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Monday, August 28, 2021

The New York Times pokes a stick at the corpse of Knight Ridder, wondering what went wrong.

The blame is nominally laid at the feet of former KR chief P. Anthony Ridder, for not putting up more of a fight against the Bruce Sherman-led financial barbarians at the gate. It’s even suggested that the post-McClatchy sell-off of individual newspapers should have offered a blueprint to Ridder for avoiding the sale of his namesake:

Some thought that Mr. Ridder could have sold off pieces of the company in order to keep it afloat. William Dean Singleton, the chief executive of the MediaNews Group, which eventually bought four of the Knight Ridder papers from McClatchy, was one.

“In retrospect, if Tony had it in him to sell Philadelphia and Akron, as Gary has done, the company he had left would have looked good,” he said, referring to Mr. Pruitt’s sale of the Knight Ridder papers in those markets. Without those papers, Mr. Singleton said, “his financial performance would have been among the best in the industry.”

More broadly, the short-term performance prerogatives that come with being a publicly-held company are blamed for doing in KR and applying constant pressure on other newspaper conglomerates to cut operating costs. That’s nothing new — the evil spectre of the bleating shareholder has been the newspaper industry’s bogeyman even before the Web showed up as an undercutting competitor. And particularly lately, lots of public companies and analysts have been dreaming of going private, thus ditching those pesky quarterly reports.

I’m thinking we’re overdue for a historical analysis on how the last “dinosaur” media sector fared when faced with extinction: Radio. Television was supposed to kill off the AM/FM dial back in the ’60s and ’70s; I’d imagine the stock market back then reacted in a downcast manner similar to the current attitude for newspapers. Of course, radio reoriented itself and became a hugely profitable business, regaining the full confidence of Wall Street; no reason why newspapers shouldn’t be expected to turn a similar trick.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/28/2006 11:39:02 PM
Category: Business, Publishing, Radio
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