on April 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

USA Today Publisher to retire amid industry woes

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Craig Moon, publisher of USA Today, the largest U.S. newspaper by circulation, will retire in April after more than 23 years at parent company Gannett Co Inc, the publisher and broadcaster said on Tuesday.

The departure of Moon, 59, comes as Gannett wrestles with a steep advertising revenue decline at USA Today and its more than 80 daily newspapers around the United States.

Moon became publisher of USA Today in 2003, presiding over the paper as it and Gannett embarked on big projects to adjust their newsgathering and business models to the Internet.

He declined to say where he is going, but said that the Internet has created new opportunities in developing new business models for news, “which I plan to explore with partners.”

He also plans to return to Nashville, Tennessee, where he will spend time with his family.

Moon’s departure comes a day after the Detroit Media Partnership, which he supervises, launched a bold experiment — at least in newspaper circles — to eliminate the printed paper some days of the week, sending readers to the Web instead.

“I wanted to make sure that that went smoothly and that it was well executed before I announced my retirement,” Moon said in an interview.

“We think it’s the best solution for Detroit, to keep two really great newspaper brands in the marketplace,” he said.

Gannett runs a partnership with Denver-based publisher MediaNews Group that publishes Gannett’s Detroit Free Press and MediaNews’s Detroit News. The papers are cutting their print editions on several days of the week to save money.

The first day of a paperless Detroit happened on a busy news day for that city, particularly because of big auto industry bailout news.

Many people, according to media reports, were unhappy that they did not get their print editions, and many had trouble getting access to the electronic editions on the Internet because of demand.

Gannett is taking more traditional means to cut costs as newspaper ad revenue slides. It is furloughing employees and has laid off thousands during the past year.

The McLean, Virginia-based company has not hit USA Today as hard on layoffs, but Moon said the newsroom — with 465 employees — has lost about 35 workers in the past year. The newspaper employs about 1,600 people all together.

Gannett shares were down 6 cents, or 2.65 percent, at $2.20 at midday on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Editing by Gunna Dickson)