Gannett Co. Inc., the nation's largest newspaper chain, will announce plans later this month to publish a national daily newspaper with special emphasis on sports and business news, Satellite Week, an authoritative communications industry newsletter, reported yesterday.
Company officials, including Gannett Chairman Allen Neuharth, refused to comment on the report. "I don't comment on newsletter items," Neuharth said. "I just have no comment."
According to the newsletter, the Gannett project involves an initial investment of about $100 million and will be run by Ron Martin, currently the editor of The Baltimore News American and a former Gannett editor in Rochester, N.Y., headquarters of the company. Martin also refused to comment on the report.
The report caught industry analysts by surprise. "I really question whether they really have that in mind," said John Morton, a leading newspaper industry analyst and vice president of John Muir Co, Speculation about Gannett's plans has included publication of a Sunday magazine supplement for the chain's newspapers.
Last spring, Neuharth announced formation of a research and development task force to propose new ventures for Gannett. "This task force is exploring any and all possibilities in the communications field," Neuharth said.
Neuharth said the company would "continue to emphasize internal growth," citing the establishment of Eastbay Today in Oakland, Calif., and dailies in Westchester County, N.Y., and in Coca, Fla.
Satellite Week said the newspaper's contents, much like The Wall Street Journal, will be transmitted via satellite to printing plants around the country, much as The Journal does.
It was unclear from the Satellite Week report whether the newspaper would be distributed in cities beyond those already served by Gannett newspapers or whether the newspaper would simply be a national supplement to existing Gannett properties.
Gannett's statement that it would make a major announcement Monday in Washington has stirred widespread rumors, but the top officials involved with the new venture have signed pledges not to disclose the news, company sources said.