AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   December 1997


By Debra Puchalla
Debra Puchalla is AJR's associate editor and deputy editor of Martha Stewart Living.     

All in Another Family

McClatchy Newspapers, the family-run owner of the Sacramento Bee and a couple dozen other dailies and weeklies, climbs the newspaper food chain, scooping up Minneapolis' Star Tribune as the jewel of its whopping $1.4 billion purchase of Cowles Media the highest price ever paid for a newspaper company. "The Cowles family has been a great owner for the Star Tribune, and now they have done a great job of passing the torch," Star Tribune President and Publisher Joel Kramer told employees. Unlike the Washington Post Co., Times Mirror and the Tribune Co., McClatchy, described by analysts as similar in outlook to Cowles, was absent from the buzz when Cowles Media announced this fall that it would shop the company around after running the 387,000-circulation Minneapolis paper for 62 years. "The family concluded it was time to find a new owner for the company, one that would continue to supply leadership and strong values," said Cowles Media Chairman Jay Cowles . The deal, to be finalized by March, dwarfs the New York Times Co.'s $1 billion purchase of the Boston Globe in 1993 and makes McClatchy, which also owns Raleigh's News & Observer and the Anchorage Daily News , the country's eighth-largest newspaper chain.

Just Between Chung and ABC

After a stint as a fellow at Harvard, where she researched how to get big names to loosen their lips for TV newsmagazines, broadcast veteran Connie Chung , 51, gets another chance to put theory into practice, this time as a correspondent for ABC News . In her new position Chung will contribute to "20/20" and "PrimeTime Live" and will sub as an anchor. "I have been after her for a long time," ABC News Chairman Roone Arledge said in a conference call with reporters. Chung said she is "thrilled" to join ABC after years of discussions with the network's brass. "I had looked back at those missed opportunities rather wistfully," said Chung, who got cut in 1995 from her coanchor spot on the " CBS Evening News with Dan Rather ."

The Journal's Scoop Coup

He "loves that's the present tense the Washington Post ," but Brian Duffy , 42, is still wooed down the street to lead the Wall Street Journal Washington bureau's investigations team, filling the gaping hole left early this fall when Jill Abramson departed for the New York Times . Though it may sound "obtuse," says Duffy, a highly regarded investigative editor and reporter, he didn't expect the call from Bureau Chief Alan Murray a few days after reading about Abramson's new gig. "I always think there's no harm in talking," says Duffy, who joined the Post from U.S. News & World Report just 10 months ago. Duffy says the structure of the Journal's top investigative spot won him over. "It allows me to have more control over my time, literally day to day," he says. "The Journal doesn't have to cover incremental stories. It doesn't have to cover every story that the Post or the Times does."

On the Bright Side

The latest circulation numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulations have at least some newspaper mavens smiling at the prospect of sunnier days. After years of seeing subscription numbers slip as readers opted to get their news from TV, the Net or not at all, the future may be brightening for papers, as circulation crept up at 19 of the nation's 30 largest papers over six months through September 30. The Los Angeles Times , the New York Times , USA Today and the Boston Globe were among the winners. Number crunchers say better papers, new strategies, even graying baby boomers might be attracting readers. Maybe the Newspaper Association of America's in-your-face ad campaign, "It all begins with newspapers," which includes the likes of MTV 's Tabitha Soren and the Denver Broncos' John Elway , is helping some, too.

What Glass Ceiling?

Score one for the women of the newspaper world. Debby Krenek , 41, officially becomes the first female editor in chief in the 77-year history of the New York Daily News . Krenek, who joined the paper a decade ago as deputy news editor, had served as acting editor since Pete Hamill left the paper this fall after a bumpy and short tenure peppered with widely reported battles with owner Mortimer B. Zuckerman . Krenek and about 25 female News staffers, sans guys, celebrated her coronation with shots of tequila in her new office, according to the New York Observer . But it's not all fiesta, all the time: Krenek will have to boost the News' sliding circulation, which dropped to 721,256 at the end of September from 734,277 a year before.

Old Media 1, New Media 0

A week before Judge Hiller B. Zobel was to break protocol and release his decision about whether to reduce charges against British au pair Louise Woodward via the Internet, and specifically through Lawyers Weekly online, the Boston-based Web site was jammed. Hits skyrocketed to half a million in just hours, says Paul Martinek , publisher of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly , one of Lawyers Weekly Inc.'s state papers, adding that the legal insiders' site normally gets about 30,000 visitors daily. "We're a little fascinated by all the attention," he says. Though appellate courts often post their decisions on the Net, Zobel's attempt to do so in such a prominent case was notable, Martinek says. "It's different in the sense that this is an opinion that's highly anticipated, and it's a trial court," he says. Overanxious visitors crowded virtual front row seats at the Lawyers Weekly site, along with CNN 's and the Associated Press ', on November 10, expecting to be the first to know the nanny's fate. Too bad for Netheads. There was a power outage just before Zobel announced the charge was reduced to involuntary man-slaughter, and broadcasters scooped the cyberworld by half an hour.

Around Magazines

National Review Political Editor Rich Lowry , 29, takes the bimonthly conservative mag's helm from longtime Editor John O'Sullivan , who will step down continuing to write in January... One of the Weekly Standard 's founders, Deputy Editor John Podhoretz , returns to the tabs, becoming the New York Post' s editorial page editor.

Synergy News

Thomas Silvestri , 42, leaves his post as a deputy managing editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch to become director of news synergy and news bank editor for Media General, which owns dozens of papers, mostly in the Southeast. Among his first tasks is decoding the not so ordinary title for AJR . "If you look at the definition of synergy, it's a coordinator," he says. "But I'll also be a newsroom advocate." At the Times-Dispatch Silvestri headed up weekend news, business news and staff development. "It's taking what I had [at the Times-Dispatch] to a broader level," he says. Now Silvestri will help Media General's papers to better share stories. "It's good to be on the cutting edge," he says. "Maybe we can follow up when more people have 'synergy' in their title."