Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Greed, mismanagement and the decline of Detroit's dailies

David Hornstein writes:

This sorry state of the Detroit papers is the latest chapter of a decline that has been more than 20 years in the making, a product of greed and mismanagement.

Prior to 1985, the two papers were fiercely competitive. The Free Press, then owned by Knight-Ridder, published in the morning, with a fledgling evening edition. The News, owned by the Evening News Association (ENA), had its main edition in the evening while also publishing a morning edition, and had a slight edge in circulation.

Enter Gannett, which bought the News from ENA in 1985 and almost immediately began negotiating with Knight-Ridder for a joint operating agreement (JOA), under which business operations would be combined while maintaining separate editorial staffs. JOAs are authorized under the Newspaper Preservation Act to maintain editorial voices where a metropolitan area can't support two competing dailies.

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