Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Robert Boyles dies

[Boyles worked in the BJ composing room]

Robert E. Boyles

Robert E. Boyles, 78, passed away Nov. 26, 2005, at Akron General Hospital.

Born Oct. 18, 1927, to the late John and Sarah Boyles of Morgantown, W. Va., he retired from the Akron Beacon Journal in 1992 with 28 years of service. He was a World War II Army veteran.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by son, Paul E. Boyles, and sisters, Doris and Shirley Boyles.

Robert is survived by his wife of 27 years, Willadean Boyles. Other survivors include his children, Linda (Michael) Hickey of Killeen, Texas, Sharon (Richard) Frecka of North Canton, Donna Kinney and Robert Boyles, both of Akron, Doyle, Darrell, Mark, Dennis, Paul Coontz, Sue Creekmore, and Tim Howard; two sisters, Kathy Haun and Janice Keener; two brothers, Harold and Raymond Boyles; grandchildren, Cathy Puente, Kim and Steve Frecka, Michael, Tony and Brandi Kinney; 13 grandchildren by marriage, and 14 great-grandchildren.

Calling hours will be Tuesday, 4 to 8 p.m., with a service on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Visitation one hour prior to the service. Online condolences may be sent to www.newcomerfamily .com. (NEWCOMER FUNERAL HOME, 330-784-3334.)
or sign the Guest Book at www.ohio.com/obituaries

[Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, OH, Tuesday, November 29, 2005, page B6, col. 3]

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Where did the Buffalo News Go?

You won’t read about it in the Buffalo News, but here’s an online piece by Bruce Jackson. You can find his complete story by clicking on the headline.

By Bruce Jackson
Buffalo, NY - In the next few months, the Buffalo News will announce that it is planning to kill its evening editions and terminate as many as 370 full-time employees, plus the jobs of all the kids who deliver those evening newspapers on their bikes and the older guys who deliver them from cars. People around the News know what's about to happen and they're miserable about it, but you knew nothing about it because the News's editors decided to permit nothing about that major unemployment story to appear in its pages.

The News is also about to shut down two of its three suburban bureaus: Northtowns and Southtowns. Only the Niagara Falls office will remain open. Those bureaus provide reporters and area residents quick and easy access to one another. When the bureau reporters are shifted to jobs at what they call "One Snooze Plaza," that access will be lost. That major change in coverage hasn't been noted in the newspaper's pages either.

Neither has the News permitted coverage of its own long-term labor dispute: the Buffalo News's Guild members have been working without a contract since last July 31. The News wants Guild members to give up significant portions of their health benefits. Guild members are resisting, saying they've sat still for 2 percent pay raises for years in exchange for the promise of exactly those health benefits the publisher now wants to peel away.
(You can get the latest on this at the Guild website: http://buffalonewspaperguild.com).

Friday, November 25, 2005

Old and wacky photos from 1977

And our pick is the one of Lew

se photos were published in the Jan-Feb 1977 issue of Tower Topics with a headline that read "Oldies but goodies." They supposedly were reprinted from previous issues of Tower Topics. Winner of the blog vote is the one of Lew Henderson with a "chaw" of Beech-Nut.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Comforting announcement from Tony?

This graph was in a November 15 MSNBC news story on the possible sale or KRI:

Tony Ridder, Knight Ridder's CEO, sent a memo to the company's staff Monday with questions and answers about the announcement, including assurances that employees would not lose their vested pension benefits if there is a change in control.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Anybody want to buy a paper?

By Floyd Norris
International Herald Tribune

There is a venerable Wall Street joke featuring an investor who, having accumulated a large position in an illiquid stock, decides it is time to get out. ''Yes, sir,'' replies the broker when he is told to sell. ''To whom?''

The current situation of Knight Ridder, the owner of such newspapers as The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Miami Herald, brings back that joke, albeit painfully.

The investor is a hitherto successful money manager named Bruce Sherman, whose Private Capital Management invests money for wealthy individuals and institutions.

Starting in 2000, he saw value in newspaper stocks, and at last report his clients owned $4.2 billion worth of shares in nine newspaper companies. That is about one-tenth of the total stock issued by those companies and 15 percent of the $30 billion Sherman manages.

He is the largest owner of seven of those companies, with 15 percent of The New York Times Co., publisher of this newspaper; 26 percent of Belo, publisher of The Dallas Morning News and The Providence Journal, and 38 percent of McClatchy, whose papers include The Sacramento Bee and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Founding families control those companies through super-voting stock.

But Knight Ridder, where his stake is 19 percent, has no such stock. After Sherman warned he might support a bid to replace directors, Knight Ridder's board agreed to put the company up for sale.

Sherman's problem is one known by many an investor who looks for cheap stocks: Where he sees value, others see problems. The consensus Wall Street view of newspapers now is that they are a dying breed, destined to wither under relentless competition from the likes of Google.

Profits may be good now, but they will not last, as circulation declines and advertisers seek newer media. An index of newspaper stocks is down 22 percent in 2005.

