RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
In our business news today, changes in the newspaper business.
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MONTAGNE: Daily newspaper readers in 20 cities across the country will soon be getting acquainted with a new publisher. The McClatchy Company is buying the Knight Ridder newspaper chain. McClatchy's chairman said yesterday that readers who want to know what's in store for their newspapers should look at how his company has operated in the past.
We asked NPR's Scott Horsley to do just that.
SCOTT HORSLEY reporting:
McClatchy believes newspapers are both a necessary foundation for democracy and a good business. That's not exactly a universal viewpoint these days, at least not the second part. But McClatchy Chairman Gary Pruitt insists newspapers are still a profitable business.
Mr. GARY PRUITT (Chairman, McClatchy Company): Newspapers are strong today, and are moving strongly into the future. So, of course we're excited to add more newspapers in growth markets to our family.
HORSLEY: Newspapers and family have been the story at McClatchy for almost 150 years, since James McClatchy began publishing the Sacramento Daily Bee back in 1857. His descendants still hold voting control of the company. James' great- great grandchildren now sit on the company's board.
James McClatchy was drawn to California by the Gold Rush, and the company continues to focus on fast-growing markets. McClatchy bought the Anchorage Daily News in the late 1970s. Its biggest paper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, was bought in 1998.
Executive Director Jack Bates, of the California Newspaper Publishers Association, says wherever it's gone, McClatchy's built a reputation for running high-quality papers.
Mr. JACK BATES (Executive Director, California Newspaper Publishers Association): They're certainly profit motivated, but not to the extent that some--some newspaper acquisitions have resulted in kind of emasculating some of the news operation with such great emphasis on the profitability, and I think McClatchy's managed that very, very well. They maintained good news organization, and still have kept their profits at a reasonable level.
HORSLEY: The chain has won 13 Pulitzer prizes for reporting on issues such as the environmental risks of hog farming in North Carolina, and the high rate of suicide among native Alaskans. Knight Ridder Veteran, Jacqui Banaszynski, who now teaches journalism at the University of Missouri, says the company has lived up to its motto, that good journalism is good business.
Professor JACQUI BANASZYNSKI (Journalism, University of Missouri): They've been very strategic, and have plotted out a solid vision. And because they had such a solid base from the Bees, and from their longtime history on the West Coast, they haven't had to scramble as much lately, as some of the other companies.
HORSLEY: McClatchy's been very successful in cultivating online advertising. But it hasn't abandoned its traditional readers. Along with several other publishers, McClatchy owns a stake in its own newsprint factory, outside Spokane.
Tom Garrett, of the Ponderay Newsprint Company, is glad to hear McClatchy's bucking the trend away from the daily paper.
Mr. TOM GARRETT (Ponderay Newsprint Company): We recognize that the younger generation is more interested in acquiring the news from sources other than the newspaper.
HORSLEY: Until last year, McClatchy had managed to boost circulation of its newspapers every year for two decades. Chairman Pruitt says the Knight Ridder acquisition will let his company do more of what it does best.
Scott Horsley, NPR News.
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