March 13, 2006

Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-air

The press release from McClatchy announcing they would be aquiring Knight Ridder for around 6.5 billion (with a "B") dollars was only slightly better than if the announcement was from MediaNews Group.

I work for a major metropolitan newspaper in the San Francisco bay area owned by Knight Ridder. That changed today. Although the actual sale is not complete, the parties involved have agreed to terms. One of those terms is divesting "12 Knight Ridder newspapers, mainly located in cities that do not fit the company's longstanding aquisition criteria, chiefly involving growing markets."

The Chairman and CEO of McClatchy, Gary Pruitt said, "These are terrific publications but simply do not fit with our long-standing aquisition and operating strategies."

The reason I said this news was only slightly better than if MediaNews Group made the purchase? With MediaNews Group we could have at least been assured that we would all have been fired mercilessly and the union dissolved (don't let the door hit you on the way out). With McClatchy as the buyer, things are less assured. The speculation that they will sell the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury News (the two largest Knight Ridder papers) along with ten other papers, leaves plenty of room for the rumor mill to churn. The last fatality caused by MediaNews Group was the aquisition of the Oakland Tribune in Oakland, CA. You can read some of the ugly stuff at the associated link. That would be a rather disappointing end to my nearly 20 year span at this job.

Fortunately there are really no horror stories (that I know of) regarding McClatchy. There is always a first. Hopefully that won't be the case here. What I think would be the ideal situation (in my non-MBA trained mind) is the following:
Tony Ridder, the former publisher and owner of the San Jose Mercury News purchases the paper. He does this by garnering support from "employee investors" and local venture capitalists. The "employee investors" would then have a vested interest in ensuring the production of the highest quality product possible. The better the product, the higher the return on their investment. This is all about investment anyway, why not have it benefit the people who rely on it the most?

Unfortunately for the time being, all we can do is speculate on the "who"s and "when"s of it all. Being at the bottom of the food chain on this multi-billion dollar deal relegates us to "please hold for the next available representative" status. We'll know the inside employee scoop just as soon as everybody and their brother knows it.

Trying to be optomistic in a pessimistic situation!

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4 comments:

  1. I hope it's not your paper that goes. Good luck.

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  2. Hope all goes well for you in this major shakeup. I think, unfortunately, that the time has come when major print newspapers, particularly "mainstream" publications like the Chronicle, Mercury News, NYT, etc., are reaping what they've sown in terms of alienating their readership with a combination of political propaganda and trivia. Most serious news seekers use the medium we are now communicating in to get a picture of what's going on in the world.

    Let's just hope that McClatchy has a vision for making your employer really stand out as a newspaper. The only way to maintain market share in this day and age is to offer the customer that which the competition doesn't. Sadly, most papers aren't even remotely interested in breaking this kind of ground.

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  3. Todd, you're spot on with your assessment of Media News. We'll all be out on our asses and I speak from expierence on this. I used to work for the Hayward Daily Review and we were all given the boot when Media News bought us. We had the "opportunity" to reapply for our jobs at 2/3rds the pay and no bennies. Just what I wanted to do.
    No need to be an optimist here, we're as good as gone. You're dreaming if you think Uncle Tony's going to buy us. Fat Chance!

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  4. Blah Blah..more Blah Blah WTF!!!

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Always glad to have some form of reaction/response to my posts. Caustic or otherwise.