Am I happy? What do you think?

People ask, in a concerned sort of voice, whether we’re happy with our new ownership. Are you kidding? Swapping Knight Ridder for McClatchy is a dream come true. Sure, it’s early to tell (the sale just finalized this week, and a lot of basic decisions remain up in the air), but all the signs are excellent.

Here’s somebody who expresses the difference in a fairly graphic manner. It’s a pretty good piece. Of course, he castigates me and my colleagues for not writing the same piece while under KR ownership:

    And this is a man whose company purports to honor the public trust?
And how many of his newspapers and their reporters — anywhere — will
write about this?
    None, that’s how many. Newsrooms are loaded with hypocrites quick to
pontificate about every other publicly held company and its executives.
All but their own.

I guess guys who are rich enough to buy papers (that’s Mr. Connor at right) have a perspective thatConnor2 allows them to sneer not only at their own class, but at us working stiffs who don’t hear the same country-club gossip that they do. I don’t know how I was supposed to write stuff I didn’t know about, such as the great golf clubs anecdote. I knew Tony and company were running the company into the ground, but I didn’t know enough about business matters to explain authoritatively how they were doing it. As I’ve tried to make clear in the past, Tony Ridder only said one thing that mattered to me — he promised that the editorial pages would be independent of corporate influence (and his successor says the same, even more convincingly). Once I was assure of that, I paid as little attention to him and his doings as possible. When my fellow execs from advertising, circulation, etc., would talk corporate scuttlebutt in our weekly senior staff meetings, I would update my Palm. Our former publisher upbraided me about that a couple of times, but hey, I was trying to manage my time better.

What I knew, I wrote — months ago. And all that consisted of was my conviction that they were burning up the seed corn by cutting expenses, thus diminishing the quality of the product they were allegedly trying to sell.

I was pretty ticked off when Bruce Sherman forced the company to go up for sale. That’s because there were a lot of potentially bad scenarios arising from that action. But being bought by McClatchy was the best of all possible outcomes. I think. Check back with me in a year or two.

11 thoughts on “Am I happy? What do you think?

  1. Brad Warthen

    Oops. I had the wrong guy identified as Mr. Connor. It’s corrected now. It was AP’s fault, but I have to share the blame. They had also sent a CORRECT picture of Mr. Connor.
    Mea culpa.

  2. LexWolf

    Maybe you shouldn’t depend on the AP so much. However, I will give you credit for actually doing a follow-up post about the picture change rather than just switching the images. Maybe there’s just a little hope for you yet!
    However, I highly doubt that anyone would have noticed or cared that you had the wrong image up. If only The State were as srupulous about mistakes that really mattered. Kinda like the NY Times correcting itself on excruciatingly minute errors but leaving the real whoppers without a comment. Given that some have said that The State considers itself the “New York Times For Yokels” that seems to be in character.
    As for your ownership change I doubt that things will change much. You know, meet the new boss – same as the old boss. Given that about 90% of journalists vote Democrat, mere ownership change will hardly change anything. Especially since McClatchy has an even more liberal tendency than Knight-Ridder, if that’s even possible. In other words, anyone with any hopes that this change would finally provide the Midlands with a newspaper reflective of its population will be sorely disappointed.

  3. opined2death

    Lex, please back your opinion up with facts. Where’d you get the 90% figure for newsroom folk and how is McClatchy more liberal than Knight Ridder? I hope things do change for the better and certanly am willing to wait rather than accept conventional wisdom as the rule.

  4. LexWolf

    Umm…Opined, let me introduce myself! Unlike certain newspapers, I don’t make claims I can’t back up.
    the [McClatchy] family’s grip on California’s capital and vast Central Valley–its swing votes and rich agricultural center–historically has helped make the state largely Democratic Source
    McClatchy’s major papers in California, the “Bees”, and its flagship Minneapolis Star-Tribune, are undoubtedly among the most liberal in the country, as are most of their other papers.
    Oops, I was off by one percent!


    There’s much more but I don’t want to get too longwinded.

  5. Opined2death

    Susan Paterno, in her fluff piece, gives McClatchy way more credit than they deserve. The LA Times and SF Chronicle with broader circulation and readership historically have had much more influence over people than the Bees.
    As for the 90% number, that’s among 139 Washington Bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents from the 1992 election. Certainly you can’t apply that to the entire pool of journalists in this country. The sample is way to small and not representative of journalists at large, the Washington journo crowd is notoriously liberal and the data is now 14 years old.

  6. LexWolf

    My, are you quick to dismiss the evidence, Opined! You can quibble about the Bees and the timing and location of the survey all you want but the undeniable fact remains this:
    Taken as a whole, these polls firmly establish the press’s pattern of preferring Democrats at the voting booth. During the eight presidential elections for which data on the media’s preferences are available, each Democrat won landslide support from journalists, sometimes by four-to-one or five-to-one margins. The percentage of reporters selecting the GOP candidate never exceeded 26 percent, even as the public chose Republicans in five of the eight elections, with margins of support ranging from a low of 38 percent (Bush in 1992) to a high of 61 percent (Nixon in 1972).

  7. Opined2death

    I wasn’t arguing the point you just introduced. I was simply trying to get you to prove your case with facts about the McClatchy Company (which you haven’t), not with general statistics pertaining to journalists as a general group. Besides, the first statistics you use (sample size of 139) in your argument are statistically invalid when applied to the general universe of journalists.
    A better statement, based on the fact that McClatchy leaves news making decisions to the local newspaper’s management, would have been, “Given McClatchy’s bend towards local autonomy, mere ownership change will hardly change anything. Thus, anyone with any hopes that this change would finally provide the Midlands with a newspaper reflective of its population will be sorely disappointed.”
    That, I buy.

  8. Doug

    As a Sacramento resident and reader of Mc
    Clatchy’s flagship Sacramento Bee for 37 years, I can affirm that McClatchy does have a strong liberal tilt on its editorial page.
    But the news pages are different. Generally the reporting is straight, but the selection of subjects getting top play probably reflects to a degree the liberal tendancies of management.
    However, the Bee has been among the state’s harshest critics of the incompetence and other failures the last two Democratic governors.
    So, while conservatives shouldn’t be dancing in the streets in joy over McClatchy taking control of The State, they should be relieved that the paper’s new owners have a track record of being more interested in good journalism than a partisan agenda.

  9. rap

    It’s always interesting when the alleged personal liberal leanings of reporters is (are?) trotted out as evidence of leftward newsroom bias.
    One can certainly have an opinion, yet still be objective, right? Or are so-called conservatives merely projecting their own biases onto the situation?
    If a newsroom was predominantly rightwing, would it be biased too, or objective? Are there no professional standards that transcend one’s personal politics?
    Just sayin’…


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