Knight Ridder In Shinier Armor?

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.


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