Which item suffering from ‘owner chill?’

The kids are no longer reading much of anything, including newspapers. Circulation at The Washington Post is dropping about one per cent per month (if I remember reports correctly). Newspaper profits, that used to be around 30 per cent net, are tumbling.

Note the “owner chill” effect on how three news media reported the poor first-quarter results of newspaper owner McClatchy Co. They were posted on April 13, 2006. Guess which one of the reports listed below was in a paper owned by McClatchy.

One report said:

McClatchy said interest in the 12 Knight Ridder papers it's selling -- including the Mercury News -- has been high and that it continues to “feel good about our expectation for the proceeds'' during a conference call with Wall Street analysts that mainly focused on its disappointing first-quarter earnings.”

A second said:

“(Sacramento Bee, The (CA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 14--The McClatchy Co. reported a worse-than-expected decline in profits Thursday, rattling investors who were already squeamish about the Sacramento publisher's pending takeover of Knight Ridder Inc.

“It marked the third straight quarterly dip for The Bee's owner and reflected rising costs and the industry wide advertising and circulation slump. Tribune Co. and New York Times Co. also posted weaker numbers Thursday.”

A third said:

“NEW YORK -- New York Times Co., McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co. yesterday posted sharply lower earnings on high newsprint costs and depressed advertising sales.”

The first report was in The Mercury News of San Jose, Ca. It was talking about itself. Notice how “owner chill” affects the author who manages to quote the boss as feeling “good” and that interest is “high.” This would likely be noted at the upper management levels of the paper and its owners. The author was a good boy.

The second was TMCnet (Technology Marketing Corp.) and the third was The Globe and Mail. Note that they skip the puff and “feel good” stuff and get straight to the news.

When paper ownership changes, one of the first things examined is the newsroom budget. Good boys and girls get to keep their jobs. Trouble makers – who skip the owner’s puff – usually get the door.