Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Two Newspapers and a Player to be Named Later

The Detroit connection originally caught my eye, but this Reuters article on the ownership swap of the Detroit News and Free Press is hilarious -- albeit entirely unintentionally, and in a way that's a little sad.

What it boils down to is that Gannett, Knight Ridder, and Media News are trading newspapers and cash back and forth to each other like baseball teams before the deadline, and the Reuters article covers it exactly like that. They're shuffling publishers like starting infielders against a left-handed pitcher.

Growing up, I never thought it was strange that Detroit had two newspapers. We had three car companies, three TV stations, two sides of town, and two brands of cola (not counting Faygo, Royal Crown, and Towne Club). My family bought both. I liked the Free Press, because the script "D" in its title looked like the D on the Tigers' hats and uniforms. Plus it carried "Peanuts," "Calvin and Hobbes," and all the other best cartoons. It's strange to think that most cities have only one newspaper, or that a handful of corporations could own all of them, making deals amongst themselves to decide which papers to float and which to sink. But a lot of things seem stranger to me now than they did twenty years ago, when I was just a little boy who loved the Tigers and experienced everything, good and bad, about his hometown as though it had always been and would always be, everywhere and forever.


Gavin said...

I hope that Robin posts on this one. I'd love to hear what he knows and what he has to say.

I was extremely disappointed to hear that Gannett picked up the Free Press for a number of reasons. Gannett has long been the major newspaper player in southeast Michigan, and the Free Press was, seemingly, a lone but substantial holdout. (Hell, Gannett even bought Hometown Newspapers, publisher of crappy free local weeklies, including the Ferndale, Royal Oak, and Berkley Mirror newspapers.)

And while the Free Press's news reporting has been less than stellar, especially of late, Knight Ridder newspapers have been praised for pursuing stories, particularly those critical of the war on Iraq and its rationales, that other papers have buried.

Secondly, this sale makes a lot of questionable decisions made by the Free Press editorial staff look even more problematic. In particular, there seems to be a conflict of interest in the Free Press's treatment of star writer Mitch Albom when has was caught filing a story describing events that never took place at the 2005 final four. Mitch Albom sells papers. Readers who find out that the guy that owns the other paper now owns your paper cancel subscriptions, but you may be able to keep them if you convince them their favorite writers will stick around. (In fact, the Free Press felt that Mitch Albom's continued tenure under Gannett merited a front page mention.)

Oh well, now I have a reason to get the Sunday New York Times.

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