Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mar. 14, 2006: McClatchy's Pruitt On "Credibility"

On March 14, 2006, the same day Crystal Mangum made self-contradicting and transparently false charges of gang rape and other felonies that 10 days later would become headline news, the Raleigh News & Observer published an op-ed by Gary Pruitt, CEO of it’s parent McClatchy News Company.

Although its stock price had in the past few years fallen more than 33% in a rising market and during growing economy; and despite warnings by many that McClatchy was taking on debt that could break the company, Pruitt was upbeat.

Newspapers had a great future, he said, because they told readers the truth. That gave them “credibility” and enabled citizens to gather in a “shared middle” where they could “basically agree about the facts and issues.”

Their “credibility” gave newspapers a place at the “center of democracy” despite what their critics might say.

Here’s some of what Pruitt said in that March 14 op-ed about his company’s recent purchase of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain and the future of newspapers.

I follow with comments below the star line.

Pruitt told N&O readers - - -

… People in the newspaper industry have got a lot riding on this -- our jobs and reputations, for starters; but the stakes for society are far higher.

Self-government depends on continuous civic conversation, which in turn depends on people having a common vocabulary. Without a shared sense of what the problems are, there's little hope of finding solutions.

That shared middle -- a place where people basically agree about the facts and the issues, even if they differ over what to do about them -- is where we believe our responsibilities as newspaper owners lie.

And it is under assault by spinmeisters, partisans and ideologues. They all have their place in a democracy -- but it is not in the center. Our place is. …

Pruitt’s entire op-ed’s here.


My Comments:

Just 10 days after it published Pruitt’s op-ed, the N&O “broke” what became known for months as “the Duke lacrosse case.” The N&O’s story seven times referred to the then anonymous Mangum as the “victim” or with the possessive “victim’s,” never once using the traditional qualifier “alleged” to remind readers the accuser’s extraordinarily serious charges were just that: charges.

The N&O has so far refused to explain why its reporters and editors decided to call Mangum “the victim” knowing that they were thereby immediately casting the Duke lacrosse players as her victimizes.

The next day, March 25, the N&O ran a five-column, above the fold, page one headline telling readers about a woman’s “ordeal” which ended “finally” in “sexual violence.”

Only the N&O didn’t put qualifying quotation marks around “ordeal,” “finally” and “sexual violence.”

The N&O led readers to believe there was no doubt about what it was reporting.

In case any readers did doubt, a short way into the story the N&O said it had granted “the young mother” anonymity for an interview because its policy was to do that for “victims of sex crimes.”

There was much more in that “sexual violence” story that the N&O knew was false.

There was also much more the N&O knew that was exculpatory for the players but which it withheld from the story and didn’t publish for another 13 months; and then only after the NC attorney general had declared innocent the three young man indicted in the frame-up attempt.

I’ve posted on some of that before and will be posting again on it as we move through the 3-year anniversary of what was a transparent hoax followed by a frame-up attempt and its ongoing cover-up.

For now, I’ll just close with this:

Since March 14, 2006 many factors have interacted to influence the price of McClatchy’s stock.

I don’t know how much, if any, weight you’d give the credibility of the N&O and the other McClatchy papers as a factor influencing McClatchy’s stock price.

There are those, including journalists, who maintain credibility isn’t much of a factor influencing news organizations' stock prices.

In fact, thinking back over McClatchy and N&O reports of the company’s financial situation, I can’t recall a single instance when loss of credibility among readers and advertisers was cited as a factor influencing the calamitous plunge in McClatchy’s corporate fortunes and share price.

Be that as it may, on March 13, 2006 when the N&O put Pruitt’s op-ed “to bed” for delivery the next day, McClatchy’s share price stood at $52.99.

Yesterday, March 13, 2009 its stock price closed at .52 cents a share.

Make of that what you will.


Anonymous said...

It's called "karma," and it's wonderful!
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

More than karma is needed, however. The N&O, its publisher, its editors and its McClatchy owners need to be held legally and financially accountable for the libelous coverage of late March 2006 and for casting the entire team in a false light.

Anonymous said...

Your article caused me to look up the ownership of the Detroit Free Press. It's not part of the offending member because it was sold from in under K-R. One of the reasons that the former Mayor of Detroit is gone was due to the efforts of the I still consider it a liberal rag and yet, if a paper decides to see that justice is done, it's a wonderful thing. Sadly many seem to have fallen as the protectors of society.
North of Detroit

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see just how many newspapers will still be publishing this time next year. The publisher of the Cincinnati Enquirer had a column in today's paper in which she tried to show how the newspaper still remains the source of information frot eh people of the Cinci-Northern Ky region. However, she included all the little community press publications (pretty much delivered for free to every home) in the readership percentages. One has seen areal diminuation in the quality and quantity of the daily paper. Classifieds do not run now until Wednesday's paper. Print for obits has become smaller so that it is harder to read. There are more filler items from the National Geographic (one can always tell when the magazine has published its new edition) and there are more features that readers can submit ("Good Neighbor News") that occupy large portions of the local news. The only section that has not seen a reduction is the sports section (high school sports as well as the MLB and NFL are big here). My guess is that will be the last part of the newspaper to go.

Anonymous said...

Why the lax boys can't sue
the N & O for libel..

They got the story right
the first time.

Why do you think the lax
boys had to spend $3 million
to beat the rap?

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:06

It was the state of North Carolina that determined that RCD were innocent of all charges. That Crystal Mangum filed a false report and that Mike Nifong withheld evidence that clearly showed that no such assault, as claimed by Mangum ever occurred.
What rock have you been hiding under?