Knight Riddance, The Final Chapter
Okay, I'm backwards today. I should have filed this post this morning and this morning's post now. But if I'm going to be backwards, well, I'm going to be fucking backwards.
Fred Tasker's story about Knight Ridder this weekend was ... God, I still don't know how to charactarize it. It was interesting, revealing, unquestioning, broadly insightful and yet still full of holes and question marks. It starts with a broad meaningless thesis -- that KR had a big impact on the community -- and the lede quote in the thing was from a dubious developer/Jeb Bush crony:
''Knight Ridder has had a very powerful, very positive impact in the community,'' says Armando Codina, chairman and chief executive officer of Codina Group, a large Miami real estate concern.
Yuck. But the stuff about Alvah Chapman's "Non-Group" -- a shadowy club of CEO's that wielded all kinds of power in secrecy -- is unbelievably fascinating. It's been written about before, but you sense that if you knew one-tenth of what really happened, you'd toss your lunch. It's antithetical to what journalists are supposed to do, but Chapman helped build a hell of a newspaper at the same time. In fact, if the Herald hadn't become so good, the existence of the Non-Group probably never would have come to light. Somebody needs to write a book.
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Then Tasker quotes Tony Ridder:
"After I became CEO, I read in the newspaper that the Heat's effort to build a new arena in Miami was dead, and that the team was resigned to moving to Broward. I felt that would be a terrible thing for Miami-Dade. I called [Heat owner] Micky Arison and asked him if he would give me 30 to 45 days to put together a coalition to keep the arena in Miami-Dade. He agreed. I pulled together some people and, importantly, we came up with a financing plan to keep the arena in Miami. I don't think that was insignificant for the community.''
You'd think Tasker would have at least brought up the fact that Ridder's actions regarding the Heat brought up serious conflict-of-interest issues and that he did in secret. So secret, in fact, that he hid public records. Miami New Times sued the newspaper -- and won the release of those records. And it was all covered in the Herald. The impetus behind that was Jim DeFede, who called Ridder a "secret agent man."
I'm just saying it deserved a mention in the context of the story.
The story is timed to the closing of the McClatchy deal to take over the newspaper. Christina Hoag weighed in with a long and mostly favorable article on the McClatchy Co., which should be the newspaper's offical owner by tomorrow afternoon. I'd say she struck the right tone. Relative to other newspaper companies, McClatchy is solid, decent, steady, and a little dull. Sure the part about CEO Gary Pruitt could have been written by a clever P.R. person (he's "down to earth," jams to Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues in the car, and knows how to "let his hair down") but Hoag balances the story with some of McClatchy's dark side, including its storied frugality (what some call cheapness) and a bitter 1980s labor dispute at the Sacramento Bee.
Speaking of that newspaper, I've learned that it's doing an extensive story on the Miami Herald, only it's not expected to be so favorable. Instead it will detail how the newspaper is the epitome of "everything that went wrong with Knight Ridder" during the past 15 years. And KR won't have anything to say about it -- at least not that will count much. That's what happens when you get vanquished to the the scrap heap of history.
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