Thursday, December 04, 2008

Turning the page ...

I have worked for newspapers for more than 40 years now, and since my younger brother’s death a year ago, I have known that I would leave my job at McClatchy before too long. I’ve always looked forward to having second phase of my career, to a chance to spend more time with my wife, and I am tenderly aware that none of us can command the calendar.

While awaiting the right opportunity to depart, I have discovered that there is no opportune time for such an announcement, and so I have simply set a date. I will leave at the end of the year.

As you would expect, it is painful to leave a company I love and a profession that has defined my life. I am acutely aware that this is a time of great challenge and uncertainty for our business, and the most poignant part of my decision is the feeling that I am abandoning shipmates left in peril. I feel bad about leaving when so many beloved colleagues and fine journalists are working through such difficult conditions to sustain and advance the crucial work we do.

Yet their good work and deep devotion also make it easier for me to depart, for I am wise enough to know that this mission will be in good hands without me, and this allows me to move on.

Some colleagues I’ve told about my plans warn that this will surely be interpreted as “Howard bailing out,” or some sign of impending disaster at McClatchy. Like so much you hear about our business nowadays, such thinking would reflect people who don’t know what they’re talking about saying things that don’t make sense.

I take my leave feeling sure about two things.

First, that the challenge faced by McClatchy and its newsrooms is immense and fundamental. Navigating to success through the coming months will be painful, sometimes torturous work.
Secondly, that the mission of public service journalism will emerge from this transformation in tact, and that McClatchy will remain in control of its own destiny. I have deep faith in McClatchy’s ownership, in its leadership, and in its journalists.

You may recall that I offered six months ago to wager $1,000 with anybody who thinks differently. I haven’t had any takers yet, but I hope I will; I could use the money.

I have spent too much of my life in newsrooms simply to pronounce some Pollyanna forecast. My confidence is grounded in an intimate, 30-year history with McClatchy. The forecast represents a distillation of everything I know and believe and have figured out about the profound changes unfolding around us. My insights and credentials are far from perfect, but they are not inconsequential. My prediction of success is rooted in deep thought and nuanced study.

At the heart of my analysis rests a simple but potent realization I made many years ago: honest, high quality news is far more powerful and more valuable than raw data, sloppy reporting or partisan propaganda. No institution is even remotely as well equipped as we to deliver this public service information to the civic sphere. We are hurting too badly for me to say that glibly or to underestimate how hard is will be to prove, but I have bedrock faith that we will do so.

Unlike so many of our poorly informed critics, I do not believe our current circumstances are primarily the result of mistakes. They are, rather, the simple and inevitable result of being in a mature business that has been overtaken by transformational change that would have turned us inside-out no matter what we had done.

You will hear digital triumphalists and grave dancers hurl charges like “Why didn’t newspapers invent Google?” or “Why didn’t newspapers start Craigslist?” Many of them look to the enormous power and promise of the networked world and admonish us to abandon print publishing altogether, a nonsensical notion that illustrates both the depth of their ignorance and shallowness of their analysis.

Just for the record, Google didn’t even invent Google. Larry and Sergei, brilliant as they are, didn’t know what they had created when they started indexing web pages. Their company would have gone broke if Yahoo has not licensed its search capacity in early years, and they didn’t start to make real money until they purchased and incorporated somebody else’s system for selling contextual search advertising.

As for Craigslist, think about that for a moment. How on earth would creating free classified listings have saved the profitable classified advertising whose loss we feel so painfully today? Craig Newmark, a smart and unassuming nerd, is perfectly happy to charge a pittance on a tiny fraction of his ads to subsidize the majority of the free listings. There’s no way we could have stopped him from his philanthropic endeavor, and no way that duplicating his service would save us.

And think about this, as well: printed newspapers continue to reach about half the adults in the country every day, and to generate billions of dollars in annual revenue. Only a person who has never enjoyed that kind of base would be foolish enough to advise that we abandon it. This is the foundation upon which we are building the success of our increasingly digital future.

Though it is under great stress, there is so much right about our company and our prospects that I have no hesitation in forecasting success. All around us, legendary banks and auto companies are failing. Housing has crashed and consumer confidence plummets. But consider this: in the midst of the greatest economic calamity in generations, already deep in the throes of transformational secular change, the McClatchy Company is operating multimedia publishing companies in 29 American cities from Miami to Anchorage – and all are profitable. Thousands of skilled and dedicated journalists went to work this morning in these McClatchy cities, ready and able to practice public service journalism.

