A Move Fraught with Symbolism

By Morton, John | American Journalism Review, June 1998 | Go to article overview

A Move Fraught with Symbolism


Morton, John, American Journalism Review


Knight Ridder leaves Miami and heads for Silicon Valley.

A newspaper chain's headquarters is often located in the place where the company got its start. Witness the New York Times Co. in New York City, the Washington Post Co. in Washington, D.C., the Tribune Co. in Chicago, McClatchy in Sacramento, Times Mirror in Los Angeles.

Sometimes, though, changes in operations or the predilections of a chief executive or owner bring changes as well in the location of headquarters. Symbolism, too, can be a factor if a company seeks to recast its image in the eyes of advertisers or investors, or for more subtle reasons having to do with personalities and company history.

Gannett, for example, seeking a greater national image after its creation of USA Today, soon moved its headquarters from relatively isolated Rochester, New York, to Washington, D.C. (Well, actually, across the Potomac River in Rosslyn, Virginia, but you get the idea.)

Donrey Media for a long time had two corporate headquarters, in Las Vegas, Nevada, where founder Donald W. Reynolds preferred to live, and Fort Smith, Arkansas, where Donrey publishes the Southwest Times Record. After Reynolds' death, everything was consolidated in Fort Smith.

Now comes Knight Ridder, which recently announced it will be moving headquarters from Miami to California's Silicon Valley, where the company publishes the San Jose Mercury News as well as other dailies not far away. This actually will be the second move for the company's headquarters. Before the merger of Knight Newspapers and Ridder Publications in 1974, Knight had been based at its founding newspaper, the Akron Beacon Journal. It then moved in the early 1970s to Miami home of its then-major profit center, the Miami Herald. Ridder had been based at its St. Paul Pioneer Press and had family members at work at several of its properties, notably in San Jose.

The Knight Ridder move which will be completed early next year, clearly falls under the rubric of symbolism, both obvious and subtle. P. Anthony Ridder, Knight Ridder's chairman and chief executive, cited the importance of the headquarters being located where "the best thinking about the future of the information business" is being done concerning "new technology and the emerging power of the Internet...."

"As a news and information company," he said, "we want to stay very close to developments related to the new medium. …

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