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New York – Two of the country’s largest newspaper companies are in “advanced talks” to combine.

That’s according to a Wall Street Journal report that cites unidentified people familiar with the matter.

The Journal says that Gannett Co., the owner of USA Today, and GateHouse Media, the owner of the Austin American-Statesman, Palm Beach Post and many papers in small- and mid-sized towns, are nearing a deal that would have GateHouse or its parent buy Gannett.

The Detroit Free Press also is owned by Gannett, which formed a partnership with MediaNews Group, owner of the The Detroit News, to combine business operations of the two newspapers. The newsrooms remain separately owned and independent. 

New Media Investment Group, itself a unit of private equity firm Fortress Investment Group, owns GateHouse. Fortress’ owner is Japanese tech giant SoftBank, which also owns U.S. wireless carrier Sprint.

GateHouse, New Media and Fortress did not immediately reply to messages. Gannett declined to comment.

Newspapers have been combining to weather the decline in print ad sales.

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