Money managers are required to file quarterly reports of holdings, but not of purchases and sales. I estimate, based on those filings and assuming trades were made at average prices for each quarter, that in the four years through the end of 2003, Sherman's clients made about $600 million in newspaper stocks.

Unfortunately for them, he kept buying after the shares peaked, and since then they have lost about $1.2 billion, for a net loss of $600 million.

Newspaper stocks are not the only place where he is now bucking conventional wisdom. Last week he reported owning 10 percent of Eastman Kodak, the photo giant struggling to adjust to a digital world. He has accumulated those shares since late 2003, and so far his investors are down about $100 million in that stock.

Over the last decade, his investors did twice as well as those who bought the stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500, but in the last year they have lagged behind the index. It is now managing about four times as much money as it was in 2001, when Legg Mason bought it and began marketing it to customers. A strategy of owning about 150 stocks, many of them relatively small, worked when he was managing a few billion dollars but now leaves him in positions that are hard to get out of if he changes his mind.

Sherman did not agree to be interviewed for this column, and the company did not comment on my estimates. But it is clear that he cannot get out of his newspaper investments unless others come to see value where he does.

And that is where the auction process comes into play. Perhaps private equity companies will see an opportunity to buy and break up Knight Ridder. Perhaps other media companies will bid. The quality of news provided to millions of Americans may depend on who buys, and on how they manage, the papers.

Knight Ridder's plight also reflects the fact that Wall Street is not always nice to those who do what the Street demands. Analysts called for aggressive cost cuts and increased share repurchases, and Knight Ridder complied, in some cases angering employees and creating public controversies over whether news coverage would suffer. Investors showed their lack of gratitude by sending the stock to a three-year low last month.

Anyone want to buy a newspaper? Sherman certainly hopes so.

[November 18, 2005]

Friday, November 18, 2005

More gloom and doom

Andrew Breitbart - for many years the West Coast arm of The Drudge Report - has recently been inundated by questions from the media concerning a new website he is developing for Arianna Huffington. Here's a statement from Andrew:

The New York Times got it right -- I am amicably leaving the Drudge Report after a long and close working relationship with Matt Drudge, a man who will rightfully take his place in the history books as an Internet news pioneer. I am also excited to be a partner in an inspired new endeavor, the Huffington Post. As for my politics, I am, quite literally, an open book.. I have lived on L.A.'s liberal Westside for all of my life. I went to the liberal Brentwood School. Most of my friends and extended family lean left and will all attest that at gatherings I gleefully disagree with them. Yet I still love them, and refuse to give up on getting them to see things my way.

With that said, here is his latest effort:

A future of empty doorsteps?
Dark days for US newspapers

Dark days are ahead for American newspapers, as sales tumble, a warp-speed news culture leaves lumbering dailies behind and scandals over flawed reporting taint heavyweight titles.
US papers are battling an explosion in online information, a news agenda powered by bloggers and 24-hour cable news, and they can't seem to connect with young readers.

Credibility questions hang over several papers and journalists are under more scrutiny than ever in the highly polarised US political climate. Doomsayers say changes in modern lifestyles mean the days when American homeowners open their front door every morning and haul in a thick multi-section paper may be numbered.

Latest figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations found a 2.6 percent drop in circulation for 786 newspapers across the country in the six months to September -- meaning that 1.2 million people deserted their paper. Several US newspaper giants suffered heavy circulation drops -- figures which mirror the declining readership across the globe.

The San Francisco Chronicle saw circulation fall 17 percent for its Wednesday to Saturday editions, while another big beast of the newspaper jungle, the Boston Globe, slumped 8.2 percent to a weekday average of 414,225.

Bucking the trend, two papers -- USA Today and the New York Times, the closest to national dailies in the United States -- gained readership of just under one percent.

The Columbia Journalism Review, in a recent editorial titled "The American Newspaper at a Crossroads," outlined a vicious circle, where falling circulation figures prompt further cost cutting.

"This can work for a while, but at some point it has to erode the quality of the product, which further erodes readership, because who needs a paper when the reporters producing it are too rushed to get beneath the surface," CJR said.

Some big-budget papers like the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun and the Boston Globe have cut jobs in the newsroom or the advertising department.
Meanwhile, a generation gap is widening, and unless younger Americans quickly get into the habit of reading a daily paper, circulation figures seem sure to dip even lower.
In a survey last year, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found only 23 percent of people under 30 read a daily newspaper, compared with 60 percent of older people.

The number of people going online for news, or getting their fix from cable television, was growing, the survey found, a trend that was also hitting traditional television network news.

Executives at a World Association of Newspapers meeting in Madrid on Thursday were told that the traditional newspaper has no future without online editions.
With that in mind, many US papers are trying new ways to chase fast-moving readers, expanding online content and offering portable "commuter" papers.

