FRIDAY’S LETTERS: More on ‘Strib,’ Woodward, the ‘Surge’ Scourge

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By: E&P Staff

With E&P Online chief David Hirschman away, we will try to muddle through this without the usual swell linkage. But you can find the related stories pretty easily, if you try.

Here are today’s letters.


As a former Star Tribune union and management employee I?m saddened by the state of the once great newspaper industry and the recent news stories about the poor financial performance at the Star Tribune. Prior to my leaving in 1995 after 23 years, we all knew this day was going to come but the culture that existed at the Star Tribune and other newspapers around the country at that time were in denial about it. The thought was ?If it?s not broken, don?t fix it.? As I continued to communicate with people that I knew at the Star Tribune and throughout the industry after I left, nothing much in their thinking changed until the problems started dropping to the bottom line.

This brings me to the word ?Competitive.? Newspaper managers and union leaders need to step away from their own agendas and sit down with a goal to figure out how to manage and integrate other possibilities into their business at more competitive pay rates or there just simply won?t be a future to talk about. Perfect examples are the airline and automotive industries in the U.S. The newspaper industry is headed in the same direction if they don?t do something about it themselves.

It?s clear that part of McClatchy?s reason for selling the Star Tribune is they became frustrated and didn?t want to deal with one of the many egotistical newspaper cultures (both union and non-union employees) that are living in the past. The clock is ticking and the real world is closing in.

My hope is that the new Star Tribune Chairman, Chris Harte, who is also a director and large shareholder of Harte-Hankes Inc. a US publishing and direct-marketing firm will be influential in making the changes that are necessary for the Star Tribune to become more competitive, diversified in their distribution of other publications and products and more balanced in their opinions.

John Kennedy
Las Vegas, Nevada

I worked at the Star Tribune newspaper for 18 years from 1976 to 1994.

In 1992, I made a proposal to Publisher Joel Kramer that we look seriously at using the Star Tribune distribution system to deliver all the products being delivered today by UPS, Federal Express, and other distribution companies. We had a state-wide depot distribution system and data base. Why couldn’t we fill those large depots 24-hours a day and use our distribution capabilities to move into new business lines?

Publisher Kramer ran the idea past his strategy group and they responded: “Not our business.”

I left the newspaper industry in 1994 to work for myself as a consultant to organizational transformation. It was clear to me that the newspaper industry and Mr. Kramer had no interest other than in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic called the traditional newspaper. That was the wrong kind of leadership then and it remains so today.

When I left, then Cowles Media CEO, David Cox, told a gathering that my leadership had, “changed the company forever.” I appreciate the kind words, but the change I led in the circulation/distribution divisions was quickly destroyed by the forces for the status quo. The Star Tribune, like the newspaper industry, did not want boldness. Such an industry is, simply, poorly led.

Tom Heuerman, Ph.D.
Organizational Consultant
Moorhead, Minnesota

An observation: I’ve read many articles about newspapers around the country facing financial problems.

Almost without exception the newspapers reported on, support the liberal position of having the government continually raising taxes for any and all reasons. They dearly want to “tax us into prosperity”.

When it’s their businesses however, it’s all cuts, not one of them has decided to smartly raise the price of their newspapers and then hand out more money and benefits to everyone working at the newspapers.

The newspapers themselves don’t even believe in the policies they continually endorse in editorial after editorial, and they wonder why readers are abandoning them.

Robert Lundquist

‘Surge’ is a Scourge

I despise that “surge” too and I’m very glad you wrote about it (Greg Mitchell’s latest Pressing Issues column).

Bill Dunn

Swinging Left — Or Swinging and Missing?

I’m not convinced that the U.S. has become less conservative [Dave Astor’s Shoptalk column] , although i would welcome that if it were true. I suspect that we cannot (yet) eliminate the possibility that swing voters voted Democratic primarily because they’ve concluded George W. Bush is incompetent. Perhaps if the depth of his transgressions (against the constitution, etc.) becomes apparent in upcoming hearings, and Republican leaders are implicated in rubber stamping his schemes, such a shift may occur. But if there had been such a swing before the recent election, i would have expected the margin of victory to have been much greater.

In short, the public doesn’t yet have all of the facts (partly because of the media bias that you’ve commented upon). We should support more balanced commentary, and I applaud you for championing same.

Richard Myers
Denver, Colorado

If any hometown newspaper were to take up Astor’s hilarious suggestion that it allocate scarce space for something called “Dykes to Watch Out For,” or another comic that features non-traditional
households, that could do nothing but compound the intense alienation that already exists between ordinary Americans and the weirdos who inhabit the nation’s newsrooms. Not a good move.

J.A. Marrit

Nuts to Woodward

Re: Bob Woodward’s assertion that Ford opposed the war in Iraq

Bob Woodward is a liar and an opportunist. Anyone who believes the crap he makes up is as gullible as he is unscrupulous.

It is easy to write about someone who is no longer available to refute the content. Is it not convenient that most of Woodwards sources are either deceased or anonymous.

It is also too bad that people like Woodward infect us with crap, and then give no way of writing to them so that we can give them our opinion.

Charles Brookfield
Commercial Sales Market Manager
Gordon Food Service

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