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.