Some are also experimenting with design and considering a tabloid rather than a broadsheet format, in a tactic tried by several top papers in Britain.
That has been a sea change in an industry where great papers are typically dryer, more traditional and wordy and less irreverent than counterparts, for instance, in Britain or Australia -- more Neue Zurcher Zeitung or Le Monde than the London Times or the Sydney Morning Herald.

But predictions of doom are "completely premature," said Randy Bennett, vice president of the Association of American Newspapers.

"I think some people have a very narrow view and look at decline in circulation numbers and see the end is near," he said. "But it is a very incomplete story if you are not looking at how newspapers reach people across a variety of media platforms."
Some readers already get their newspaper exclusively online, in an easy commuter version, or even have favourite sections e-mailed to them.

Though there is much talk of bloggers and websites superseding "mainstream media," most offer links to established sources with the resources to chase down the news.
"People point to the success of Yahoo News and Google News. If you look at the stories they are pointing to, they are from local newspapers which still have the greatest editorial capacity (of) any other media," said Bennett.

KR alumni take stand for excellence

Knight Ridder Alumni, in Open Letter, Take Stand for 'Excellent
Journalism,' Say They Will Name Candidates for Board

In an extraordinary "Open Letter from Knight Ridder Alumni" circulated to the media this morning, a long list of journalists declared, "We have watched mostly in silent dismay as short-term profit demands have diminished long-term capacity of newsrooms in Knight Ridder and other public media companies. We are silent no more. We will support and counsel only corporate leadership that restores to Knight Ridder newspapers the resources to do excellent journalism. We are prepared collectively to nominate candidates for the Knight Ridder board. We wish to reassert John Knight's creed."

The letter was mailed to the media by Jim Naughton, former editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and former president of The Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Naughton told E&P today he had organized the effort just this week and they hoped to nominate a "slate" of candidates for the Knight Ridder board that would include journalists at the next annual meeting. The company is currently the focus of an investor-led move to pressure a sale or break-up of the company, or other moves.

The blog is proud to list some familiar faces who were among the signers, including Dale Allen, Doug Clifton, David Cooper, Albert Fitzpatrick, Glenn Guzzo, Marvin Katz, Jan Leach, David Meeker, Phillip Meyer, Gene Roberts, Timothy D. Smith, William Vance, Debbie VanTassel and Abe Zaidan.

[Published: November 18, 2005 in E&P on line]

Click on the headline for complete text and list of signers.

Guild holiday party is Dec 9

The Guild Holiday Party will be Friday, Dec. 9 at the Printer's Club. Buffet will open at 6:30 and skits will begin at 7 so the nightsiders can slip away to see some of the entertainment.

Thanks much!

Paula Schleis

Monday, November 14, 2005

Here's KRI press release

Knight Ridder Announces Exploration of Strategic Alternatives

SAN JOSE, Calif., Nov. 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Knight Ridder (NYSE: KRI) announced today that its Board of Directors has decided to explore strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value, including a possible sale of the company. The company is working with Goldman, Sachs & Co., its long-time financial advisor, in this process.

In making the announcement, the company stated that there can be no assurance that the exploration of strategic alternatives will result in any transaction. The company does not intend to disclose developments with respect to the exploration of strategic alternatives unless and until its Board of Directors has approved a specific transaction.

The Board of Directors has also amended the company's by-laws to provide that shareholders may submit proposals for consideration at Knight Ridder's 2006 Annual Meeting of Shareholders and/or submit nominations for directors to be elected at Knight Ridder's 2006 Annual Meeting of Shareholders by delivering written notice that complies with the requirements set forth in the amended by-laws no earlier than 60 days nor later than 45 days prior to the date of the 2006 Annual Meeting of Shareholders. The 2006 Annual Meeting of Shareholders is currently scheduled for April 18, 2006, but may be postponed. Any postponement of the Annual Meeting of Shareholders will be publicly announced in advance of the notice period. A copy of the amended by-laws is included in the Form 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and is available on Knight Ridder's Web site (http://www.knightridder.com).

Knight Ridder is one of the nation's leading providers of news, information and advertising, in print and online. The company publishes 32 daily newspapers in 29 U.S. markets, with a readership of 8.5 million daily and 11.0 million Sunday. It has Web sites in all of its markets and a variety of investments in Internet and technology companies. It publishes a growing portfolio of targeted publications and maintains investments in two newsprint companies. The company's Internet operation, Knight Ridder Digital, develops and manages the company's online properties. It is the founder and operator of Real Cities (www.RealCities.com), the largest national network of city and regional Web sites in more than 110 U.S. markets. Knight Ridder and Knight Ridder Digital are headquartered in San Jose, Calif.

For more information, call Vice President/Corporate Relations Polk Laffoon at 408-938-7838 (e-mail: plaffoon@knightridder.com), or Director/Corporate Communications Lee Ann Schlatter at 408-938-7839 (e-mail: lschlatter@knightridder.com), or visit Knight Ridder's Web site at www.knightridder.com.

