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Diversity-Friendly McClatchy Buys Knight Ridder

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Dropping 12 Papers Puts Some of Color in Jeopardy

The acquisition of Knight Ridder by the McClatchy Co., announced today, combines two companies with stated commitments to diversity but leaves uncertain the futures of a number of journalists of color.

McClatchy immediately announced it would divest 12 Knight Ridder newspapers, including some with increasingly multicultural circulation areas and journalists of color at the helm.

The papers to be divested are "mainly located in cities that do not fit the company's longstanding acquisition criteria, chiefly involving growing markets," a McClatchy news release said.

"The largest are the Philadelphia Inquirer and San Jose Mercury News. Others include Knight Ridder's other Philadelphia paper, the Daily News; Akron Beacon Journal (OH); Wilkes Barre Times Leader (PA); Aberdeen American News (SD); Grand Forks Herald (ND); Ft. Wayne News- Sentinel (IN); Contra Costa Times (CA); Monterey Herald (CA); and Duluth News Tribune (MN). The St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN) is to be sold due to anticipated anti-trust concerns involving McClatchy's (Minneapolis) Star Tribune," the statement said.

"These are terrific publications but simply do not fit with our long-standing acquisition and operating strategies," Gary Pruitt, CEO of the McClatchy Co., said in the release.

Orage Quarles, publisher of McClatchy's News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., told Journal-isms that at the 20 papers McClatchy is keeping, the growth in households in the market is expected to be 11.4 percent over the next five years. McClatchy's existing papers are in markets expecting a household growth rate of 11.9 percent. But the figure in markets for those being dropped is 4.6 percent, he said.

"The early sense is, 'OK, what now?'" Debra Adams Simmons, editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, told Journal-isms this morning. "I'm just waiting and seeing. I believe at the end of this I'll have a job somewhere. We're committed to getting out the best paper we can, regardless of who owns it. The success of the Akron Beacon Journal lies in who creates it, not who owns it."

Simmons, a graduate of the Maynard Institute's management program, said she was not surprised that her Rust Belt, union paper in a "mature market" did not fit McClatchy's strategy.

Simmons' new managing editor, Mizell Stewart III, was editor of the Tallahassee Democrat when Knight Ridder sold it last summer to Gannett Co. He then went to work for Knight Ridder's corporate office, and assisted the Biloxi (Miss.) Sun-Herald in getting out its editions when hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit in August and September. Just a month ago, Stewart started at Akron as managing editor.

"We're closing on our house today," said Stewart. "Everybody here has been watching the developments and we're waiting for the next shoe to drop. We're going to focus on good journalism," he said of the new period of uncertainty. "And if someone comes in and says, 'we'd like to have different leadership in the newsroom,' that's fine."

The Beacon Journal was John S. Knight's first newspaper, Simmons noted, saying, "This is where it all began." Some people on the staff have been at the paper 30 years, and for them, she said, the transition will be a "huge challenge."

Among other Knight Ridder papers on the list for divestment, the Aberdeen (S.D.) American News, Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald and Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, circulate in markets with significant populations of Native Americans.

News executives facing uncertainty include Carolina Garcia, a Latina who is executive editor of the Monterey County Herald, and Michael Days, an African American who is editor of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Garcia said staffers at the paper were relieved Sunday night when they learned Knight Ridder had been bought by McClatchy, then shocked this morning to learn that McClatchy planned to sell the Herald. She said Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder told the staff today that he, too, was "stunned" when he learned Thursday that McClatchy planned to put the Monterey paper on the market. "It's going to be a very hard three to six months," Garcia told Journal-isms.

Garcia said she had improved the level of diversity from 10 or 11 percent when she arrived three years ago to 29 percent today. A local group of community leaders is thinking about bidding for the paper, she said.

The McClatchy Co.'s acquisition is valued at approximately $6.5 billion. The expanded McClatchy Co. will have 32 daily newspapers and approximately 50 non-dailies, its announcement said. Its dailies will have a combined daily circulation of about 3.2 million, making it the nation's second largest newspaper company measured by daily circulation.

The sale keeps Knight Ridder, which ranked behind Gannett Co. as the nation's second-largest newspaper company, in the hands of a newspaper company, an important concern for those who worried how journalism would rank in the new owner's priorities. McClatchy vied with a private equity consortium of Texas Pacific Group, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Hellman & Friedman, Bain Capital and Oak Hill Partners.

