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Gannett CEO paints dark picture

Gannett CEO Douglas McCorkindale told analysts Tuesday that the company's just ended first quarter was "the most challenging quarter the company has had since the early 90's," when the last recession hit the U.S. economy. And there is no end in sight through the second quarter, McCorkindale said.

"We are seeing no positive signs in the economy." If the trend persists, he said, the company's second quarter earnings will be down compared the second quarter 2000. On the TV side, he said that automobile (the division's biggest ad category) and retail were "particularly soft in the first quarter, while national spot remained "much softer" than local advertising.

Currently, he said, national spot sales for the second quarter are pacing in the 15% range below second quarter 2000. TV revenue in the first quarter was down 7% to $155.6 million, while operating income was down 18% to $54.2 million, despite the fact that the TV division kept its costs flat. - Steve McClellan