SOURCE Knight Ridder
/CONTACT: Polk Laffoon, Vice President/Corporate Relations,
+1-408-938-7838, or plaffoon@knightridder.com, or Lee Ann Schlatter,
Director/Corporate Communications, +1-408-938-7839, or
/Web site: http://www.knightridder.com/

Knight Ridder May Sell Company; Goldman Will Advise

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Knight Ridder Inc., publisher of the Beacon Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer and Miami Herald, will consider a sale of the company after its biggest shareholders demanded executives address a 20 percent drop in the stock.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will help evaluate ``strategic alternatives,'' San Jose, California-based Knight Ridder said in a statement today. Knight Ridder is valued at $4.23 billion.

Newspapers have been hurt by a 2.6 percent drop in circulation in the past six months and the defection of advertisers to the Internet. Knight Ridder's three top shareholders owning more than 36 percent of the stock pushed Chief Executive Officer Tony Ridder for action after three quarters without sales growth. Buyers may range from private equity firms to smaller newspapers teaming up with a financial backer, said Morgan Stanley analyst Doug Arthur.

``Their choices started to get limited,'' said Arthur, who is based in New York and has an ``overweight'' rating on the shares. He doesn't own any personally. ``A lot of people will take a look at it, because the papers are in very attractive markets and there are strong Internet properties.''

Shares of Knight Ridder rose $1.08, or 1.7 percent, to $63.58 at 11:46 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares had slid 20 percent this year through Oct. 31, the day before the biggest holder asked for a sale.

Knight Ridder said it won't disclose developments during the process. It also amended its bylaws to let shareholders submit proposals at its 2006 annual meeting.

``I would not be surprised if a private group ended up buying Knight-Ridder and then took their time and sold off the assets to strategic buyers,'' said Ed Atorino, managing director at New York- based research company Benchmark Co. He estimates a private equity company may bid more than $70 a share.

Knight Ridder, formed in 1974 with the merger of Knight Newspapers and Ridder Publications, has expanded into 29 markets with 32 newspapers. Ridder started in 1892 when CEO Tony Ridder's great-grandfather took over New York's German-language Staats- Zeitung. Charles Landon Knight bought the Akron Beacon Journal in 1903 and left the newspaper to his son 30 years later.

Knight Ridder and Gannett Co., the biggest U.S. newspaper publisher, are the only two U.S. newspaper companies without family ownership or dual classes of stock, according to Credit Suisse First Boston. The New York Times Co. is controlled by the Sulzberger family and Dow Jones & Co. by the Bancroft family. Some Bancrofts have pressed the company for changes this year.

The biggest newspaper deal so far this year was the June purchase of Pulitzer Inc. by Lee Enterprises Inc. for $1.46 billion. The deal valued Pulitzer, owner of the St. Louis Post- Dispatch, at about 17 times last year's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, according to calculations based on Bloomberg data.

A similar multiple would value Knight Ridder's debt and equity at about $12 billion, twice its current so-called enterprise value. The company had about $2 billion of debt at the end of September.

Knight Ridder spokesman Polk Laffoon said no timeline has been set and wouldn't comment further on today's announcement.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Anthony Massucci in New York at amassucc@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: November 14, 2005 11:49 EST

Click on the headline for more of the story.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

UHC pay ANYTHING in 2005 ?

Has United Health Care paid ANYTHING for Medicare Guild retirees for 2005 medical care? All my health care billings say that UHC will only pay what Medicare authorizes, so when Medicare pays 80% of what it authorizes, UHC sends me an Explanation of Benefits that shows that UHC pays nothing. So then I have to pay what Medicare doesn't (the 20%). UHC's (and KR's) only cost under the new system seems to be the cost of mailing me an Explanation of Benefits to tell me that UHC will pay nothing.

Am I alone? If UHC has paid for a service you had in 2005, please post it under Comment with the amount of the charge and the amount that UHC paid. We need to stack up some evidence to give to the national Guild to show that we are de facto losing medical coverage once we retire and hit Medicare age (65).

Of course, when KR is sold to some widget manufacturer even the pretense of medical coverage may disappear, and our pension with it!


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Moving on up in 1977

Moving to new positions were these six Beacon Journal staffers in the Jan-Feb, 1977 issue of Tower Topics. Charles Montague (top left) and Paul Tople (top right) are still working. Gene Winski died October 10, 1986. In the bottom row are Bill Schlight who left when his wife, Wendy, went to the New York Times, Sol Shwartz, who died January 2, 2002; and Russ Musarra, retired but still writing. Montague and Winski became assistant metro editors. Tople was promoted to assistant chief photographer, Sclight to newly created National Desk, Shwartz to assistant national editor and Musarra to assistant Life/Style editor.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Investor turns up heat on Knight Ridder

The largest shareholder in Knight Ridder Inc. is turning up the pressure on the newspaper publisher, saying in a regulatory filing Thursday [Nov 10, 2005] that it may nominate a slate of directors at the company's annual meeting next year.

