Thursday, July 12, 2007

Can We Get a Do-Over?

I was rocking the Google the other day when I got to thinking about my old boss from my Star-Telegram days, Mac Tully (pictured). Actually, he wasn't my boss, he was the boss of my boss during the big, bad Arlington newspaper war of the late 1990s. Anyway, I knew he had gone to Knight Ridder corporate, and I wondered what happened to him after McClatchy bought the Knight Ridder chain. Turns out he is now the publisher of the Kansas City Star. Well done, Mac. He's a great guy and great newspaper guy. KC is lucky to have him.

Anyway, I found this interview he did with Karen Brown Dunlap, president of the Poynter Institute, back in 2004 before he took the KR corporate job. The most interesting part for me:

Dunlap: What's one thing you wish you could call back?

Tully: Gosh. Biggest mistake I've made. I've made a few big mistakes. I think I would have tried to work with the Dallas papers, instead of being such a competitor of the Dallas papers, because in the end we have got to start growing our share of advertising dollars. If we don't ... then we're going to continue to have the kind of cost pressures that we have now. We should be working together to solve problems as opposed to fighting each other. It became so competitive and such an adversarial fight that there was no way ... for either paper to back out gracefully. So in the end, we said one paper had to walk away the winner. I do feel as though newspapers have so many enemies — not other newspapers. We should be working together to take out ADVO and we should be working together to fight TV and radio. We would be stronger if we were working together rather than trying to compete with each other.

It was crazy to hear him say that because I remember thinking that same thing at the time. But that was a long time ago and newspapers have earned a lot of hard lessons since then. And it looks like there may be more to come, especially with McClatchy reporting yesterday that its stock is down 31 percent since the close off last year's acquisition of Knight Ridder.

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