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Businessweek Archives

Knight Ridder In Shinier Armor?

Readers Report


It is both puzzling and frustrating to see myself and our company portrayed under a headline proclaiming: "Running hard, but staying in place" (Media, Feb. 26). Since I became CEO 11 months ago, we have sold the Journal of Commerce, put up for sale Knight-Ridder Financial, purchased Lesher Communications Inc., planned substantial margin increases at some of our largest papers, and developed a strategy to put all our newspapers online by early 1997. Your article notes many of these developments. But this is standing still? From a 1995 low of 50 5/8 in February, 1995, our stock closed on Mar. 1 at 69 5/8--an all-time high.

Although the challenge you identify--finding new ways to grow revenue--is on target, the way the article frames it is anything but:

-- How credible is a disparaging quote from an unnamed former executive? Might it not be someone who left unhappy?

-- The article talks condescendingly of "low" margins, never mentioning that the current strike at our newspaper in Detroit is a primary cause. The article next implies that we are unimaginative to try to "squeeze more" (negative term) from a major newspaper that dramatically underperforms the margins just criticized.

-- In the boldfaced "Knight-Ridder's trials and errors," you list one venture that shut down a decade ago (Viewtron), one that we have been hailed for addressing quickly and vigorously (KRF), and one so tiny and experimental (Information Design Lab) that it cannot be ranked with the others.

Most discouraging, the article cites little that is positive. It belittles our newspapers' new revenue initiatives as meeting with "little or modest success." Is more than $100 million modest? It dismisses our industry-leading online initiatives as back-to-the-future fluff. Knight-Ridder is a marvelous enterprise, and there are many rewards to being its CEO. Unfortunately, this BUSINESS WEEK profile is not one of them.

P. Anthony Ridder

Chairman and CEO

Knight-Ridder Inc.

MiamiReturn to top


There are so many distortions in your review "A 1980s chainsaw massacre" (Books, Feb. 26) that one hardly knows where to start. For the record: The town of Scotia, Calif., has never been healthier. Ten years after Pacific Lumber Co. was acquired, employment is up by several hundred; company-funded college scholarships remain available to all employees' children graduating from high school; hundreds of employees' families still live in very affordable, attractive, company-owned rental houses; health benefits are enhanced; worker safety is improved; and more than $100 million has been reinvested in facilities, equipment, and additional timberland.

The rate of timber harvest was less than doubled--not tripled. The increase was mostly in younger trees, and was initiated only after independent studies confirmed the increase would not adversely impact either the environment or economy. The last redwoods are not being cut.

Your headline trumpets a "chainsaw massacre" that never took place and never will on our property. Pacific Lumber is a 127-year-old company committed to the perpetual renewal of our privately-owned timberlands. Our behavior as an environmentally conscientious company is verified by the national recognition of our programs of fisheries enhancement, waste minimization, and northern spotted owl protection.

John A. Campbell

President and CEO

Pacific Lumber Co.

Scotia, Calif.Return to top


The term "losing faith" was very apt in regard to "Free trade: Republicans may be losing faith" (Washington Outlook, Feb. 19). This dogma has been embraced as holy writ even though it's actually only a theory with a very poor track record. It is no mere coincidence that U.S. economic growth has slowed and employee incomes have stagnated during the last two decades of "free trade" policies. The U.S. now imports half the manufactured goods it consumes as "global" factories have replaced millions of middle-class American jobs. We must take back the most vital market in the world: our own. On every front, "free trade" has failed to provide net benefits to America. China has a $30 billion trade surplus with us, while demanding technology transfers, co-production, and joint ventures as the price for doing business there.

The U.S. has enormous leverage to win advantageous trade agreements through traditional results-oriented commercial diplomacy. But we throw this leverage away when we adopt "free trade" as an ideological objective.

Representative Duncan Hunter


WashingtonReturn to top

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