"Our two companies operate in the finest traditions of American journalism, devoted to independent, public interest reporting and the highest ethical values," Pruitt said. "Combining the two creates a company particularly well-positioned to lead the way in a changing media landscape. It's truly a chance for McClatchy to do more of what it does best."

McClatchy gains such papers as the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star, Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram and Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.

Among the papers McClatchy already owns are the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., the Fresno (Calif.) Bee, the Modesto (Calif.) Bee and the News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash.

Ranking people of color at its papers include Rick Rodriguez, editor of the Sacramento Bee, who is also president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Quarles, and Rufus Friday, publisher of the Tri-Cities Herald in Kennewick, Wash.

At the corporate level, Christian Henricks has been vice president for interactive media since 1999, and Frederick R. Ruiz, chairman of Ruiz Foods, Inc., a privately held frozen food company, has been a director since 1993.

"I can't think of a company that's more committed to diversity than our company," Quarles said. He added that six of the company's 12 publishers are women. "It starts at the top with the CEO," he said, speaking of Pruitt.

McClatchy ranked third, behind Gannett and Knight Ridder, on a 2005 "Newsroom Diversity Index" that compared the share of jobs held by journalists of color with the nonwhite share of the population in the newspaper's circulation area. The ranking put it ahead of such companies as the New York Times Co., Cox Enterprises, Newhouse, Freedom Communications, Pulitzer, Scripps, Tribune Co. and Dow Jones.

The study was compiled for the Knight Foundation by Bill Dedman, a correspondent for the Boston Globe, and Stephen K. Doig, interim director of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication of Arizona State University.

In 2004, McClatchy announced a new company holiday called Diversity Day, which "must be taken off for diversity-related events such as Cesar Chavez Day, Chinese New Year or Yom Kippur, and cannot be used simply as a floating holiday. Employees who don't select a specific date will automatically receive the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday," it said.

Knight Ridder popularized the slogan "Diversity. No Excuses." Two black journalists hold high-ranking positions at corporate headquarters, Larry Olmstead, vice president/staff development and diversity; and Bryan Monroe, assistant vice president/news, who is president of the National Association of Black Journalists.

"McClatchy has a great record for journalistic diversity. Clearly, they want to keep up that record," Monroe said. "They have their own corporate staff. It's unclear what will happen to me and the rest of the corporate staff."

According to the Star Tribune, Pruitt wrote in a letter to employees, "We don't plan any across-the-board layoffs at the Knight Ridder papers we retain, though there are some job duplications on the Knight Ridder corporate staff and at Knight Ridder Digital [Knight Ridder's Internet operations] that will have to be addressed."

"KR has been honored repeatedly for its diversity and inclusiveness efforts," Olmstead told Journal-isms last night. "In 2005, we were on Diversity Inc.'s Top 50 list for minorities, and we have made Fortune Magazine's Top 50 list three times in the past six years. In the last two years, we have been honored by Latina Style; Essence; Black Collegian, and the National Association of Female Executives (NAFE), among others.

"To quote Tony Ridder: 'Only diversity of thought and background and origin enables us to genuinely reflect our heterogeneous readership. Only diversity of customer relationships enables us to tap the true business potential of our burgeoning ethnic populations.'

"People of color now make up 18 percent of our top executives across the company (division director and above), 19 percent of overall supervisors, more than 20 percent of newsroom supervisors and 28 percent of officials and managers at Corporate. Newsroom minority staffing is about 20 percent. Women make up nearly 37 percent of top executives companywide and 43.4 percent of department heads. Minority and female representation in our overall staffing last year hit new highs for us. People of color now make up 30.6 percent of our employee count companywide. Female representation is at 42.1 percent."

The deal is expected to close in three to four months, according to the Star Tribune. On the 12 being divested, Pruitt told CNBC this morning that the company "will begin marketing those newspapers today," the paper reported.

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N.Y. Times Co. to Establish Diversity Officer

The New York Times Co. will create the position of chief diversity officer, "with overarching authority for pushing our diversity agenda throughout the news and business units of our company," Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told Times employees last week in his "State of the Times" address.

The position was a recommendation of the Times' in-house Diversity Council, whose report to management was made available to Times employees March 1. The council was formed in October 2004 at Sulzberger's request.

The council warned, "The Times is a newspaper at risk. If it fails to diversify its work force and to make attendant changes in its corporate culture, the Times will inevitably lose stature."

Sulzberger said in his address, which he asked employees not to discuss outside the Times Co., "One of the recommendations made by the diversity council was the creation of a chief diversity officer for our newspaper. I, and others, felt that if we were to create such a position it should have responsibility across all the business units of our company.

