Northern Valley Beacon

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Friday, December 09, 2005


Any buyers for the Aberdeen American News?

Knight Ridder, the owner of the Aberdeen American News, among the 32 papers it owns is up for sale. However, the sale is not prompted by journalistic reasons or even severe financial troubles. It is being forced by large institutional investors who are not happy with the returns of the company's stock. It is a case where financial interests are in direct conflict with journalistic goals.

In northeast South Dakota, the proposed sale offers a faint hope that a region which is not served by any legitimate news media might get access to comprehensive and competent news coverage with a change in management. That is a very faint hope. Acquisitions and mergers of big corporations tend to eliminate and reduce enterprises, not improve them.

Some exchanges in the Columbia Journalism Review raise some alternatives, which is for Knight Ridder to offer up its newspapers for sale to local buyers, rather than look for a huge corporate seller. Corporate-run media has not the slightest interest in its role as the Fourth Estate. Here is an appraisal of the situation.

"It's come to this: A single wealthy investor [Bruce Sherman of Private Capital Management, which first urged a Knight Ridder sale] is able to threaten the civic vitality of 32 American metropolitan areas by forcing the sale of their newspapers to new owners in order to satisfy his demand for larger profits. Because those higher returns almost certainly will come at the expense of investigative reporting, independence from advertisers and adequately staffed and skilled newsrooms, the readers of Knight Ridder newspapers ought to rise up in opposition to the planned sale or dismemberment of the company.

"After a decade of shrinking its news staffs, the nation's second-largest newspaper company no longer commands the respect it earned winning 84 Pulitzer Prizes in 79 years. But papers such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, Charlotte Observer, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Kansas City Star, St. Paul Pioneer Press and San Jose Mercury News are still too essential to the civic life of their cities to be auctioned off like so many pork bellies."

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