Duluth News Tribune for sale
The announced sale of the Knight Ridder newspaper chain has brought little clarity to Duluth and Superior. The McClatchy Company announced Monday it's purchasing Knight Ridder's 32 daily newspapers. Knight Ridder owns the Duluth News Tribune, which, in turn, owns the Superior Daily Telegram. But McClatchy plans to again sell its Duluth-based papers, as well as dailies in St. Paul, Grand Forks, and Aberdeen. In Duluth, employees and readers remain in the dark about the future.
Duluth, Minn. — The McClatchy Company says it's keeping Knight Ridder papers in some of the fastest growing markets, but divesting itself of a dozen. Among those; the Duluth News Tribune. With the Tribune goes a handful of papers including weeklies in Cloquet and Two Harbors, a Duluth-based community newspaper, and the Superior Daily Telegram.
John Meyers is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and immediate past President of the Lake Superior Newspaper Guild.
Meyers says, Monday's announcement ends speculation over Knight Ridder. But it doesn't settle things for the Duluth News Tribune. Meyers says the dozen Knight Ridder papers back up for sale, may be sold as a package to suitors; including the Singleton Group; Gannett Company; or a new corporation formed by the Newspaper Guild, called Value Plus.
"They've tried to make a bid for the eight papers that are union, of which are all included in that 12," Meyers says. "So, as far as employees are concerned that would probably be the best outcome, and probably as far as the community is concerned too."
According to the Duluth News Tribune website, an investment group may also be interested in the papers in Duluth, Aberdeen, and Grand Forks.
Meyers says the regional papers should be attractive to a buyer. The News Tribune, he says, turns a profit of over 20 percent.
But he says it's important a new owner invests in the paper and the community - to keep jobs, and the news, in Duluth.
"It's a really important voice for the people, that it not become, you know, a shoe-string budget with a decimated news room," Meyers says. "We just can't take anymore cuts. We've been bleeding staff for four or five years now under Knight Ridder as they've tried to prevent this problem. And, the quality of the product has suffered."
Meyers says the work goes on at the Duluth News Tribune, but it's not business as usual.
"You know, it's always in the back of your mind," Meyers says. "Who's going to be signing the paycheck? Are you going still going to get a pay check? Is it going to be as big as the other pay check was?"
Others are wondering about the future of Twin Ports media.
Wayne Nelson publishes the monthly Business North in Duluth. Nelson says there's some question whether a new owner would continue publishing two dailies in the same market.
"The Telegram by all indications has not been a very profitable, if profitable paper at all," says Nelson. "And I guess that's one of the things; that one of the papers that we're interested in here, is what it's future is going to be?" Nelson's business monthly competes with the two dailies for advertising revenue. But he's says he'd be sad to see one go.
"I would not be glad to see one of these papers, presumably the Telegram, disappear," says Nelson. "But, you know, this market has to live in the present day economy, and you look around and there just aren't that many markets, particularly of this size, that have two newspapers."
On the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth, Drew Digby is watching the situation. Digby teaches journalism at UMD.
He says it's unfortunate that publishing companies are just interested in picking up the best performers - the easy pickings. Digby worries about an owner who seeks short term profits by cutting news gathering to the bone.
He says there's a risk that basic news is getting lost in the Twin Ports.
"The number of people who just used to cover Duluth itself has been cut dramatically in the last few years between cutbacks at the News Tribune and the loss of one of our TV news gathering operations," Digby says. "It really hurts not to have people competing for news."
Duluth News Tribune employees were just learning details of the sale Monday. Officials from Knight Ridder met with the staff Monday afternoon. McClatchy hasn't said how long it may take to resell the papers, once it's completed its purchase of Knight Ridder.
- Morning Edition, 03/14/2006, 7:20 a.m.