There’s no denying we have been gravely wounded by the end of our industry’s monopoly advantages, and those wounds are deeper still on account of the devastating condition of the national economy today. I certainly have not always reacted correctly or with due speed to the nature of the changes, and our whole industry has – to varying degrees – been overtaken by the speed and scope of changing consumer habits; we need to move faster in reshaping some of what we do.

And while it's true that ensuring our future requires sophisticated selling, steadfast, adaptive management and steely resolve, the future is really all about the newsrooms.
Nothing else we do as a company means much if we fail to sustain our public service journalism. The McClatchy family has not persevered into the seventh generation in order to publish successful brides magazines, or websites with comprehensive nightclub listings. We labor not to ensure we can create new blogs for pet owners, or rich vertical online sites devoted to vacation properties. All of these and much more are essential, of course, because public service journalism is an expensive proposition, but we must not take for granted the capacity or elasticity of our newsrooms.

Let me close and say farewell in gratitude.

I am grateful that C.K. McClatchy saved the Anchorage Daily News and then hired me to write editorials there 30 years ago. I am grateful for the unwavering guidance and support I got for practicing the kind of journalism that won us the Pulitzer Prize for Pubic Service just a few weeks before his death. That precious commitment has been true here at McClatchy every day of my career. I am grateful to the family owners, to the board of directors, and of course to my colleagues, in newsrooms and on editorial boards and in the executive suite.

But most of all, as I close the book on my contributions to the company, I am grateful that Gary Pruitt is young enough, smart enough and tough enough to keep leading McClatchy through this perilous time. We’ve worked together since the early 1980s, when I was a young editor and he an even younger First Amendment lawyer, and I’m well positioned to bear witness to the remarkable consistency of character he brings to the challenges at hand. McClatchy could not have better hands on the tiller.

57 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:26 AM

    The very, very frightening thing about Howard Weaver leaving McClatchy is that, agree with him or not, he is the only true visionary within McClatchy's executive ranks.

    He was the only one focused on the positive changes impacting our fair trade and how all these things can be used to make us better in the long run (tho sometimes I must confess, I still thought he was full of it).

    With him gone I fear our fate will fall to people who have no understanding of the changes in our industry, who fear the future and only see properties and FTEs where Howard saw newspapers and the people who make them.

    This is a loss.

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  2. Whoa. McClatchy will miss you. I will be watching to see your next big thing...and I don't mean splitting that mean log with one fell swoop o' the axe!! -Scott McMurren

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  3. Anonymous9:42 AM

    the biggest rats are always the first to abandon a sinking ship. you boy gary will be right behind you I'm sure with his golden parachute.

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  4. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Howard, I find your "farewell speech" laughable. Especially after reading this about 30 minutes ago...

    www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003918781

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  5. You will be greatly missed.

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  6. Best of luck and I hope you keep writing on media and newspapers. We need your thoughts.

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  7. Richard Murphy10:02 AM

    Dang.
    Richard Murphy

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  8. Mike N.10:44 AM

    Sad to see you go Howard. Another chapter is just a turn of the page. Maybe Alaska (CA?) Advocate online? Good place to park the column. I'd tune in.

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  9. Anonymous11:03 AM

    Congratulations - and don't let pinheads like Kevin Gregory run down what has been a great career.

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  10. Anonymous 945: Glad to provide a laugh; I', guessing you need some in your life.

    And BTW, my offer to bet a grand on the outcome is still open. Let's see your money, tough guy.

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  11. John Greely11:45 AM

    Hey Howard,
    Best to you and Barb. Hope your road trips bring you back North once in a while. Regards and congrats on a graceful exit.
    John Greely

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  12. Mary Engel12:09 PM

    As much as I can't imagine newspapers without you, Howard, I know that whatever you do you're going to be writing hard and dying free.

    Thank you for your example, enthusiasm and encouragement (and all those aphorisms that still knock around in my head).

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  13. Howard,
    Thanks for the many (25) years of inspiration, encouragement and the freedom to make mistakes. I reached farther in my career than I thought possible.
    I'm confident we can keep the coals of the "tribal fire" burning during these tough times. You showed us how.
    My best to you and Barb,
    Pam D-S

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  14. Sad for McClatchy... great for the industry, as you focus your energies, experience and talent on saving it.

