Overnight in the East Bay last weekend for a nephew’s wedding, my husband and I woke up to find a copy of the San Ramon Valley Times outside our hotel-room door. The front-page headline “Knight Ridder’s Rise Ends in Demise” reminded me that the story SN&R has been covering as a mostly local one is really a giant national story.
The San Ramon paper, a daily edition of the Knight Ridder-owned Contra Costa Times, soon will be owned by MediaNews Corp. So, its story announcing that the Department of Justice had officially approved the sale of the 32-year-old Knight Ridder to the McClatchy Co. was indeed front-page stuff. As planned by McClatchy, the MediaNews takeover of the paper will follow next.
Now we’ve spent plenty of ink bashing the Bee over the years. (We see it as our job as the town’s alternative weekly to keep an eye on the big guy over at 21st and Q.) So, when McClatchy Co. made a bid to become the second-largest newspaper publisher in the country, we wrote about it—good, bad and ugly.
But the demise of Knight Ridder is not McClatchy’s fault.
The end came about because of a print-media climate in which a declining readership collided with an increasing flow of information online and a Wall Street that was not happy with the publicly owned chain’s resultant, diminishing profits. Reading the story of Knight Ridder’s end was poignant and a reminder of just how rapidly journalism in America—with its rounds of daily layoffs and shrinking newspapers—is changing.
There’s plenty of good reporting on the Internet these days, but guess what? Most of it is reprinted and linked from work that is originally done for ink-on-paper sources, i.e. newspapers. Nobody has yet figured out a way to create much revenue generating news content on the Web. Who will pay the people to do reporting in our communities if the newspapers don’t?
In this week’s SN&R, find R.V. Scheide’s “Risky business,” a look at the latest when it comes to the McClatchy purchase of Knight Ridder. Read and consider what it all means for your future.