"Now that we have Dave Norton as our head of corporate HR, I am pleased to announce that he, Janet and I have concluded that it makes sense to create such a position," Sulzberger continued, referring to Janet L. Robinson, the company's president and CEO. "We will begin searching immediately for someone to fill that role. This person will have overarching authority for pushing our diversity agenda throughout the news and business units of our company."

It was not clear whether the diversity officer would have the rank of senior vice president, as the Diversity Council recommended.

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More Media Covering Less News, Report Says

"The third annual review of the state of American journalism found that while there were more media outlets this year than ever, they were covering less news," as Katharine Q. Seelye reported today in the New York Times.

"The review was conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, an institute affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and financed by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"As part of the review, a special study looked at how a variety of outlets, including newspapers, television, radio and the Internet, covered a single day's worth of news and concluded that there was enormous repetition and amplification of just two dozen stories. Moreover, it said, 'the incremental and even ephemeral nature of what the media define as news is striking.'"

The report acknowledged the "robust" picture for ethnic media.

It said, "Even if newspapers are not dying, they and other old media are constricting, and so, it appears, is the amount of resources dedicated to original newsgathering.

"Most local radio stations, our content study this year finds, offer virtually nothing in the way of reporters in the field. On local TV news, fewer and fewer stories feature correspondents, and the range of topics that get full treatment is narrowing even more to crime and accidents, plus weather, traffic and sports. On the Web, the Internet-only sites that have tried to produce original content (among them Slate and Salon) have struggled financially, while those thriving financially rely almost entirely on the work of others. Among blogs, there is little of what journalists would call reporting (our study this year finds reporting in just 5% of postings). Even in bigger newsrooms, journalists report that specialization is eroding as more reporters are recast into generalists."

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Frank Maestas, N.M. Sports Journalist, Dies at 70

"Frank Maestas, one of New Mexico's most popular and recognizable sportswriters during his 29-year career at the Albuquerque Journal, died Wednesday after a bout with pneumonia and lung disease. He was 70," the Associated Press reported last week.

Maetas' death prompted a column from the editor of the competing Albuquerque Tribune.

"You might be surprised that the editor of The Tribune would write about a former employee of our competitor," Phill Casaus wrote Saturday under the headline, "Go ahead, shed tear for Frank, but no whining."

"But Maestas' legacy and impact on the business far outdistance petty, parochial rivalries.

"In his 30 years at the Journal, and 70 years in New Mexico, Maestas stood for telling things as they were – not how coaches or players or fans wished they would be. With The Trib's Carlos Salazar, he was one of the very few Hispanics in a time when sports writing was wall-to-wall Anglo.

"Make no mistake – they inspired generations of New Mexico kids who dreamed of writing for newspapers."

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Denver Post Runs Front-Page Story on N-Word

"It has been called the nuclear bomb of racial epithets. The filthiest, dirtiest, nastiest word in the English language. A word that has an undisputed pedigree of hate. The word? Nigger," Alicia Caldwell began her front-page story Sunday in the Denver Post.

"A Boulder jury recently convicted Phillip Martinez of beating an African-American college student but declined to find Martinez guilty of ethnic intimidation despite testimony that he had yelled the word during the altercation.

"The outcome shocked many who followed the trial, but it reveals what some say is a complex and confusing evolution of an emotionally charged word that is appearing more frequently in popular culture."

"The response has been overwhelming, and not just in volume," Caldwell told Journal-isms, adding that she had received 30 to 40 e-mails. "People shared with me moving stories about their personal encounters with the word, and their thoughts on whether its use is ever acceptable. It has been fascinating, and humbling. . . . Humbling because in this business you don't always have the opportunity to spark such debate on a topic so meaningful and important. The idea for the story came from our Executive Editor Greg Moore, who was right on in spotting the issue." Moore is African American.

The paper's Web site features a message board in which readers discuss the story and the issue.

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Gordon Parks Services Tuesday, Thursday

Funeral services are scheduled for photojournalist, director and artist Gordon Parks Tuesday in New York and Thursday in his native Fort Scott, Kan., according to news reports.

Parks died March 7 at age 93.

In New York, a viewing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Riverside Church with his funeral to follow at 2 p.m., according to NY1 News.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is expected to speak at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Scott, according to WIBW-TV in Topeka, Kan.

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2nd-, 3rd-Generation Latinos Challenge Networks

"More Latinos are American-born and English-speaking, and their tastes in television are changing more quickly than Univision's shows," Mireya Navarro wrote Friday in the New York Times.