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  15. Anonymous1:11 PM

    Thank you, Howard, for not moving out to the newsroom or I'd have spent at least another 5-6 years slaving away to support your leadership. (I'm enjoying retirement!)
    You probably never heard your mentor, Frank McCulloch, comment on the idea of Kent Pollock moving to Anchorage as City Editor: "Howard Weaver will eat him alive."
    One more thing: I'll wager McClatchy DROPS print within a year, ala the Christian Science Monitor. Sad for journalism, bad for Democracy.
    Dick Tracy

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  16. Howard, thanks for a remarkable career. You’ve been an inspiration and a major force for journalists — and journalism — in Alaska and the nation. That will never change.

    Are you leaving something unsaid in your message? I might have been able to hazard a guess at one time, but not now, not with the span of years and distance. I’ll accept your words.

    We under siege, newspapers and McClatchy. You may be willing to wager a thousand bucks, but no one knows how this will end, whether it will be like Leningrad, or whether it will be the Alamo or Masada; whether we will emerge wounded, exhausted, but alive and ready to rebuild, or whether it will be a massacre. You are one of the key architects of our battle plan. If it was the right plan is immaterial now — I certainly bought into it, and still today think it was the correct course. But implementing the strategies requires the best, the brightest and the energetic. Adapting the strategies to a constantly shifting environment demands continuing creativity. All this while our comrades are picked off and the ground we hold shrinks. I am sorry you’re seeking asylum elsewhere, but understand this is not for everyone. My best to Barb.

    -- Rich

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  17. Anonymous1:42 PM

    Howard, thanks for a remarkable career. You’ve been an inspiration and a major force for journalists — and journalism — in Alaska and the nation. That will never change.

    Are you leaving something unsaid in your message? I might have been able to hazard a guess at one time, but not now, not with the span of years and distance. I’ll accept your words.

    We under siege, newspapers and McClatchy. You may be willing to wager a thousand bucks, but no one knows how this will end, whether it will be like Leningrad, or whether it will be the Alamo or Masada; whether we will emerge wounded, exhausted, but alive and ready to rebuild, or whether it will be a massacre. You are one of the key architects of our battle plan. If it was the right plan is immaterial now — I certainly bought into it, and still today think it was the correct course. But implementing the strategies requires the best, the brightest and the energetic. Adapting the strategies to a constantly shifting environment demands continuing creativity. All this while our comrades are picked off and the ground we hold shrinks. I am sorry you’re seeking asylum elsewhere, but understand this is not for everyone. My best to Barb.

    -- Rich Mauer

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  18. MrEdd1:49 PM

    One fewer hand working at the ice house.

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  19. Anonymous2:36 PM

    Howard -This is a tremendous loss for McClatchy, but a new chapter of adventures for you and Barbara. Best to you both- and thanks for your cool head and your passionate heart for journalism during some good years in Tacoma. -Betsy Brenner

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  20. Anonymous3:04 PM

    Howard, There is a reason good journalism is expensive, "because it is worth it" to quote an old joke. There is something timeless and gallant about a buying and reading a newspaper. I will never be without my "morning friendly" in good news and bad, where ever I am. I am lucky that I moved to a city with a newspaper of such quality as the Bee.

    Ross Good

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  21. Anonymous3:16 PM

    It'd be nice to have an accurate cystal ball I guess. Then we could have forseen the current national economic crisis forthcoming, and rushed to take our retirement and 401K's out beforehand and stuffed the money in our mattresses. Maybe. Newspapers would have known long ago how fast the globe would become overtaken by cyber print, renown book publishing companies that today announced layoffs or closings maybe would have been ale to avoid their dire straits, local television stations could have forseen the emerging 24 hour cable news and adjusted accordingly, maybe.

    Howard, you've put in your time with your heart on the table, and you do have heart. Only the perfect and accurate crystal ball could predict the present circumstances that surround all of us, inside and outside the newsrooms.

    But there is one certainty that we don't need a crystal ball for that looms inevitably on all of us regardless of time, status, or present circumstances. Birth has it's opposite, we call it death. You experienced death's life-changing effects with your brother. Leaving a space in your heart that can not and will not be replaced. Ever.

    But Life has no opposite, there is none.

    You are not abandoning anyone, you are not responsible for the lack of the crystal ball, and you will not be invisible. Your heart will always be on the table.

