The Conventional Wisdom Trap: When It Comes to Newspaper Ownership, Saviors Are Elusive

By Rieder, Rem | American Journalism Review, February-March 2007 | Go to article overview

The Conventional Wisdom Trap: When It Comes to Newspaper Ownership, Saviors Are Elusive


Rieder, Rem, American Journalism Review


The trouble with conventional wisdom is that often it's stronger on the conventional than on the wisdom. That's certainly true when it comes to newspaper ownership.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Take the case of Knight Ridder. When the beleaguered, fading company was bullied into putting itself up for sale, the prevailing view was that the best ending would be for its papers to wind up in the hands of McClatchy. This aging righthander may even have written a column to that effect (see "White Knight?" Web special). The thinking was, McClatchy had an audacious, dynamic chief executive, and it still seemed to embrace the quaint if not vanishing notion that quality journalism was important.

Actually, McClatchy may well have been the best bet, given the terrifying lack of attractive alternatives. But it's certainly an outcome that evokes far less enthusiasm than it did in the day.

No sooner had McClatchy sealed the deal than it cast off the Knight Ridder papers deemed to be in slow-growth markets and/or incapable of making enough money. The message was clear: Quality journalism is fine, but only when it's way lucrative.

Then came this shocker in late December: Out of the blue, the company jettisoned its flagship Star Tribune in Minneapolis, selling it to the private equity firm Avista Capital Partners. (See The Business of Journalism, page 64.)

What a turnaround. When the company bought the Star Tribune in 1998 for an eye-popping $1.2 billion, it served notice that McClatchy was on the move and that its CEO, the body surfing and rock 'n roll loving Gary Pruitt, was indeed a player.

Who would have guessed that eight years later, McClatchy would be dumping its largest paper for less than half of what it paid for it? Instead of an important news outlet, a major voice in a big city, the Star Tribune had become in McClatchy's eyes a drain on the company's profit margins and an opportunity for a big tax break.

In these dark times for ink-on-paper, with readers and advertisers defecting to the Internet in droves, Pruitt had emerged as an evangelist about the bright future of newspapers. This fire sale sent a very different message.

As Colby Atwood, an analyst at the media research firm Borrell Associates, told the New York Times, "They're buying cash flow and tax benefits. It's not the sort of religious commitment that you hope to get from newspaper owners."

Or take the conventional wisdom about ownership. In recent years public ownership of newspapers has gotten more bad ink than Terrell Owens.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Conventional Wisdom Trap: When It Comes to Newspaper Ownership, Saviors Are Elusive
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.