Private Capital Management LP, an investment firm based in Naples, Fla., said it was considering that and other moves to boost the value of its 19 percent stake in Knight Ridder after seeing only a "limited response" to the "serious concerns" about the company raised by PCM and other shareholders.

Knight Ridder is the second-largest publisher of newspapers in the United States, behind Gannett Co., with 32 papers including The Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury News and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The company is facing a growing shareholder revolt after failing through a number of steps to lift its long-sagging share price, including a stock buyback, raising its dividend, making several newspaper transactions and cutting jobs.

The shares of most major newspaper companies are down sharply this year on investor concerns about their future prospects for growth, the ongoing migration of advertiser dollars and news consumers online, higher newsprint prices and a continuing slump in newspaper circulation. Despite those concerns, however, newspapers remain generally profitable businesses.

Knight Ridder's shares didn't immediately react to PCM's latest salvo against the company, edging down 4 cents to $61.99 on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday morning. The shares had slumped 20 percent this year prior to PCM's initial threat to the company last week, but have rallied since then from a low of $53.38 the day before PCM fired its first shot.

Last week PCM urged Knight Ridder to "aggressively" pursue a sale of the company or face dire consequences including a possible shake-up of the company's management and board of directors.

Click on the headline to read the full AP story on Business Week online.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

What do they talk about at lunch?

What do old retirees talk about at lunch? Well, if it is Beacon Journal retirees it is about the news, of course.

Top item was Tony Ridder and the KRI takeover or buyout talk. Could the guy who has engineered so many buyouts be forced into a buyout himself? When a new profit-driven guy takes over will we feel sorry for Tony who could well look like a spendthrift. Getting serious: If GM auto workers who have the best benefits are worried, should we be concerned.

“I would be done for without my prescription coverage,:” said one. “Yeah, what about your entire pension?” asks another.

Weather is always a good subject.. What about the adventures of Linda and Tom Gaffney in Cancun? Could we who are lost without electricity for one day survive it if lasted three or more days?

“Well, the annual leaf pickup was good?”
“ No. It was bad.”

And how do you think Cynthia George looked in the BJ photo taken during the jury choosing? Pretty good for a mother of seven and two or three lovers? “Yeah, but would you want to date her?”

There was little talk of election results. Democrats kept their grip on Akron and Mayor Don Robart of Cuyahoga Falls will be starting his 21st year in office in January.

And that’s the way it was when 11 retirees and a wife met for the monthly lunch on Wednesday at Papa Joe’s.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Roy Hobbs ball beats hurricane

Everyone’s familiar with that old postman’s slogan: “Neither, rain, snow and all that stuff……”
Well, that applies to the avid baseball player--not those big buck boys--but the average Joe and Jill that never outgrow the game.

Case in point: That last hurricane that took a swipe at Florida and grazed the Ft. Myer area didn’t blow away the 17th Roy Hobbs World Series. A couple of days was lost, but the Hobbs organization weathered the storm. Those ball players 28 and over and 38s flew, drove and got here anyway they could. And after a bit of hustle and bustle, back to back games (double-headers do make the muscles cry) the Series was back on schedule for the first week and the remaining 3 weeks.

Former Beacon Journal Sports Editor Tom Giffen heads the Hobbs organization with a great crew that I’’d compare to the old Beacon Journal days when we were all ““family”” and it wa
s about real journalism. That’s just the way I felt in my second year of the Florida sun in November.

This old retiree (12 years) is back to the basics of 50 years ago when I started out as a young “hillbilly”” reporter in West Virginia. And, as they say, it’s just like riding a bicycle.

You stumble a bit on an interview or two--you write fast and hope you’’ll be able to read later what you’re putting in your notebook.

(Just ask those folks who have worked with me……I do have a nice, legible handwriting, right?)

For those not the in the know, Roy Hobbs Baseball is named for the fictional hero in the movie “The Natural.”

This year there are 190-plus teams that Tom and his staff look after, scheduling game, scheduling umpires, publishing a daily “newspaper” with results and features.

Ages of the players run from 28 to over 70. There’s a Women’s Division and this year, a Father-Son Division has been added.

I find it great to talk to these folks from all over the country and Puerto Rico. Not a grouch in the bunch (well, I don’’t count). They all have stories to tell about their baseball feats, their hometowns, their families.

And it’s really a small world. Ran into a fellow from Minnesota, who, it turns out, worked for my wife’s nephew for two years. Another player and his wife know a young lady in Columbus by the name of Carter Chenoweth. I was her baby-sitter at one time. Her mom, Sue, and her Dad, Doral have been our best friends for 50-plus years.

Doral is semi-retired. He’s the Grumpy Gourmet for the Columbus Dispatch. (Food editor Jane Snow knows him.) I’’’ve talked to a lot of Ohio players, many from the Akron area. Last year four teams from our area won their division title in the 16 Hobbs World Series.