    Your decision is to spend Life from this point on with your wife and yourself. It is wise decision.

    Your friend,
    Carl (lebowski) Miles

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  22. Howard, McClatchy has been blessed to have your commitment, your professional gift and your heart for all these years. You will be missed. I hope you keep Etaoin Shrdlu alive. And, really, there IS life after newspapering. So go out and spend a little more time at that telescope of yours!

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  23. Anonymous4:26 PM

    Howard, old journalists never die...they write books.
    Sorry to hear about the passing of your brother, a fine lad. This is the first I have heard of this sad event.
    Regards,
    Stapleton

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  24. Anonymous4:40 PM

    "It's the unconquerable soul of man, and not the nature of the weapon he uses, that ensures victory." - George S. Patton

    Howard- thanks for sharing just a little bit of your soul, for a cause that is both needed and just. It's been an honor to work with you. Best of luck on the next battlefield.

    - Bruce Meissner

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  25. Howard -- For a change I am at a loss for words (well, almost). Thanks for your friendship, your support of my work, your challenges to me and colleagues, your hard work, and dedication to this great craft and especially to public service. May you and Barb have many wonderful adventures ahead and I hope to see you on one coast or the other before too long. And may your voice not stay silent.
    -- Jim

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  26. John Reinan6:30 PM

    Howard, I lived in Anchorage during the '80s and was a tremendous fan of the Daily News. It was a great, scrappy, brash, exciting newspaper. I never met you, but I admired you.

    Now I live in Minneapolis. You sold the Star Tribune to a bunch of Wall Street buccaneers after taking out a billion dollars or so in profits over a decade of ownership. But when the going got tough in Minneapolis, McClatchy got going.

    My feelings about that, needless to say, are different than my feelings about the old Anchorage Daily News. But I wish you the best.

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  27. John Reinan6:43 PM

    I lived in Anchorage during the '80s and it was a delight every day to read the Daily News. It was a great newspaper: brash, lively, scrappy, unafraid. I never met you, but I admired you.

    Twenty years later, I was in Minneapolis, working at the Star Tribune when you sold the paper to a bunch of Wall Street buccaneers. After taking about a billion dollars in profits out of the paper in a decade of ownership, you abandoned that great newspaper to sharks who didn't give a damn about journalism.

    Naturally, my feelings about that are much different from my feelings about the old Daily News. But I wish you well. You've certainly earned that much.

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  28. Howard, thank you so much for all your hard work. You've been an inspiration to me through this blog and many other journalists with your dedication. Good luck in your future endeavors and have a fantastic holiday.

    Cheers,
    Will Sullivan

    P.S. Thank you for not signing your farewell message with the ridonkulously cliche "Good night and good luck." ;)

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  29. Linda Billington7:28 PM

    Howard,

    The field of print journalism, whatever its present or future, is hard to envision without your guiding hand, especially after so many decades. (I have photos of you in the very old Daily News newsroom ... a blackmail demand will be in the mail.) Meanwhile, take care and enjoy the next stage of your life. When you get back up here for a visit, let us all know.

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  30. Best wishes to you Howard. I respect the work you've been doing on this blog and your courage in mixing it up with even the toughest commentators. Hopefully, you'll keep the blog going, but I'd understand if you prefer to get some fishing in instead.

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  31. You've earned a break Howard. Thanks for this moving post. Best sentence, "The McClatchy family has not persevered into the seventh generation in order to publish successful brides magazines, or websites with comprehensive nightclub listings." Right on. Thanks also for being that fierce defender of the news business who is also open to the new. That is rare. I hope you will stay involved in thinking through the puzzles that remain.

    Congratulations on an amazing and inspiring career.

    When it really counted, and no one else in the press was there, McClatchy was there. Some of us will never forget that. Cheers.

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  32. Howard;

    Congratulations. I've appreciated the conversations you've curated and the beehives you've poked at in the last little while here at Etaoin and over at McClatchy Next. You've given McClatchy much and you will be missed.

    I look forward to hearing what you do next, be it continued blogging here, sidewalk photos or whathaveyou.

