Newpapers’ Soul Man

Newspapers are under pressure but they won’t collapse so long as they maintain the journalistic ideals of fairness, accuracy, independence and integrity says Rick Rodriquez in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, excerpts of which were published as a Poynter Institute commentary.

Rodriguez is executive editor of the Sacramento Bee, flagship of the McClatchy chain which recently acquired the Knight-Ridder newspaper empire and is in the process of selling off selected papers. (Disclosure: I work for the San Francisco Chronicle whose corporate parent, Hearst Corporation, is involved in the latest McClatchy transactions.)

The Poynter excerpt offers only one oblique reference to McClatchy’s business doings. After asserting that newspapers must cover all strata of society and “not become merely a niche for the rich,” Rodriguez says:

“In short, we must believe, as McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt says, “good journalism is good business.” And we must prove it.”

A top editor, speaking to his peers, at a time when his employer is shaking up the industry’s power structure, is bound to be on his best-behavior, rhetorically-speaking. But if the speech is one of platitudes at least they are the right platitudes. Rodriguez closes his remarks by noting that he is the grandson of Mexican migrants. In a reference to recent protests over proposed changes to immigration policies, he says:

“As I read the stories and see the pictures of men and women, boys and girls, gathering by the tens of thousands and asking for a chance to be a part of this country, to share in its wonderful promise, to earn respect and dignity, I remember my grandparents and I remember all the things that they and my parents taught me.”

Money Matters: Two quick items from Paid Content. At a financial conterence McGraw Hill disclosed that made up 12 percent of Business Week’s first quarter revenues. I recently noted a separate study that said online revenues make up only four percent of local newspaper revenues. What is Business Week doing right?

Finally, CBS says that it made $4 million from its March Madness NCAA downloads. Does that strike you as a lot, or simply a decent start?

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media