Newspaper roulette

Plenty of people think daily newspapers are dying. Just last week, infamous New York Times critic and cultural sage Frank Rich told fake news anchor Stephen Colbert what the future of print media was going to be.

“Hand-held,” he said with certainty.

But such thinking, and its concurrent and inconvenient truth that no one has yet figured out how to make money reporting news online, hasn’t stopped the people over at 21st and Q from being optimistic about the future of newspapers. As we all know, the Sacramento Bee’s corporate owner, the McClatchy Company, has just staked everything on its recent acquisition of the venerable Knight Ridder newspaper chain. The purchase immediately made McClatchy the second largest newspaper chain in America.

It gets even more interesting from here.

Because next there was an announcement that McClatchy intended to sell off 12 of the Knight Ridder papers—including some of its most highly regarded. The news was met with shock and dismay in the industry, especially after it was announced that MediaNews, with its reputation for widespread layoffs, became the company that would buy the San Jose Mercury News.

To keep readers up on all things McClatchy, this week we present stories on the company’s new deal. In “The media, the market & McClatchy,” R.V. Scheide reveals the forces at work behind the Knight Ridder sale. In “One Size Fits All,” Cosmo Garvin explores whether McClatchy’s sale of certain Knight Ridder papers will create a media monopoly in the Bay Area. Finally, in “McClatchy and the Unions,” Chrisanne Beckner reports on the assertion that McClatchy purposefully sold off the Knight Ridder papers where strong unions existed.

In 1992, the SN&R published a package of stories examining the comparatively smallish media company (from a national perspective anyway) that ran Sacramento’s daily. Indeed, our cover art looked similar to the one we decided to put on this week’s stand. But 14 years later, the content we offer, on the realities that now confront the giant McClatchy Company, couldn’t be more different.