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  33. Anonymous9:03 PM

    Howard, your fine mind and wry wit are as needed as ever, so we will count on your finding a place to put your thoughts. and i hope we can lure you down here to speak to us at Annenberg before long. love to you and the inimitable Barbara

    Geneva

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  34. Anonymous9:25 PM

    I knew you at the start of your career, when life was a grand adventure, only just beginning to unfold. I'm sorry the unfolding took you
    and Barb away from Alaska so long ago. Having just been back for three weeks, I can tell you that you're missed. I can't even imagine how much you'll be missed on a national scale. May the road rise up to meet you during every step of the portion of the journey that remains.
    --Joe McGinniss

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  35. Sanders LaMont12:24 AM

    Howard, You've kept the faith when others could not, given everything you had, and brought a brilliant mind and big heart to newspapers we've loved. It only gets better outside. C.K., Frank and you set the standard for McClatchy for 30 years, and I thank you for your help and friendship. We have an anniversary hike due in a year, and I have some lovely mountains to suggest. Tell Barb to pack light. Sanders

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  36. Howard, the saddest day for me was when you moved out of the edit dept and behind the glass doors of corporate. Good luck in the next endeavor(s).

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  37. Anonymous8:32 AM

    It's a love fest!

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  38. If you really want someone to take your $1,000 bet on the future of McClatchy, you need to clarify exactly what the terms are. Otherwise it's just hollow bravado.

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  39. Anonymous10:16 AM

    While you didn't finish cutting out all the bad wood in the Bee top newsroom management ranks, you did make a terrific hire in Melanie. And, you were a respected blend of savvy and good-guy manager. Rare. Enjoy your future chapters. You will be greatly missed.

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  40. Sad to see you go. It was sometimes easy to rip on some of the musings and ideas you had, just because the entire industry has been in a malaise and no one likes an optimist. And unfortunately, it was easy to take for granted what an accomplished newsman you are and how you were by far the most visionary and sensible of the news execs out there.

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  41. when will we know what your next endeavors are?

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  42. You'll knowehen I know, Anna. Thanks for asking.

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  43. BettyLouWho5:07 AM

    Sad to see you go, you're a good man, Howard.

    Newspapers are where they are today because they are run by old white guys. They've had plenty of opportunities to drive the bus, but have been content to sit in the back, letting others steer. Now that bus is headed toward the cliff because everyone else has seen the road ahead and jumped off long ago.

    The newspaper culture has always been one of arrogance. The man who owns the press controls it. Now, there is no 'press' and everyone can own one. But newspapers still think they do and still operate as such. That's why they are where they are. They could have never done a 'Craigslist' because they would have never swapped 'doing good' with 'making money'. Had they not been so blinded by the cash cow newspapers were for so many years, they could have easily created and become Craigslist and been on a much different road than they are today.

    It takes someone like Newmark who understands there's still money to be made in doing good. Or it takes a Huffington to understand the technology and her audience.

    It's hard for the newspaper industry move in those directions because their platform is based on profit. And all that cash has weighed them down for so long.

    The two headed beast's bad side (the business side) has totally swallowed the good side (the newsroom).

    Arrogance always brings down a good man and has done so with what used to be a good institution.

    Good thing you are smart enough to leave now. Bad thing there weren't more of you to drive newspapers and technology in the right direction fast enough.

    Also I had no idea there was a Pulitzer for 'Pubic Service' as you state..."Pulitzer Prize for Pubic Service " ;)

    I woulda thought Clinton would have won that by now.

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  44. Your post would have been more credible if you had admitted your industry's mistakes, instead of trotting out rationalizations.

    "Just for the record, Google didn’t even invent Google. Larry and Sergei, brilliant as they are, didn’t know what they had created when they started indexing web pages. Their company would have gone broke if Yahoo has not licensed its search capacity in early years, and they didn’t start to make real money until they purchased and incorporated somebody else’s system for selling contextual search advertising."

    Just for the record, how about some links to back up your assertions?


    "How on earth would creating free classified listings have saved the profitable classified advertising whose loss we feel so painfully today?"

    You could have sold ads around the listings. Better to cannibalize your own product than let someone else, even if he is a "smart and unassuming nerd" (oh, those pesky nerds!) do it for you.


    "And think about this, as well: printed newspapers continue to reach about half the adults in the country every day, and to generate billions of dollars in annual revenue. Only a person who has never enjoyed that kind of base would be foolish enough to advise that we abandon it."

    The investors fleeing your stock must be foolish, then, or perhaps they considered the negative factors, such as declining revenues, you omitted from that rosy description.

    "This is the foundation upon which we are building the success of our increasingly digital future."

