Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Knight Foundation & Newspaper Dynasty's Hidden History--Part 3

“A $200,000 grant proposal, submitted by a group of Indymedia volunteers to the Knight News Challenge contest, has been blocked by other IMCs and subsequently dropped due to the abiding ethos that Indymedia is a counter to corporate, money-fixated media entities. The grant application to the Knight Foundation was to fund technical development work for Independent Media Centres (IMCs)…

“The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation describes itself as "an American private, non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting journalism and supporting the vitality of 26 communities" where the Knight Brothers owned newspapers….In 1974, Knight Newspapers merged with Ridder Publications to create Knight-Ridder Inc., at the time the largest newspaper company in the US. Lee Hills, former president of Knight Newspapers, became Knight-Ridder chairman and CEO. Its trustees include Paul E. Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and a vice president at Dow Jones & Company. Until it was bought by The McClatchy Company in June 2006, Knight-Ridder was the second-largest newspaper publisher in the US, with 32 daily newspapers...”
(Corporate Watch UK and sites)

The idea of further reducing competition in the U.S. newspaper industry by merging the Knight Dynasty’s newspaper chain with the Ridder Dynasty’s newspaper chain was first mentioned in a memo of the Goldman, Sachs & Co. Wall Street investment banking firm in 1966, when Alan Stern wrote the following:

“Ed Hoffman of our buying department at Goldman, Sachs is the cousin of Herman H. Ridder, president of Ridder Publications. Through Ed I met with Mr. Ridder…Mr. Ridder indicated that his first interest was merging with another…newspaper chain. Specifically, he mentioned Knight newspapers…”

And as the 1989 book Knight: A Publisher In The Tumultuous Century by Charles Whited noted, “Eight years later, the suggestion would develop into the most lucrative merger in U.S. newspaper history.” In July 1974, the Knight and Ridder dynasties merged their companies in a chain of 35 daily and 23 Sunday newspapers with a 3.8 million daily circulation that made it the largest U.S. newspaper chain at that time.

The Knight-Ridder media conglomerate whose stock was owned by the Knight Foundation in the 1980s apparently then violated U.S. environmental protection laws. For example, according to Knight-Ridder’s 1992 10-K Disclosure form:

“The Company has been identified by certain regulatory agencies as one of several potentially responsible parties in connection with the generation of allegedly hazardous substances which may have been disposed of or reclaimed by third-party contractors at sites in New Jersey, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The company, certain other potentially responsible parties and the United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] have entered into consent orders relating to the sites in New Jersey, South Carolina, and North Carolina.”

One reason the Knight Dynasty was able to run its newspaper chain so profitably prior to the 1974 merger with the Ridder Dynasty’s chain was that it wasn’t too chivalrous in its treatment of its unionized employees. When the Knight Dynasty owned the Chicago Daily News, for example, it broke the 1947 to 1949 ITU printers’ strike of the newspaper, rather than negotiate a fair settlement with its employees.

The Knight Dynasty also chose to break a 1948-1953 strike of its unionized Miami Herald workers rather than negotiate in good faith. As the book Knight recalled: “The Miami Herald…defied work stoppages to the point of ousting troublemaking unions from their operations…" When pressmen and mailroom employees struck the Miami Herald in 1961, the Knight Dynasty again refused to bargain in good faith. Although Knight-Ridder was a huge, profitable media conglomerate in the early 1990s, only 60 percent of its employees in the 1990s were unionized. (end of part 3)

(Downtown 9/15/93)

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