The following is an open letter to the management of Knight Ridder, signed by more than 50 former employees of Knight Ridder publications. In it, the signatories state that they are “prepared collectively to nominate candidates for the Knight Ridder board” who will maintain the company’s legacy of quality journalism. We reproduce it here, in full, to help stimulate discussion about the future of not only Knight Ridder, but the newspaper industry as a whole.
John S. Knight, a founder of the company known today as Knight Ridder, believed - and proved — that excellent journalism is good business. The undersigned, all alumni of Knight Ridder, have lived that creed.
As did the late Jack Knight, we believe profit is not merely nice but necessary. Knight Ridder routinely has generated double-digit operating profits — such as last year’s 19.4 percent. We understand the obligation of an institutional investor to maximize return on investment. An investor for whom double digits are insufficient is free to sell Knight Ridder stock. An investor who instead demands the sale or dismantling of Knight Ridder merely in the name of a larger profit margin is engaged not in good business but in greed.
As did Jack Knight, we speak out of confidence in, not fear of, the future of the good business of excellent journalism. There is durable value in businesses that treat their citizens, their communities and their employees with respect. New technology is an ally of, not a threat to, trustworthy and nimble media. Competition gives rise to innovation and efficiency, much as recent declines in print circulation have been accompanied by increased electronic readership.
Knight Ridder is not merely another public company. It is a public trust. It must balance corporate profitability with civic purpose. We oppose those who would cripple the purpose by coercing more profit. We abhor those for whom good business is insufficient and excellent journalism is irrelevant.
We have watched mostly in silent dismay as short-term profit demands have diminished long-term capacity of newsrooms in Knight Ridder and other public media companies. We are silent no more. We will support and counsel only corporate leadership that restores to Knight Ridder newspapers the resources to do excellent journalism. We are prepared collectively to nominate candidates for the Knight Ridder board. We wish to reassert John Knight’s creed.
Dale Allen, retired editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, former associate managing editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, former editor/reporter at The Charlotte Observer.
Rich Aregood, retired editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and recipient of a Pulitzer Prize.
Marv Berenblum, former Senior Vice President for Human Resources of Knight Ridder and current Chairman and CEO of the National Executive Service Corps.
Buzz Bissinger, Philadephia Inquirer reporter (1981-88) and recipient of a Pulitzer Prize.
Mike Blackman, Philip G. Warner Endowed Chair in Journalism at Sam Houston State University and formerly editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and foreign editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Ken Bookman, former Philadelphia Inquirer editor.
Mark Bowden, former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter.
Lorraine E. Branham, Director, University of Texas School of Journalism, and former editor of the Tallahassee Democrat.
Doug Clifton, former Executive Editor of the Miami Herald and current Editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Gary Cohn, reporter for the Los Angeles Times, formerly a reporter for the Lexington Herald Leader, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Baltimore Sun and recipient of a Pulitzer Prize.
David B. Cooper, retired Associate Editor, Akron Beacon Journal.
J. Lowe Davis,, formerly an editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Biloxi Sun Herald, both Knight Ridder newspapers, and currently Executive Editor and CEO of The Virgin Islands Daily News, which is independently owned.
Gary Farrugia, Editor & Publisher, The Day of New London, CT. Formerly Vice President of New Business Development for Philadelphia Newspapers and an 18-year Knight Ridder employee.
Albert E. Fitzpatrick, Retired Assistant Vice President for Minority Affairs of Knight Ridder and former Executive Editor of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Gene Foreman, retired editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and currently a professor of journalism.
Gilbert Gaul, former reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer and recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes.
Michael A. Graham, former reporter for the Detroit Free Press.
Joe Grimm, recruiting and development editor, Detroit Free Press.
Edwin O. Guthman, senior lecturer in journalism, University of Southern California, former Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and recipient of a Pulitzer Prize.
