Stop the presses! (Again)

The way things are going, pretty soon the presses will stop permanently. Bad news begets more bad news in the news biz these days.

Among the latest:  The State (a newspaper) in Columbia, S.C., is cutting some more people loose. The State was one of those papers acquired by Knight Ridder in 1987, back when KR made money by the bucketful. In those days, a bad year meant we had to cut back on copier paper. The Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sun News was part of the package Knight Ridder bought along with the State.

Funny to see where folks who started humbly enough at Myrtle Beach have ended up. Bryan Monroe was something of a Wonder Boy back then. He moved steadily up, sometimes spectacularly, becoming a big cheese at Ebony/Jet after his stint with Knight Ridder, and now he’s a visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Pretty prestigious address. (Trivia note: Monroe was apparently the last journalist to interview Michael Jackson.) He – Monroe, not Jackson – recently wrote about an early precursor to the much-rumored, much-anticipated Apple tablet (See “Lapboard“). Way back in 1994 Knight Ridder was exploring how to save newspapers. The technology wasn’t quite there yet.  But that chapter in KR history gave rise to a lot of what-ifs. What if the technology was further along? What if it came to full development. What if Jim Batten hadn’t developed a brain tumor, leaving the fate of KR in Tony Ridder’s hands and at the mercy of the dog-wagging Wall Street tail. What if newspapers had been a little nimbler in dealing with the emerging new media.

But all those what-ifs and four bucks or so will get you an overpriced coffee-flavored confection at Starbucks. If you have four bucks left in your pocket.

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