"That poses challenges not only for Univision but for other Spanish- and English-language networks. For the first time, networks on each side of the language divide could significantly expand their audiences by pursuing the same demographic group: second- and third-generation Latinos who are bilingual or speak mostly English and are as likely to watch 'Fear Factor' on NBC as 'El Gordo y la Flaca' ('The Scoop and the Skinny') on Univision, and who are largely underserved in either language."

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Short Takes

  • "Since Baldo debuted almost six years ago as the first nationally syndicated cartoon strip featuring Latino characters, its creators, Hector Cantu and Carlos Castellanos, have drawn Baldo and his familia to be more than just a cute family in funny situations," Marisa Trevino wrote today in her Latina Lista blog. The cartoonists are working with the National Council of La Raza to educate Latino seniors about a scam involving con artists who tell the unwary they have won the lottery, but must fork over a security deposit. "In Texas, victims have been swindled out of more than $4 million in the last several years," Trevino wrote, adding that more than 200 newspapers receive Baldo through Universal Press Syndicate.
  • The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters Inc., drew an A-list of celebrities, including singers Aretha Franklin and Alicia Keys and actor Terrence Howard, to a black-tie, $600-per-seat evening in Washington Friday night, Neely Tucker reported Saturday in the Washington Post.
  • "Twentieth Television executives are focusing on boosting ratings for Geraldo at Large. Following the old-school television strategy of going local, Twentieth has taken the show on the road, shooting episodes in different markets and touting [Geraldo] Rivera to local media," Ben Gross reported today in Broadcasting & Cable.
  • Art Coulson, one of three Native American editorial page editors at a mainstream paper when he left the St. Paul Pioneer Press in January, has started a public relations and graphics firm in St. Paul, Redbird Media & Graphics, with his wife, Laurie, Coulson said today. He starts March 20 as public communications manager of the Ramsey County (Minn.) Regional Railroad Authority, which is developing a light rail line between St. Paul and Minneapolis and redeveloping the Union Depot in downtown St. Paul.
  • Reporting from Chad, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote Sunday that Fox commentator "Bill O'Reilly refused to join me on this trip, passing up the $727,000 that my readers had pledged to sponsor his trip to Darfur. But Ann Curry of the 'Today' show and a top-notch NBC crew did travel with me. . . . Unlike Bill, Ann didn't flinch at traveling in janjaweed-infested areas or at staying in a primitive $4-a-night 'hotel' with no plumbing. (O.K., she did shudder just a little at the wildlife in the hotel's outhouse.) If you want to break your heart, watch her reports beginning tomorrow – and ABC and CBS, where are you?"
  • In Ethiopia, "An editor was sentenced on Wednesday to one year in prison on a charge of publishing 'false news' in a 2002 report attributed to the BBC, which claimed that Ethiopia was training rebels in neighboring Eritrea," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported Friday. "Abraham Gebrekidan, who edited the now-defunct Amharic-language weekly Politika, was immediately jailed, several local sources told the Committee."
  • "The World Bank has added Press freedom to a list of conditions Kenya has to meet before it lifts the aid freeze slapped on the country," Ochieng' Oreyo reported today for the East African Standard in Nairobi.
  • William "Mr. Bill" Christian, 64, former news director at Howard University's WHUR radio station and WHUT-TV and an adjunct communications professor, died Feb. 12 of complications of diabetes at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
  • Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins – who became known nationally as "The Three Doctors" after the success of their 2002 bestseller, "The Pact" – have signed a deal with Riverhead Books to publish a new nonfiction work, and they've enlisted black journalist Margaret Bernstein as their writer, Bernstein, a feature writer at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, reported. Bernstein met the doctors when she wrote a feature piece about them last year. "The new book, slated to be released in 2007, will share the doctors' feelings on fatherhood and fatherlessness. All three grew up without a father in the home consistently," Bernstein told Journal-isms.
  • "As veteran Jack Williams returns to his post behind CBS4-TV's nightly anchor desk in an effort to boost news ratings, don't expect his longtime former co-anchor Liz Walker to take the seat next to him," Jessica Heslam wrote Friday in the Boston Herald. Since leaving the anchor desk a year ago, Walker graduated from Harvard Divinity School, traveled to war-torn Sudan for a third time as part of her ministry, is trying to build a school there and has been helping her son prepare for college. She also has been working on her weekly "Sunday with Liz Walker," which began its second season Sunday, Heslam reported.

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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