Naming a company isn’t easy. Just ask Gracia Martore, the president and CEO of Tegna, the newly-named broadcast and media company after the Gannett Co. spun off its publishing assets in June but kept the Gannett name.
“Virtually every name has been taken,” she says, and the team wanted a name that spoke to the company’s integrity, strength and forward-looking approach.
“Our employees have rallied around the name,” she says. But “a name is a name. It’s what we make of that name.”
The rebrand was an opportunity to take stock of everything—from websites to communication with employees—as the company had doubled in size after acquiring Belo in 2013 and six London Broadcasting Co. stations in 2014.
“It really was an opportunity for us to literally look at everything we’re doing and ask, ‘Is there a better way to do that?’” she says. “It was one of the great moments in the history of the company.”
The largest independent station group of major network affiliates in top 25 markets, Tegna Media boasts 46 TV stations covering 36 million households, reaching about one-third of the country. It now has its own dedicated digital development team and resources.
“We really have a fresh start and now have much more of a unified laser focus,” says Dave Lougee, Tegna Media president. “The change in name is a good metaphor for our evolving business.”
More than the bevy of honors Tegna has garnered, Lougee and company are proud of Tegna’s dedication to local journalism and the positive changes happening in communities as a result. And the honors have been many, including 72 regional, 12 national Edward R. Murrow and three of four Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University awards. In October, Lougee was inducted into the B&C Hall of Fame.
The company put a major focus on investigative journalism. All Tegna stations took part in an investigation into the country’s 911 systems, telling the public that when they call 911 from their cell phone, operators can’t find them. Afterward FCC chairman Tom Wheeler acknowledged the problem in an interview.
There was also an investigation into the backlog of untested sexual assault kits. The #testthekits inquiry led to the vice president, attorney general and district attorney for Manhattan pledging $80 million to solve the problem. It’s an example of Tegna’s embrace of social media and other tools and platforms to reach viewers anywhere.
“It’s starting a conversation,” Lougee says. “Social is an incredibly powerful way for a community to come together and have a discussion.”
In an effort to improve relations between police and communities, Tegna stations joined on a special report that included a town hall and social media outreach with the hashtag #startswithtrust.
“That was one of the most important things we’ve done this year,” Martore says. “Bringing people together and having those dialogues are incredibly important.”
Tegna also tested such shows as T.D. Jakes, clearing the talk show it coproduces for launch on 29 station next fall, as a way to break the expensive syndicated habit and take control of more of its daytime schedule.
The company has a deep commitment to communities that goes beyond journalism. WHAS in Louisville runs its annual Crusade for Children fundraiser, raising more than $5.5 million for special needs children over the past year. WLTX in Columbia joined cleanup efforts and food and clothing drives after major flooding hit South Carolina this fall.
The journalists and managers at Tegna realize the unique responsibility and privilege of working in television, Lougee says. “Nothing really can bring such a large community together like a local TV station does.”
TEGNA: TALE OF THE TAPE
■ 46 stations, covering 36 million households (roughly 1/3 of the country)
■ Largest independent station group of major network affiliates in top 25 markets
■ No. 1 affiliate group for NBC and CBS; No. 4 for ABC
■ 72 Regional Edward R. Murrow awards, most of any station group
■ 12 National Edward R. Murrow awards, most of any station group
■ 3 of 4 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University awards given to local TV stations
■ 6 IRE Investigative awards
■ 8 of 16 2015 Salute to Excellence Awards from National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)
■ 44 NPPA awards from National Association of Press Photographers
JUNE 2013 Unveils plans to acquire Belo Corp.
DECEMBER 2013 Completes acquisition of Belo
MAY 2014 Announces plans to purchase six London Broadcasting stations
JULY 2014 Finalizes acquisition of London Broadcasting stations
AUGUST 2014 Announces intention to split into two separate companies, one for broadcasting and digital, the other for publishing
JANUARY 2015 Launches the Justice Network on 22 stations; among several companies that partnered with Virginia Tech to test drones for news gathering; starts #startswithtrust campaign to improve dialogue between police and communities
FEBRUARY 2015 Commences investigation into country’s 911 systems across all stations
APRIL 2015 Unveils “Tegna” as name of new broadcasting and digital company; announces alliance with ViewLift to provide OTT digital sports and entertainment content with WinnersView sports app
JUNE 2015 Completes separation of Gannett and Tegna into two distinct companies; broadcasting company now named Tegna Media; invests in former media analyst Tom Wolzien’s Video Call Center
JULY 2015 Launches nationwide investigation into backlog of untested sexual assault kits with #testthekits
AUGUST 2015 Signs a new station affiliation deal with CBS covering 10 stations in 9% of the U.S. and 10 million households
SEPTEMBER 2015 Migrates to new mobile app platform
OCTOBER 2015 Finalizes sale of its McLean, Va., headquarters to Tamares for $270 million; establishes Tegna Texas news service, which now reaches 84% of state’s households
NOVEMBER 2015 The NewsON App for live local TV news, which includes news from some Tegna stations, goes live
DECEMBER 2015 Greenlights talk show T.D. Jakes for fall 2016 launch on 29 station following test over the summer in four markets; completes acquisition of three Sander Media TV stations following FCC approval, in a deal initially announced in July; had been servicing them under shared services and similar agreements since December 2013; joins Scripps and Sinclair in a four-week test of crime-focused talk show The Security Brief With Paul Viollis; starts Texas-wide investigation and advocacy initiative with focus on child poverty