But don’ look for any results in our Beacon Journal even though nobody had to leave the office to get them. Doesn’t seem to be too much interest in what local folks do, even though it’’s delivered on a platter.

(That last remark is not sanctioned by the Robb Hobbs Organization, it’s mine and only mine along……and again shows the lack of interest in local news these days.)

We’ve had an “incident” to mar our Hobbs family. I looked forward to this second year down here to renew acquaintances, especially 84-year-old Preston Liles from Nashville, Tenn.

He’s a former umpire and is a long-time fixture at Roy Hobbs (Yes, Preston, I said fixture……he’ll curse me out if he reads this). But he had a mishap that landed him in the hospital and it was found he’’s a candidate for a pacemaker which he is getting.

He groused and growled about the whole thing. I tried to cheer him up as the EMS folks were loading him into the ambulance: ““Preston, that’s sure one hell of a way to get out of work!”

He hollered out something at me as they closed the door and sped away.
When we called a couple of times and went to visit, he was sleeping. No doubt the nurses couldn’t take anymore of his jokes and decided he should sleep for a spell.

Now I was brought down to write feature stories for the daily poop sheet of results etc. But when you’’re a member of this family, other duties call: cooking and selling hotdogs, checking in manager and players, handing out their T-shirts, and stapling the poop sheet together and delivering it to the different fields.

Among the Hobbs family is Meg Giffen, Tom’s daughter, whom some of you folks might remember. She also worked for a time in telemarketing at the BJ.

So now it’s on to brave the sun and heat of Florida in November. Hard duty, but somebody’s got to do it.

Click on the headline to go to the official Roy Hobbs web site.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Flood of stories on KRI woes

The stories of Knight Ridder’s woes keep coming. Today they were from the American Journalism Review and the Los Angeles Times. Even Bob Giles, our old m.e.and now a curator at Harvard, weighs in.

"A big investor’s threat to Knight Ridder is bad news for the newspaper industry," writes Rem Rieder, editor of American Journalism Review.

“Greed is good, Michael Douglas (as Gordon Gekko) said famously in the movie "Wall Street." But it's not so good for the newspaper business,” write Rieder.

“The beleaguered industry took another shot across the bow last week when something called Private Capital Management, which owns 19 percent of Knight Ridder's stock, called upon the nation's second-largest newspaper company to put itself up for sale. And if that didn't happen, the big shareholder said it would support a hostile takeover.

“This was a seriously menacing development. As Doug Clifton, editor of Cleveland's Plain Dealer and before that a longtime Knight Ridder editor, told the Los Angeles Times, the ploy "has the feeling of a momentous event."

“Seems the 19.4 percent profit the company made last year just didn't satisfy the high-flyers at the money management firm

It's enough to make you feel bad for Tony Ridder. Here the guy is flogged relentlessly for cutting back, but to Private Capital Management he's a big spender.

Click on the headline above for all of this great piece.

And then there was the Los Angeles Times headline

As Knight Ridder Goes, So May News Industry

Investor pressure to sell the San Jose-based chain comes as papers across the country are losing circulation at an accelerating pace.

Click here to read the LA Times piece, but here is the lead:

As big shareholders of Knight Ridder Inc. pressure executives to consider selling the nation's second-largest newspaper company, an increasing number of industry veterans say the fight's outcome could write the future of print journalism.

Like other chains, Knight Ridder has responded to readers and advertisers migrating to the Internet by investing in Web versions of the print product, cutting costs and experimenting with free papers.

But as industrywide circulation figures released Monday made clear, the most traditional form of journalism is losing ground at an accelerating pace. Of the country's 20 largest daily newspapers, only two sold more copies in the six months through September than they did in the same period a year before, and the overall 2.6% drop in weekday circulation was the biggest since 1991.

"Those who are responsible for running these companies have not been able to make the kind of adaptive changes they need to in order to stay competitive," said Bob Giles, curator of Harvard University's Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

Although newspaper companies still are more profitable than many other industries-- operating margins of more than 20% are common -- revenue is growing slowly and corporate owners are tending to funnel earnings into other areas rather than pay them out as dividends.

Knight Ridder's situation illustrates a larger predicament for newspaper executives, who are under pressure to improve their product at the same time that they are being urged to cut expenses to increase profits.

The most recent circulation declines at the Mercury News, the Herald and the Inquirer came to a cumulative 3.7%. Among bigger papers, the Los Angeles Times' average weekday circulation fell 3.8% to 843,432 and the Washington Post's declined 4.1% to 678,779. With its national circulation strategy, the New York Times had the only significant gain in the top 20, adding 0.5% for just over 1.1 million subscribers.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Knight Ridder in grave danger?

In a piece on Grade the News web site, Lou Alexander makes the point that Knight Ridder is in grave jeonpardy and provides some forceful arguments. Alexander spent 20 years in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News, rising to the top jobs in both display and classified before retiring in 2004. Before turning to the business side, he was a journalist for eight years. He lives in San Jose. Grade the News is a media research project focusing on the quality of the news media in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is based at San Jose State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communications and affiliated with Stanford University’s Graduate Program in Journalism.

