The final tally? Despite small differences in tone and emphasis, most of the articles were pretty similar, with about half focusing on McClatchy’s problems and half focusing on the war at home. While most of the newspapers surveyed seemed to get their basic McClatchy financials from the same source, The News & Observer and The Sacramento Bee went deeper into the money trail. Except for The Bee and The Miami Herald, all of the papers relied on Pruitt’s press release instead of calling him directly. None of the papers thought to talk to any readers or members of the public. The Sacramento Bee was, apparently, the only paper to put the story on A1, and it shows—its coverage was far and away the best of the lot.

But, frankly, all of the reporters who drew this bitch of an assignment deserve some love, because it cannot be easy to report on the disintegration of one’s own newsroom.“As best you can, you try to separate yourself out,” said The Sacramento Bee’s Dale Kasler. “In a strange sort of way, it’s better to cover the story than to just sit around and think about it, like everyone else is doing, and have a rotten day.”

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Justin Peters is editor-at-large of the Columbia Journalism Review.