    I wish that were true, but the harsh facts speak otherwise. Take off the rose-colored glasses and fess up to our industry's errors, instead of consoling yourself with whocouldanood.

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  45. Oh, come on Bradley.

    Google's history is well known; try Wikipedia for starters. As for needing to purchase the technology behind ad sense, see Google's own press release at http://www.google.com/press/pressrel/yahoo.html.

    Craigslist? Cannibalize? How about we start a paid online classified product instead? Think CareerBuilder (the leading jobs site online) or Cars.com, or Apartments.com -- all newspaper products with big market shares, lots of revenue and bright futures.

    And those investors fleeing our stock? Well, they must be smart. They sold newspaper stock and bought Countrywide and AIG.

    I've never denied our errors, Bradley, especially not my own. I just refuse to join in the uninformed doomsaying, that's all.

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  46. Howard,
    Thank you for the reply. However, your link to a Google press release doesn't back up your statement claiming :
    "Their company would have gone broke if Yahoo has not licensed its search capacity in early years, and they didn’t start to make real money until they purchased and incorporated somebody else’s system for selling contextual search advertising."

    I did find a Washington Post article on the settlement, but it doesn't back up your claims.

    And the larger point: Even if Google did rely on outside technology to score its success, it did the deal, while newspapers floundered around ineffectually.


    "Craigslist? Cannibalize? How about we start a paid online classified product instead? Think CareerBuilder (the leading jobs site online) or Cars.com, or Apartments.com -- all newspaper products with big market shares, lots of revenue and bright futures."

    Three points:
    (1) You don't mention profits. Companies often boast about revenues when they can't boast about profits.

    (2) "Leading jobs site online"? Monster.com would beg to differ. As with the above, "leading" is just another example of corporate-speak that means nothing.

    (3) "Bright futures"? -- You can't predict the future.

    "And those investors fleeing our stock? Well, they must be smart. They sold newspaper stock and bought Countrywide and AIG."

    That's just a rhetorical swipe, not a substantive rebuttal.

    Believing in your own PR is deadly. The top executives of newspapers need soul-searching and not present themselves as victims. They could have done a lot better in preparing themselves for the digital age, but bureaucracy and Internet-hating brass made that next to impossible.

    I am confident about the future of journalism. There is a need and a desire for accurate reporting, so some companies will learn how to supply it at a profit. But newspapers won't be among them, unless they jettison their sclerotic management style. We don't have much time.

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  47. You seem like a smart guy Bradley, and it feels like we probably agree on a great deal about this topic. I don't intend to get into a protracted tit-for-tat here, but you seem determined to be willfully negative and narrow in your interpretations.

    Of course my post is interpretative. But I've read a hell of a lot of analysis and history and the fact is that Google wasn't a significant business before licensing to Yahoo (see http://news.cnet.com/2100-1024_3-5160710.html for a little background, admittedly not exhaustive). It didn't make any kind of megabuck returns until it started using the Overture technology.

    I'm trying to make the point that it is not only useless but also foolish to argue that newspapers should have done what Google and Craigslist did. What happened in those companies was an unpredictable series of events that yielded -- yes, indeed -- significant results. That doesn't suggest others could or should have foreseen that. (And Monster can argue if ti wants, but CareerBuilder is measurably the leading jobs site in North America, which seems to me the relevant metric for out newspapers).

    Finally, give me a break: You get to cite "investors fleeing" as a damnation, but when I point out that they're stupid that's a "rhetorical swipe"? Fair's fair, Bradley.

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  48. Thanks for the detailed reply, Howard.

    You focus your attention on the advertising technology. But don't forget the user experience. If you don't please the users, the best ad technology won't save you. Google knows how to please users in a way no other search engine does. So of course advertisers are going to prefer Google to Yahoo or shabby also-rans like Microsoft.

    I've used Google as my main search engine since 1999. I haven't found anything better. Google quite properly concentrated first on creating a great search engine as the core of its business. Having gained user credibility, Google was in a strong position to get advertisers.

    Other companies that place so much emphasis on advertising that they neglect the core product don't do so well. Look at Microsoft, which has continually failed in its search ambitions because it spends more time on ad strategies than in gaining user trust with unbiased results.

    One other thing: Following your links would be easier if you put them in hypertext links, which Blogger recognizes. This article on another pathetic Microsoft attempt to improve its search business is an example of what I mean.

