The purchase of Knight Ridder Inc. by McClatchy Co.,
, presents possibly the best opportunity to date to experiment with the next inevitable leap in journalism: jettisoning print.
p>Acclaimed as one of the few exceptionally run newspaper chains in America, McClatchy is positioned to turn a community into one served solely through electronic news delivery. It's time to see if a text media provider in a given city can thrive without daily paper throwers.
p>Why now? The reasons are many:
p>1. McClatchy owns 12 dailies, and will add 20 of Knight Ridder's cities (after it sells 12 other KR properties that it doesn't want), making it the second-largest newspaper chain in the country. With a reputation for good journalism (despite a mostly liberal slant), strong management, and Internet savvy, McClatchy has the resources and the know-how to approach such an experiment intelligently. If any company can succeed making the transition, it's this one.
p>2. Newspapers have been profitable, even recently — just not enough for their investors and for Wall Street. The trend has been continual cost cutting, which has led to diminished reporting resources and inferior journalism. At the same time, the cost of newsprint, the largest expense for a newspaper other than payroll,
has increased almost 50 percent
in three years, according to the
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
. Why not cut this outlay completely?
p>3. Also expensive are the carriers to deliver those papers to homes and businesses every morning before daylight. In this digital age, paying someone to get up in the middle of the night, burn their fuel,
risk their lives
, and beat up their vehicles, all to place an obsolete form of news product in customers' hands, is impractical.