Is bigger better? Gannett merger will test whether local news can be saved.

The deal raises questions about what’s next for other newspaper chains.

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When the Ohio family who owned the Columbus Dispatch for 110 years finally decided to sell the newspaper four years ago, among the final bidders were two chains: GateHouse Media and Gannett.  

The sale would mean that for the first time since the Dispatch was founded in 1871, it would not be under local control. But as Michael J. Fiorile, who handled the sale for the Wolfe family, pointed out, “It’s kind of slim pickings these days if you’re out there trying to sell a newspaper." 

Other newspaper sellers may not even have those choices available to them, as GateHouse’s parent — New Media Investment Group — announced Monday that it was buying Gannett for $1.4 billion to create the largest publisher in America.

Whether the merger would help combat the erosion of reporting jobs in America or accelerate it quickly became a matter of intense debate in the journalism industry, which remains mired in a two-decade-long search for a sustainable business model for local news.

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