New York--Bucking the downward trend in media companies' earnings this season, Gannett Co. Inc., publisher of USA Today
, said first-quarter earnings rose as the Winter Olympics and lower newsprint costs helped to offset the effects of the advertising slump. Gannett said earnings rose to $243.6 million, or 91 cents per share, up from $174.5 million, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier. Television ad revenue rose 7% to $167.2 million, helped by Gannett's 13 NBC affiliates, which had strong results during the Winter Olympics. But the media company didn't fare as well with ad pages for its print products. Total ad revenue for Gannett's newspaper division fell to $969.8 million from $1.02 billion a year earlier, while first-quarter ad revenue for the company's flagship USA Today
fell 9%. The decline was offset by cheaper newsprint costs, which fell 18%. "Newspaper operating results trailed our year-ago performance but recent trends suggest a more encouraging economic environment,'' said Gannett President-CEO Douglas McCorkindale. "We are cautious but a little more optimistic for the remainder of the year."