An Open Letter From Knight Ridder Alumni
What follows is a letter signed by 92 journalists who have worked for Knight Ridder newspapers. It was distributed to news media outlets in November 2005.
John S. Knight, a founder of the company known today as Knight Ridder, believed — and proved — that excellent journalism is good business. The undersigned, all alumni of Knight Ridder, have lived that creed.
As did the late Jack Knight, we believe profit is not merely nice but necessary. Knight Ridder routinely has generated double-digit operating profits — such as last year's 19.4 percent. We understand the obligation of an institutional investor to maximize return on investment. An investor for whom double digits are insufficient is free to sell Knight Ridder stock. An investor who instead demands the sale or dismantling of Knight Ridder merely in the name of a larger profit margin is engaged not in good business but in greed.
As did Jack Knight, we speak out of confidence in, not fear of, the future of the good business of excellent journalism. There is durable value in businesses that treat their citizens, their communities and their employees with respect. New technology is an ally of, not a threat to, trustworthy and nimble media. Competition gives rise to innovation and efficiency, much as recent declines in print circulation have been accompanied by increased electronic readership.
Knight Ridder is not merely another public company. It is a public trust. It must balance corporate profitability with civic purpose. We oppose those who would cripple the purpose by coercing more profit. We abhor those for whom good business is insufficient and excellent journalism is irrelevant.
We have watched mostly in silent dismay as short-term profit demands have diminished long-term capacity of newsrooms in Knight Ridder and other public media companies. We are silent no more. We will support and counsel only corporate leadership that restores to Knight Ridder newspapers the resources to do excellent journalism. We are prepared collectively to nominate candidates for the Knight Ridder board. We wish to reassert John Knight's creed.