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March 13, 2006
Twin Cities Needs A New Publisher

The Twin Cities suffered a setback for diversity in the news media with the announcement that McClatchy would purchase Knight Ridder for $4.5 billion. McClatchy already owns the dominant broadsheet in the area, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, with its decent stable of reporters and its frequently-unhinged editorial and opinion writers. With the purchase of KR, they will briefly control the only other significant newspaper in the market, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. Editor & Publisher notes that the control will be short-lived:

McClatchy said it will now sell 12 KR papers, including the two Philadelphia papers and former flagship San Jose Mercury News. The company said in a statement that these papers are located in cities that "do not fit the company's longstanding acquisition criteria, chiefly involving growing markets."

The other papers to be divested by McClatchy are: the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal; Wilkes Barre (Pa.) Times Leader; Aberdeen (S.D.) American News; Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald; Ft. Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel; Contra Costa (Calif.) Times; Monterey (Calif.) Herald; and Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune. The St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press is to be sold due to anticipated anti-trust concerns involving McClatchy's Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

This post isn't intended to proclaim this as a blow for independence in media. The Pioneer Press had long been a Strib Lite, providing little difference in editorial outlook, while committing less resources to actual newsgathering. Over the past two years, however, KR allowed the paper to diversify its editorial position and open itself to more conservative and libertarian voices. This appeared to promise a real choice for Twin Cities residents, if the Pioneer Press allowed its experimentation to continue.

However, that now comes under significant risk as McClatchy looks for a buyer for its local competition. E&P doesn't mention any potential buyers, but on a national level one could expect players such as Tribune, Gannett, and Freedom to take a look. Of the three, only Freedom has a record of more conservative editorial traditions. It owns the Orange County Register, a newspaper that has existed in the shadow of the dominant Los Angeles Times, and has long espoused a libertarian/conservative perspective. It also has a few Pulitzers on its shelf despite the long shadow that Tribune Co.'s Times casts over it. A similar situation exists with the PP here in the Twin Cities, and a publisher like Freedom would have the kind of experience at countermarketing in the manner needed here.

We certainly need a publisher who understands the Twin Cities market and wants to offer a real alternative to the Strib's far-left tilt. We need, at a minimum, a publisher who understands that military families offering their opinions in support of the war effort in Iraq aren't "un-American". (Had I won that $365 million Lottery not too long ago, I'd seriously consider bidding for the PP myself.) The Twin Cities deserves a conservative/libertarian political voice and a good old-fashioned editorial war across the Mississippi River.

The For Sale sign is out. Any takers?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 13, 2006 6:53 PM

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