Alexander writes that “power brokers on Wall Street have ensured that the relatively comfortable status quo employees and readers of Knight Ridder's newspapers and Web sites enjoyed as recently as Monday is gone. Things are going to change forever in the 29 markets the company serves with daily newspapers and the 110 markets reached by Knight Ridder Digital. None of the scenarios that can reasonably be anticipated allow Knight Ridder and its newspapers to operate in the future as they have in the past. And I assure you there will be chaos and uncertainty”

On Tuesday Bruce S. Sherman from Private Capital Management, L.P., the largest shareholder in the company, wrote Knight Ridder's board of directors urging them to "aggressively pursue the competitive sale of the Company" because of the poor performance of the stock. If the board is not willing to sell the company Sherman threatened what would essentially be an unfriendly takeover. PCM owns about 19% of Knight Ridder Inc.

The second largest owner of KRI stock is Southeastern Asset Management Inc. It holds an 8.9% stake in Knight Ridder, and in a regulatory filing on Thursday said that it wants the flexibility to enter talks with management and other shareholders about the future of the company.

The third-largest owner of KRI stock is Harris Associates L.P., a Chicago-based money manager. They sent a letter to Knight Ridder's board this morning urging the company to consider offers "immediately" given the wide gap between the company's current share price and its fair value. Harris has an 8.2% stake in Knight Ridder.

These three companies own an aggregate of more than 35% of Knight Ridder stock. Although this is probably enough to force a sale in the arcane world of public companies, they will have little trouble getting the votes of more than 50% of the stockholders if they need it. Knight Ridder does not control its own stock. About 90% of Knight Ridder stock is owned by institutions rather than individuals. According to Yahoo Finance, about 57% is owned by 10 large institutional investors, including the three listed above. Another 17% is owned by 10 large mutual funds.

Click on the headline above to read the complete article.

Howard Lengs: Not to be forgotten

Many blog viewers won’t even remember the late Murray Powers who was probably the best-ever managing editor of the Beacon Journal. Those who do remember Murray will know that he was a circus fan. If you don’t remember Murray you certainly will not remember Harold Lengs–another circus man and also a reporter that Powers hoped would not be forgotten. Here’s his piece on Lengs from the Nov-Dec 1974 issue of Tower Topics, the almost-forgotten BJ employee publication.

By Murray Powers
Former Beacon Journal Managing Editor

"There I was talking when I should have been listening,"

It was Harold Lengs talking. Harold Lengs-police reporter, labor reporter. Harold Lengs-circus press agent, circus cook. Harold Lengs-seminary student for the priesthood.

That e
xpression-"There I was talking" - was Lengs' mea culpa for talking too much, when he had put his foot in it.

The Beacon Journal through its years had had more than its share of good reporters and colorful characters-from Broadway columnist Earl Wilson, author Ruth McKenney, historian Howard Wolf, Clyde Mann, Charlie Howard, Jim Schlemmer, Doe Kerr, Oscar Smith. None of them should be forgotten and es pecially Harold Lengs.

LENGS came out of Akron, graduated from St. Vincent High and took off for Indiana and a seminary, determined to become a priest. Like a lot of youngsters, for one reason or another, he left the seminary. I don't think any of his friends ever asked him why he drifted into a circus but now it seems that was the natural thing for him to do.

He went with a tough circus owner by the name of Ray Rogers who came out of Canada with his Barnett Bros. Circus which he subsequently named Wallace Bros. Wallace was a good name, akin to Hagenbeck-Wallace, and it is said Rogers picked up a couple Wallace brothers in the South, gave them some stock and obligingly picked up their name.

Circus life fitted the tall, stoutly built Lengs and he did everything that Rogers asked him. The Rogers family and the circus folk loved Lengs. When he'd go back on the show you'd hear everywhere: "Goddam, Lengs."

BECAUSE I was Lengs' friend, Rogers asked me to come on the show, my first mud or truck show. "If you want to go on one of these things, you'd better go now," said Lengs, "he never invites anybody." I went. Lengs never missed a circus, stayed on the lot until the last light wagon left and often introduced "the concert" for shows playing Kent.

Lengs came to the Beacon Journal before the war. Bob Stopher told me one day, "We hired a fellow yesterday that you'll Harold Lengs; he's been on a circus."

Everybody in. the BJ loved Lengs, as the circus folk did. He knew Akron, got along well with the police, did his work well, then was made labor reporter. Harold had a rough exter-or, certainly was never dressed in fashion, always had a cigar in his face and he looked more like movie actor Ken Murray than Murray himself. After an evening on my porch, with a six-pack and a pocketful of cigars, the front yard looked like a bunch of dogs with bowel trouble had come through.

