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Media Chiefs Agree: Business Is 'Stinko.' but Panelists at the George Strike Journalism Program Disagree on Whether Rape Victims' Names Should Be Published

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Media Chiefs Agree: Business Is 'Stinko.' but Panelists at the George Strike Journalism Program Disagree on Whether Rape Victims' Names Should Be Published

Article excerpt

Media chiefs agree: Business is |stinko'

When three of the nation's top newspaper executives gathered at the University of Cincinnati, they were unanimous on one point.

"I can say in a word: business is stinko," William R. Burleigh, executive vice president for Scripps Howard, told the recent annual George L. Strike Journalism Program.

The executives split somewhat on other issues, however, including the decision by some news organizations to name the accuser in the so-called Kennedy rape case; the appropriateness of Kitty Kelly's new book; and how long business would continue to be "stinko."

Burleigh, for one, is not optimistic.

"I've been in this business 39 years and this is the most serious economic situation I've ever experienced," he said.

Walter Barlett, chairman of chief executive of Multimedia Inc., said bluntly that he sees "no signs we are coming out of that recession in newspapers and broadcast, particularly broadcast."

However, Gannett Co. chairman John J. Curley struck a much more optimistic note.

Curley said he agreed with the assessments of some economists that this recession had bottomed out.

"I've been in contact [recently] with 12 properties of some size in different parts of the country, and they tell me there are slight improvements overall, [although] not necessarily in classified and retail," he said.

Curley estimated that "genuine improvement" in the economy is three to six months away.

The executives were also worried about longer-term problems.

"This recession is going to end," Scripps Howard's Burleigh said. "The question that needs to be asked is, [Are difficulties] cyclical or secular?"

Media companies need to position themselves to be ready to grow again when the economy turns, Burleigh added.

"Everybody in the media today is doing a very delicate balancing act," he said.

"You're trying to preserve your news organization for the time when you emerge from this, while at the same time realigning the scarcer rations that these economic times have left."

The trick is not to go too far, Burleigh said.

"Some news organizations - not represented here - have gone overboard, cutting back drastically to satisfy Wall Street for the next quarter, forgetting they are going to be in the news business into the 21st century. …

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