...busting up my brains for the words

Monday, March 13, 2006

Change of scenery

The parent company of the StarTribune newspaper has announced that it is going to purchase the parent company of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In other words, McClatchy Company will be devouring Knight-Ridder, Incorporated. But because there is a law that forbids newspapers from gaining monopolies of media in cities, McClatchy will most likely be forbidden from keeping the St. Paul Pioneer Press. This is of no consequence, as it turns out, because McClachy Company has no intention of keeping the St. Paul paper, as that paper does not fit its growth strategy;

Gary Pruitt, McClatchy's CEO...

is ... counting on paying down acquisition debt quickly by selling The Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Jose Mercury-News and 10 other Knight Ridder newspapers. Those properties don't meet Sacramento-based McClatchy's growth-market criteria or in the case of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, compete directly with McClatchy's Star Tribune in neighboring Minneapolis.

So, we have a much needed situation of musical chairs being played in this two-paper Twin Cities market. I think this is good news. The Pioneer Press is not distinctly differing from the Strib in its editorial profile. The stock holders of the Knight-Ridder company were dissatisfied with the performances of its papers, including the Press. So any future buyer of this St. Paul paper will have pretty definitive evidence that sticking close to the Strib is not a money-making strategy. The obvious choice is to distance its editorial profile from the liberalism of the Strib and thereby offer consumers a real choice in their daily spreadsheet. In other words, we may have a shot at seeing a truly conservative newspaper rising from the corpse of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. That would spur real competition and help to make it and the Strib much better newspapers than they are today.
The deal is expected to take place in three to four months. That means we'll could see a dramatic shift in news reporting in the Twin Cities about three months before Election Day. And Minnesota is already a national battleground state for the U.S. Senate. This change of scenery could pump it up a notch.

Mitch Berg weighs in that he doesn't think this deal will mean much in the long run as newspapers lose market share.


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