    This from the story is worth pondering:

    "Microsoft has launched a number of initiatives to increase the popularity of its search business, including rebranding its MSN Search as Live and more recently offering cash back to customers who buy products they find on it.

    But neither Yahoo -- which has seen its share of the search market slip to 20 percent from about 30 percent a little more than three years ago -- nor Microsoft, which has seen its share drop to 8.5 percent from 15 percent -- has been able to cut into Google's overwhelming share of the market."


    Google gets market share by delivering results. Microsoft fails because it relies on gimmicks like rebranding and like cash back, instead of giving users the best results.

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  49. Best of luck to you Howard. Leave, with all your money in hand, knowing that you and your colleagues at the helm of leadership and power in the newspaper industry are the ones that led the newsprint industry to the point where it is today - on the brink of financial failure with a readership that not only distrusts the work of journalists everywhere but now believe that news reporting in general is a joke.

    Regardless of the legacy of your career you try to write about here and the money you made you leave your leadership post as a failure. You leave nothing for future generations who should believe that the work of newspaper journalism is an honorable public service and that reading a daily newspaper is a requirement for informed living.

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  50. Bradley, I've known you many years longer and as a closer friend than Howard (though I certainly count Howard among my friends), but I think I need to take up his side here a bit.

    His fundamental points about newspapers not inventing Google or Craigslist are correct.

    It's a dark, dead-end ally to go down that path.

    I've written my own posts about the historical mistakes newspapers have made, and specifically the mistakes online newspaper sites made in regard to classifieds, as well as previously addressing the issue of innovation vs. Google/Craigslist/Ebay et. al.

    So I'm not one to say newspaper publishers and owners haven't made mistakes.

    But it's also a fundamental misunderstanding of innovation and disruption to compare what newspapers have done in relation to Google or Craigslist, which I take as Howard's underlying point.

    It's very hard for any mature incumbent to effectively combat low-end disruption and low-price disruption, let alone both at the same time. This is not just a newspaper problem. It's a problem in every industry.

    To a large extent, there is a note of inevitability to what is happening to newspapers now, and I think that is part of Howard's point.

    Knowing Howard as I do, I don't think he's arguing against us in the industry continuing to fight the good fight for innovation, adoption and reinvigoration, but it's a daunting task and does none of us any good to get caught up in a "we should have bought, invented, licensed Google, adwords, eaby, craigslist, youtube ... etc. Innovation doesn't work like that.

    Howard, good luck to you and I hope our paths continue to cross both online and in person.

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  51. OH PLEEEEZE! A failure??? Atomic Momma, get a grip. Go pound a beat with a notebook for a couple of weeks, write a few stories, check the clips, read the papers and deal with a couple of editors on deadline. The people who wrecked newspapers aren't the journalists -- they are the owners like Sam Zell who thought they could make easy bucks off newspapers. Don't blame the journalists for reporting news maybe you don't like. And I agree with Howard -- the ride isn't over, it is changing, the medium is changing. But good journalism is still good journalism.

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  52. Anonymous9:22 PM

    Ah, Howard. your post above shows just how out of touch you are with the "troops". According to company policy, Wikipedia is NOT a valid resource. We are not allowed to use it as a reference. Take your money and leave. Forget about us poor saps in the trenches trying to dig us out of the hole you and your "wonder boy" Gary put us in. I may come off as sounding bitter but that's not really it. I never expected to get rich doing this, that was never the point, but I am insulted listening to you stand on your soapbox and claim to be one of "us". You have no idea what the rank and file are going through....so please stop the whole "walk a mile in my shoes" bullshit. and Rev. Richardson...Howard IS more of an owner than a journalist anymore....and he has bailed out at a critical time in OUR time of need...so talk that crap elsewhere. I expect his buddy Gary will be jumping ship soon also. Profiteers and Carpetbaggers, that they are.

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  53. Nancy Leson9:17 AM

    Howard,

    It's hard for me to believe that I was once your longtime waitress at the Marx Bros. Cafe in Anchorage, never knowing that one day, I too would be putting my heart and soul into the newspaper business.

    This week, as many of my friends and colleagues at The Seattle Times take their leave via layoffs and buyouts; as our paper shrinks, offering up only three sections (all hail the loss of my beloved Food page); and as those of us left at the seriously downsized paper gird ourselves for an uncertain future, I continue to see sad news all around us. Including the fact that you're stepping out to do who-knows-what. (More power to you.)

