO Dean Singleton has been criticized for sacrificing good journalism for profit.

Both companies have also filed for bankruptcy within the past two years. For industry observers who have watched the Journal Register's digital approach post-bankruptcy, the consolidation of the two companies comes as no surprise.

Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund with a big stake in MediaNews, brought the Journal Register in July. The move generated speculation about a merger, with some predicting that Paton's digital strategy would land him the CEO seat for MediaNews.

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