It was announced yesterday that Gary Pruitt will be leaving the leadership of McClatchy, the 3rd largest newspaper chain in the U.S. Gary, just 54, was the leader of the charge of newspaper conglomeration in the early part of the 21st century. Timing is everything, and Gary’s was not good on that call. Now it seems that he will be making a better call by becoming the chief executive of The Associated Press. This is a plum job in journalism and Gary has made his way to the top of the pile of what is now print journalism.
I’d like to give Gary a new nickname – Prescient Pruitt, for knowing when it is time to leave. The definition of the word prescience [ˈprɛsɪəns] n – knowledge of events before they take place; foreknowledge [from Latin praescīre to foreknow, from prae before + scīre to know]. I think that says it all in the face of the current state of the newspaper business in 2012.
Not to say that Gary can take all the blame, there is enough of that to go around for all who failed to see the train coming down the track, but he was the big gun with the big check book who bought everything in sight, just before the bottom fell out. With so many papers have been sold for high multiples, the debt they took on has helped to sink nearly all of them. This in the face of a natural decline of the media in the face of the digital onslaught they were about to face.
I wish Gary well in his new role, I had a number of professional dealings with McClatchy when they were my client in the 90’s, and they were a class act. From everything I have heard of Gary, he is as well. Now he will have to help journalism from this new position at A.P. providing content (not news) that will flow through the presses and the digital screens of readers to keep real journalism alive.
There is much more to say about the state of newspapers and marketing – once they were a singular entity, but now more loosely linked – and where the state of media is going. Newspaper revenues have declined to 1984 levels in 2012 – I know Gary did not see that coming – and digital revenues are screaming upward. Can newspapers maintain their position of strength?
A similar issue faces the U.S. Postal Service – after great periods of growth for decades their volumes have declined, and they face major cutbacks and reorganization to remain viable and cost effective for mailers and mail recipients. Both media are linked together in their future. What do they need to do to survive, and the bigger question is – can they survive. More TK!