Glenn Guzzo, former Editor of The Denver Post and a Knight Ridder editor for 18 years.
Carol Horner, Director, Knight Center for Specialized Journalism, and former reporter, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1979-94.
Bob Ingle, former executive editor of the San Jose Mercury News; former Knight Ridder vice president/new media; former president, Knight Ridder Ventures.
Marvin Katz, former reporter at the Akron Beacon Journal (1960-67).
George Kennedy, Miami Herald 1967-74, now Professor of Journalism, University of Missouri.
Maxwell King, former Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and current president of The Heinz Endowments.
Ann Kolson, former Philadelphia Inquirer and current New York Times editor.
Thomas Kunkel, Dean, Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and former Executive Editor, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
David Lawrence Jr., Retired publisher of the Miami Herald, now president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation.
Jan Leach, former editor of the Akron Beacon Journal; current Professional in Residence, Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Simon K.C. Li, formerly an editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, now assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Times.
Steve Lopez, columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
Pam Luecke, Reynolds Professor of Business Journalism, Washington and Lee University, former Editor and Senior Vice President, Lexington Herald-Leader.
Janet Mandelstam, former Associate Managing Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
C.S. Manegold, James M. Cox, Jr. Professor of Journalism, Emory University and visiting professor, NYU; former reporter for The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Newsweek magazine. Part of the New York Times team awarded a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Bill Marimow, reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer (1972-1993) and Knight-Ridder stockholder and recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes.
Jim McCartney, Knight-Ridder Washington correspondent and columnist, retired.
Molly Sinclair McCartney, Miami Herald reporter 1969-79, Washington Post reporter, 1979-1993.
David A. Meeker, adjunct professor of journalism at Kent State School of Journalism and Mass Communication, former reporter at the Akron Beacon Journal and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, recipient of the John S. Knight Award for Community Service from the Buckeye Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Philip Meyer, former Knight Ridder director of news and circulation research, current Knight Chair in Journalism, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and author of “The Vanishing Newspaper.”
Fen Montaigne, freelance journalist and former reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Paul Moore, Public Editor of the Baltimore Sun and a former Assistant Managing Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Arlene Morgan, former Assistant Managing Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and now Associate Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Norman Morrison, formerly Vice President/Technology, Knight-Ridder Newspapers, and Executive Vice President, Viewtron, KRN subsidiary.
James M. Naughton, retired editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and retired president of The Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
Brian Richardson, Head, Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, Washington and Lee University, and former reporter and editor at the Tallahassee Democrat, Miami Herald and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Gene Roberts, retired executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and retired managing editor of The New York Times, now professor of journalism at the University of Maryland. [Note: Roberts also co-chairs a committee to boost the financial health of both Columbia Journalism Review and American Journalism Review.]
Doug Robinson, retired editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
John Russial, Associate Professor, University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, and former Sunday copy chief of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Stephen Seplow, former news editor of Knight Ridder’s Washington Bureau and former metropolitan editor of the The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Neal Shine, retired copy boy, reporter, Managing Editor, columnist and Publisher, Detroit Free Press.
Timothy D. Smith, former Managing Editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, now Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Kent State University.
William Vance, Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, retired.
Debbie Van Tassel, KRI shareholder and Assistant Managing Editor/Administration, The Plain Dealer.
Lois Sutherland Wark, Knight Ridder stockholder and retired editor at the Detroit Free Press and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Thomas E. Wark, retired journalist.
Pete Weitzel, former Managing Editor, Miami Herald, and now Coordinator, Coalition of Journalists for Open Government.
Mike Wendland, technology columnist for the Detroit Free Press and Internet correspondent for NBC-TV Newschannel affiliates.
Ray White, public information director of Heifer International and a former assistant news editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Abe Zaidan, retired senior editor of the Akron Beacon Journal.
David Zucchino, correspondent, the Los Angeles Times and former foreign correspondent of The Philadelphia Inquirer and recipient of a Pulitzer Prize.