Good Journalism Is Good Business

The New York Times: Chalk up another success for McClatchy, one of the best-kept secrets in the newspaper industry. The chain, with 12 dailies, including The Star Tribune in Minneapolis, The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., The Island Packet in Hilton head Island and The Sacramento Bee, has one of the lowest profiles in the business but one of the strongest track records, both for award-winning journalism and a continuously healthy bottom line.
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Sacramento Bee newsroom
At a time when many newspapers are cutting back and announcing layoffs, McClatchy is building its properties.
Through the end of 2004, the chain had 20 consecutive years of growth in circulation and 10 consecutive years in which its stock swelled with the highest growth rate of any newspaper stock, up 380 percent.
“We’ve out-performed the industry on revenue, circulation, not making layoffs and growing our news hole,” said Gary B. Pruitt, 48, the chairman, president and chief executive of McClatchy. In July, the company, which has a market value of $3.1 billion, posted record second-quarter earnings of $44.2 million.
The chain also holds its ambitions in check. Mr. Pruitt, a First Amendment lawyer, said he wanted each of the papers to be “the best in the country for its size, or at least our version of the best.” He said he had no interest in becoming the biggest.
“We look at almost everything on the acquisition front and pursue almost nothing,” he said. “Only if we’re in growth markets can we achieve the quality we seek on the journalistic side,” he added, invoking the company’s mantra that “good journalism is good business.”
Thomas Kunkel, dean of the University of Maryland journalism school, said that various researchers had tried over the years to find a cause-and-effect between good journalism and good business, but such proof was elusive.
“There are so many factors. It’s hard to prove the point,” he said. “And in the case of McClatchy, you can’t sort out their success from the markets they’re in.” But, he added, McClatchy “is certainly demonstrating by doing things right journalistically that they have done very well.”

About David Burn

Fired up to write it down. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. Chief storyteller at Bonehook, a guide service and bait shop for brands.