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Knight Ridder Chairman, Employees Spar Over Cuts

April 25, 2001|From Associated Press

SAN JOSE — Knight Ridder Chairman Tony Ridder sparred with employees over budget cuts at the company's annual meeting Tuesday and criticized the resigned publisher of the San Jose Mercury News for failing to react more quickly to Silicon Valley's eroding economy.

Ridder fielded eight questions during the meeting, and all but one revolved around Knight Ridder's commitment to journalism in the face of a slowing economy, which resulted in a 31% decline in the company's first-quarter profit.

"What I want from our newspapers is top-tier financial performance. It is not incompatible with top-tier journalism," Ridder said.

The nation's second-largest newspaper company is slashing expenses to counteract a steep decline in advertising revenue. Jay T. Harris resigned as publisher of the Mercury News last month to protest the cost-cutting drive.

The budget cuts have led to layoffs at the Mercury News and the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal.

"The perspective from here looks like profits are more important than people," said the Rev. Bill Leninger, a member of a Santa Clara, Calif., community activist group.

"I take exception to the idea that we only look at the bottom line," countered Steve Rossi, the head of Knight Ridder's newspaper division.

Ridder described the layoffs as a "very painful process" but said the cutbacks are needed to offset severe revenue losses at several papers.

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