LENGS had the worst looking desk in the old BJ office, piled high with carbons, releases, letters. Clyde Mann, who was with us for many years, did a great im itation of Lengs cleaning up the mess - "I wondered whatever happened to that obituary ... There's that story I was going to write." Lengs had the ability to clear news stories rapidly but his weekend labor column was always late.

Lengs was always broke. He was a soft touch, especially for circus people coming through. And when he went out on a date with his girl friend, it was better that she should have money with her. When he would go back to the circus, he always hit the old boss for a fin-and came away with a sawbuck. When he wasn't working he was coaching. the junior varsity at St. V.

Lengs was in love and told most of his friends he was going to marry the girl but he never got around to telling her, much to her discomfiture. During the war days one of the women reporters suddenly took a shine to him. "He was so nice to poor people when they came into the office," she said. And she began the pursuit. "Here I have been chasing girls all these years and getting nowhere and now look what's happening," he moaned.

LENGS became restless. He decided he ought to get out of the newspaper business and get back to the circus. He inveigled his old boss to bankroll him for a circus in the Rubber Bowl. Ringling Bros.-Barnum and Bailey were on the Airport lot a few weeks ahead and Lengs' efforts didn't pay off. He went on to another date or so- nothing hot financial-ly.

He must not have been well through that period. It wasn't long before he developed tuberculosis of the spine and his last days were spent with his sister, Marie Wolcott, in Kent. He left his father, George, Marie and her husband, Marion "Red" Wolcott, Kent newspaperman. His only relative in the area is Bill, Marion's son, who works for the Dix organization in Kent-Ravenna.

Lengs died May 6, 1946, 40 years old.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Double celebration for Cullisons in 1974

It was a double celebration for Art Cullison at the 25-Year Club banquet for Beacon Journal employees in 1974. The Tower Topics issue for Nov-Dec 1974 included photos of the celebrants. Art and Helen Louise got special recogcnition because they also were celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Larry Froelich retires in Lexington

About 40-50 people turned out last Friday afternoon for Larry Froelich's retirement reception in the board room of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader.

Larry's son, Eric, a sophomore at the University of Kentucky, and his wife Suzanne were in attendance along with Larry's older son, Mark, who drove down from Detroit for the occasion.

Froelich’s newsroom colleagues gave him a good-natured "roasting" for his gruff military-style leadership as news editor for the last 16 years but they also acknowledged the mentoring he has provided a number of copy and design editors and reporters over the years. They presented him with a iPod Nano, a gift certificate to a local Italian restaurant, a full-color front-page mockup of his foibles and idiosyncracies, including pretending to be hard of hearing at critical moments and loudly cursing the television whenever his beloved Browns or Indians screwed up. He also received a poster-size character illustration drawn by H-L artist Chris Ware that was signed by members of the newsroom..

A number of news and copy editors appeared at the reception in Larry's standard attire: tweed sport jacket, Polo shirt, khaki slacks and tennis shoes. Monday, Oct. 31, was actually his last day of work, and just as he has every workday, he ended in the Pressroom, where he was given the honor of throwing the switch to send papers to the loading docks.

Froelich began his career with Knight in 1967 at the Akron Beacon Journal as a police reporter, moved on to the Detroit Free Press in early 1981 where he eventually became assistant news editor before finally landing in Lexington in the fall of 1989. After a short break he's been asked to return to the Herald-Leader on a part-time basis to work primarily as the night slot on the copy desk. His other plans include traveling abroad with Suzanne and taking advantage of the Donovan Scholars program at UK which enables retirees to audit classes at the university free of charge.

Eventually the Froelichs plan to move to Detroit where they have grandchildren and many colleagues from their Freep days.

Top shareholder demands sale of KR

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Knight Ridder Inc.'s largest shareholder wants the nation's second-biggest newspaper publisher to seek a buyer, contending there are few other options left for a company that has been rapidly losing favor with investors as more advertising shifts to the Internet.

Private Capital Management LP, which owns a 19 percent stake in Knight Ridder, made the demand Tuesday in a letter addressed to the company's board.

"In light of limited revenue growth across the newspaper industry and the difficulties the company has faced in realizing fair value...for its shareholders, we believe the board should now pursue the competitive sale of the company," wrote Bruce Sherman, PCM's chief executive officer.

If Knight Ridder doesn't put the company on the sales block, PCM will consider supporting "more aggressive efforts" that might include an ouster of the company's management, Sherman wrote.

A spokeswoman for San Jose-based Knight Ridder declined to comment on PCM's letter. A message left after business hours at Naples, Fla.-based PCM also wasn't returned.

With 32 daily newspapers, Knight Ridder ranks as the nation's No. 2 newspaper publisher by circulation after Gannett Co. Knight Ridder's papers include the Akron Beacon Journal,. The Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury News and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Investors embraced the prospect of a sale. Knight Ridder's shares surged $4.62, or 8.7 percent, to close Tuesday at $58 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Beacon Journal carried a story on the business section front.

To read the full AP story, click on the headline above.