February 10, 2003

Knight Riddance

Knight Ridder is conducting a "$100 Million Scavenger Hunt" to cut costs throughout the 31-newspaper chain, the nation's second-largest, according to a story in the New York Times.

A team of editors, according to a company memo, is making the following money-saving suggestions:

 Creating national teams of reporters to provide coverage of wars, politics and major events.  Centralizing the copy-editing function, allowing different newsrooms to share the editors who fine-tune articles and write headlines and photo captions.  Charging for some free listings, like movie timetables, stock tables and obituaries.  Cutting corporate costs related to diversity initiatives.  Considering the inclusion of strips of advertising at the bottom of sections' front pages.  Cutting staff positions.

As the memo circulates, the executive editor of the Miami Herald, a Knight Ridder publication, and one of the paper's columnists publicly debate whether or not the Herald is but a shadow of its former greatness.

Last week columnist Jim DeFede asked: "What happened to The Herald?" And answered: "There are not enough reporters, editors and photographers to cover this community the way it deserves to be covered."

DeFede blamed Knight Ridder for cuts in staff and benefits, saying, "It was sobering, sitting in the newsroom of one of the largest papers in the United States, and listening to some of the employees debate whether they would have to drop their medical coverage because they couldn't afford the new premiums (while) corporate executives were granted $10 million in bonuses."

Today, Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler asks his own question: "Was there a time when we were better? Show me when." And makes this assertion: "Knight Ridder's profit goals (earnings) are more modest than some of its newspaper-industry peers, including Gannett (earnings), publisher of USA Today, or the Tribune Company (earnings), which publishes the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale."

Defensiveness is becoming a Knight Ridder trait. Just last week, CEO Tony Ridder used the Poynter Institute as a platform from which to proclaim that "impact journalism" is alive and well in the chain.

 New York Times Cost Cuts at Knight Ridder
 Jim DeFede What happened to The Herald?
 Tom Fiedler Herald's formidable past doesn't outshine its present

Posted by Tim Porter at February 10, 2003 08:06 AM

Can you at least spell Fiedler correctly?

Posted by: me on February 11, 2003 08:22 PM

I can. Thanks.

Posted by: Tim on February 11, 2003 10:34 PM

It's funny. On the day I read this, I went out to lunch with a Knight-Ridder type who had just gotten her new expense account credit card from Tony Ridder. When the $17 lunch was rejected we thought we were on the $100 million trail.

Posted by: Meg on February 17, 2003 03:13 PM
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