    I can't help but recall happier those easier times: when you were "just" that nice guy drinking wine at that charming cafe in Anchorage, eating Van's "famous" tableside Caesar salads and sitting, if you were really lucky, at a table with a view of Denali. When you weren't busy doing the voodoo that you did so well at the Anchorage Daily News, of course. (By the way, my first byline appeared in "We Alaskans," in a guest column about putting on a seder in a town were Jews were a relative anomaly. I was so proud!)

    Those were the days, my friend: when I was "just" a waitress who loved my job and never worried about deadlines and downsizing. A young woman for whom newspapers were my treat -- to be savored over coffee every morning. A sassy server who would one day use everything I know about cookery and the restaurant business to chronicle the food scene as a restaurant critic and columnist in the great city of Seattle.

    Time, it do fly. And those of us who love the business we're in persevere. Or head elsewhere to find a way to do what we love in another forum. Much good luck to you, pal.

    Tonight, in your honor, I'll mix a Caesar in my big maple bowl -- a parting gift from the Marx Bros. gang, who bid me farewell 20 years ago so I might move to Seattle to pursue a career in journalism. Then I'll lift a glass of wine and toast to your future success, and to the future of the newspaper business, whatever that future may bring.

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  54. Welcome the comments Reverand. Hoped I'd get more but I appreciate yours.

    Reverand, don't confuse good journalism with ego, agenda driven journalism that lead readers to turn to the internet and blogs to seek and learn a different opinion. Exhibit A - economic based blogs predicted and wrote about this economic disaster long before traditional journalism got it and bloggers broke it down for people to understand.


    This is not about reporting news I don't like. I've personally sat in on front page meetings.... I've witnessed firsthand the personal agenda of editors who shut down staff members because they felt like that front page was "theirs" and witnessed staff writers afraid to challenge because they know they'd get punished and not get good assignments in the long run. There is something about the longer a time reporters spend in a newsroom they seem to lose touch with the real world and get caught up in the power of their position.

    Many MANY professions have ethics and standards of conduct that if you violate them, you don't get to practice your profession anymore, they take away your license and shut you down. This is what is missing in journalism. You guys do a terrible job of policing yourselves to make sure you stay true to the beat. And when you do correct yourselves you come across to the general public as arrogant and repugnant in your apologies and corrections.

    This isn't about reading news I don't like. I don't read ENOUGH news I don't like anymore. Stop believing that you are god-ordained to bring the rest of us dumb souls in the world. Newspaper leadership has had its head in the sand for a long time.

    I agree that Murdoch, Samuel Zell and the Gary Pruitt and more guys like them played a major hand in the downfall of the industry. But at some point along the way editors everywhere lined up at the trough when times were good and lost sight of things. They didn't want to rock the boat because they were making great salaries themselves and enjoying the perks that came along with the good times. They didn't realize that owners and management were taking control in the process.

    I've personally worked for two major newspapers. Don't get me wrong - I love a daily newspaper and read them daily. I'm angry that a public service got wrapped up and cheapened into a "media company" by greedy people.

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  55. Anonymous6:35 PM

    amen, atomic momma. amen. greed. now they're done. they have their gold and will leave all of us who have given our lives to the craft holding the bag...and unfortunately our bag is empty. I just hope that when we who are left turn this thing around people like howard don't try and take credit for it...because if there is one thing I'm sure of....he will. all you have to do is read this blog.

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  56. Anonymous11:03 AM

    To be honest, I'm glad to see Howard go. Hopefully some others from his generation will follow.

    While it's fine to pine for the "good old days," as many have in these comments, that kind of thinking is what has driven this industry to the brink of disaster -- with bloated newsrooms where reporters spend months on one story just to turn around an answer to seven levels of editors.

    The massive bureaucracy is what has killed newspapers. It made it impossible to innovate in the way that (to use Howard's examples) Google and Craigslist did. It made it impossible to be anything but years and years behind the Internet revolution.

    It's time for some new blood and new ideas and hopefully, a little less of the blustering machismo of "I'll bet anyone who disagrees with me $1,000" coming from our poorly run corporate offices.

    Does the company really even need a "VP of News?"

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  57. Anonymous7:47 AM

    After 30 years this man has earned the right to leave his job for whatever reason..

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