Entry for November 27, 2006

The 10/31/06 cartoon, “Weapons of Mass Destruction–Found!”  is by Tony Auth (email), the 1976 Pulitizer Prize winner for editorial cartooning, who plies his trade at the Philadelphia Inquirer (for more on Auth, see the bottom of this entry). 

I was thinking of the recent local buyout of “Inky”, the local nickname for the Philadelphia Inquirer,  as I read about the Boston Globe.  In“Times Co. rejects local bid for Globe: Prospective buyers called undeterred”  Globe reporter Steve Bailey wrote on November 22,  that The New York Times  isn’t selling The Boston Globe, at least for now,  to former GE honcho Jack Welch, who is said to have offered half the $1.1 billion  the Times paid in 1993.  I guess Welch expected  firesale prices after the latest reports of losses. 

According to Bailey, the Times is  

under pressure from some shareholders. One big shareholder, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, which owns 7.6 percent of the Times Co.’s stock, has submitted a proposal seeking governance changes. Among them: putting the Times Co.’s dual-class share structure, which concentrates control in the hands of the Sulzberger family, to a shareholder vote and separating the jobs of chairman of the company and publisher of The New York Times. Both jobs are now held by Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

Times Co. stock is down about 8 percent this year in a market that has been hard on newspaper companies. Dow Jones & Co. is up slightly while Gannett Co. is flat and the Washington Post Co. is down slightly. By contrast, the broader stock market, as represented by the Standard & Poor’s index of the country’s 500 largest companies, is up 12 percent for the year.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s  longtime owner, Knight Ridder was forced into a sale.  On November 2, 2005, the paper published a story  “Inquirer’s owner is under fire: The holder of 19% of Knight Ridder’s stock wants all or part of the firm sold” by Tony Gnoffo and Joseph N. DiStefano.  They  reported that Private Capital Management Inc., of Naples, Fla., owned by Legg Mason Inc., of Baltimore, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission declaring that it had asked Knight Ridder’s board to

promptly pursue a competitive sale of the company….In the absence of such action [it would]…strongly consider supporting more aggressive efforts that might be initiated by other parties seeking to change the composition of the board, install new management, acquire a majority of the company’s voting shares, or take other action to maximize shareholder value.

Knight Ridder had already tried to make Wall Street divesting the Detroit Free Press to Gannett Co.  and announcing a buyout program to reduce staffing at the The Inquirer and San Jose Mercury News. As Daniel Rubin of the Inquirer  wrote in his blog October 30, 2005 :

A lot of gatherings these days along the rail that overlooks the cavernous newsroom. A religion writer catches your eye, tells you he’s leaving. He’s thinking about non-profit work, he says. Something totally different.

Your editor tells you the same thing. Taking the buyout, rewriting Act Two while he can. Others have talked about joining the Peace Corps, or retiring early to try blogging, for God’s sake. A lot of people are suddenly looking younger.

We’re saying goodbye to 75 journalists – 15 percent of the 506 positions we have at the Inquirer. The Daily News is losing 25 of its 130 newsroom jobs – that’s 19 percent. It’s not clear whether this publicly held corporation will have to lay off anyone to meet its numbers, but the place where one gets one’s buyout papers is doing land-office business. We’re more than two thirds of the way there with five days to go. 

His prescription:

 

Use your army of 400-plus journalists to beat the local television and radio stations to the punch, create “a culture of urgency” online, post sound and video and cherish the freedom of being able to offer longer, more in-depth pieces that commercial considerations have scared electronic media from offering.

One area expecially gutted was the news library, according to Eli Edwards, a library specialists at Stanford and member of the American Library Association  Committee on the Impact on Media Consolidation on Libraryies. 

 

March 13, 2006 Mediabuyerplanner said that Editor and Publisher had reported   that McClatchy would purchase Knight Ridder and sell off 12 papers in non-growth markets including Philadelphia.

 

Joseph N. DiStefano and Jennifer Lin reported on March 24, 2006  “Phila. investors buy Inquirer, Daily NewsThe price: $562 million for papers, online and other holdings. ”

Republican  advertising and public-relations entrepreneur Brian P. Tierney, who organized the buyers promised,

 

The next great era of Philadelphia journalism begins today….No one thought we could do this [but] there’s a real jewel here.

 

Maxwell E.P. King, a former Inquirer executive editor and now president of the Heinz Endowments in Pittsburgh worried

 

about the independence and integrity of the news coverage

Reader C. M. Henrycommented

 

Keep in mind the fact that Brian P. Tierney was a very highly paid PR person for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and successfully squashed many stories that were true and should have seen the light of day in the Philly newspapers but never did.

 

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia still has not been fully accountable for what has been detailed in the 2005 Philadelphia Grand Jury Report and the archdiocese is probably giving a sigh of relief that Tierney will be in charge.

 

Tierney said his investors signed a pledge not to interfere with news coverage, and promised not to sell their investments for at least five years.

 

I was an advocate in advertising and public relations for my clients. Now I’m going to be a zealous advocate for this organization.

 

He promised an end to

 

corporate owners [who] cut, cut, cut for short-term profits….We want to grow the business, not manage for decline. 

 

He said the owners would use a part of their wealth to

secure these assets for the future.

According to the New York Sun, former president Bill Clinton was part of a

a rival bid by Yucaipa, a private investment firm which had offered to sell shares to employees, an offer supported by The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia.

 

*

 

The honeymoon is over for Tierney, as he has threatened 150 editorial layoffs November 6 according to Anne Gordon, managing editor.  That’s  twice the number lost last yeasr. 

Then as I was finishing this entry,  Editor and Publisher’s Joe Strupp and the AP’s  Deborah Yao  both reported that a strike is brewing by Thursday, after two one-month extensions to contracts.

 Meanwhile, E&P issued a special report today, “Is Hometown Ownership really the Next Big Thing?” by Mark Fitzgerald and Jennifer Saba.    

*

For a nice bio of Tony Auth, see Charley Parker’s  October 12, 2006 entry on his blog lines and colors.  Charley is the creator of the web comic Argon Zark!, where you can find  a bio and email for him.

There’s a retrospective of Auth at the Galleries at Moore College.  His cartoons can be searched the reprint archive for Universal Press Syndicate. The most recent cartoons are here.

In 2005, Auth received the Herblock prize for cartooning.  Here’s how he opened his acceptance speech:

It’s a huge honor to receive a prize named in memory of Herblock.  But, ladies and gentlemen, I knew Herblock.  Herblock was a friend of mine.  Ladies and gentlemen, I’m no Herblock.  On the other hand,  I’m not even half way through the length of Herb’s career, so I’ve got time to improve.  I mentioned this to one colleague who responded, “Thomas Nast isn’t half-way through Herb’s career.

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