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    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    The Day Our Newspaper Died: Here it is:

    What Mr. Ridder did not say was that during the previous three months, an aggressive group of shareholders, headed by Bruce S. Sherman of Private Capital Management, had been urging him behind the scenes to sell the company.

    Among other things, Mr. Sherman and his fellow investors were disappointed with Knight Ridder’s faltering stock price. In the months after the analysts’ meeting, Mr. Ridder maneuvered to cut costs and to satisfy Mr. Sherman. He bought back shares, dumped the troubled Detroit Free Press and cut jobs at Knight Ridder papers in Philadelphia and San Jose, Calif. But Mr. Sherman, joined by two other major institutional investors, continued to press for a sale.

    Last spring, Mr. Sherman’s wish was granted. Knight Ridder — with 18,000 employees and 32 daily newspapers with a combined circulation of 3.7 million — sold itself to the McClatchy Company for $4.5 billion and the assumption of $2 billion in debt. In June, just one year after Mr. Ridder confidently reassured analysts about his company’s future, the deal closed and Knight Ridder ceased to exist.

    ....McClatchy quickly sold 12 of the 32 papers picked up in the Knight Ridder acquisition. All 12 ended up in private hands, and at least one has been subject to further cutbacks. Last Tuesday, Black Press Ltd., which bought the ailing Akron Beacon Journal from McClatchy, announced that it was laying off a quarter of the 161 employees in The Beacon Journal’s newsroom.


    I've always thought that The Akron Beacon Journal was one of the best medium-sized city newspapers I've ever had the pleasure to read. It's superior to the Syracuse Post-Standard and The Toledo Blade. But that's quickly changing with the new management. It's becoming the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader.

    It's strength lies in the quality of its local columnists. People like Terry Pluto, who not only writes intelligently about sports, but also does a decent column on religion, too. There's David Giffels who covers local interest stories. He did a wonderful series on the red vs. blue state thing during the 2004 election. I wish it was available online, but this gives some idea of the drift. So far, the newspaper has been silent about the recent firings, but I heard on the radio that two of their best writers have gotten the axe - movie critic George Thomas and popular music critic Malcom X Abram. I'm not much of a pop music fan, but I always enjoy the lively writing of Malcom X Abram. I'd much rather read the reviews of Thomas and Abram than those of syndicated critics. Thomas reviews movies that are showing here in our area, and Abrams reviews musical acts that are here. The paper seems to be moving toward focusing on a more local orientation, but firing their good writers isn't the way to achieve that goal. I'm afraid we're going to be left with stuff like this in their place. And the TV guide section.

    It would have been nice if someone local with a lot of money had been able to buy the Beacon Journal, and run it as a private company whose purpose it was to provide the local community with good writing and good reporting. They've already got the good writers. The new management just doesn't seem to realize it.
     

    posted by Sydney on 8/27/2006 06:06:00 PM 1 comments

    1 Comments:

    Quite a shame that such managements can't see the value of something.

    By Anonymous Niels, at 10:48 AM  

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