Knight Ridder

Last updated
Knight Ridder
Industry Mass media
PredecessorKnight Newspapers, Inc.
Ridder Publications, Inc.
FoundedJuly 11, 1974 (1974-07-11)
Founder John S. Knight
Herman Ridder
DefunctJune 27, 2006 (2006-06-27)
(31 years, 351 days)
FatePurchased by The McClatchy Company
Successor The McClatchy Company
Products Newspapers

Knight Ridder /ˈrɪdər/ was an American media company, specializing in newspaper and Internet publishing. Until it was bought by McClatchy on June 27, 2006, it was the second largest newspaper publisher in the United States, with 32 daily newspaper brands sold. Its headquarters were located in San Jose, California. [1]




The corporate ancestors of Knight Ridder were Knight Newspapers, Inc. and Ridder Publications, Inc. The first company was founded by John S. Knight upon inheriting control of the Akron Beacon Journal from his father, Charles Landon Knight, in 1933; the second company was founded by Herman Ridder when he acquired the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung , a German language newspaper, in 1892. As anti-German sentiment increased in the interwar period, Ridder successfully transitioned into English language publishing by acquiring The Journal of Commerce in 1926.

Both companies went public in 1969 and merged on July 11, 1974. For a brief time, the combined company was the largest newspaper publisher in the United States.

At its peak

Knight Ridder had a long history of innovation in technology. It was the first newspaper publisher to experiment with videotex when it launched its Viewtron system in 1983. After investing six years of research and $50 million into the service, Knight Ridder shut down Viewtron in 1986 when the service's interactivity features proved more popular than news delivery. [2]

Knight-Ridder purchased Dialog Information Services Inc. from Lockheed Corporation in August 1988. In October 1988, the company placed its eight broadcast television stations up for sale to reduce debt and to pay for the purchase of Dialog. [3]

In 1997, when Tony Ridder was CEO, it bought four newspapers from The Walt Disney Company formerly owned by Capital Cities Communications, after Disney's purchase of Cap Cities mainly for the ABC television network (The Kansas City Star, Fort Worth Star-Telegram , Belleville News-Democrat and (Wilkes-Barre) Times Leader for $1.65 billion. It was, at the time, the most expensive newspaper acquisition in history.

For most of its existence, the company was based in Miami, with headquarters on the top floor of the Miami Herald building. In 1998, Knight Ridder relocated its headquarters from Miami to San Jose, Calif.; there, that city's Mercury News —the first daily newspaper to regularly publish its full content online—was booming along with the rest of Silicon Valley. The internet division had been established there three years earlier. The company rented several floors in a downtown high-rise as its new corporate base.

In November 2005, the company announced plans for "strategic initiatives," which involved the possible sale of the company. This came after three major institutional shareholders publicly urged management to put the company up for sale. At the time, the company had a higher profit margin than many Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil. [4]

Iraq War

In the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Knight Ridder DC Bureau reporters Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel wrote a series of articles critical of purported intelligence suggesting links between Saddam Hussein, the obtainment of weapons of mass destruction, and Al-Qaeda, citing anonymous sources.

Landay and Strobel's stories ran counter to reports by The New York Times , The Washington Post and other national publications, resulting in some newspapers within Knight-Ridder chain refusing to run the two reporter's stories. After the war and the discrediting of many initial news reports written and carried by others, Strobel and Landay received the Raymond Clapper Memorial Award from the Senate Press Gallery on February 5, 2004, for their coverage. [5]

The Huffington Post headlined the two as "the reporting team that got Iraq right". [6] The Columbia Journalism Review described the reporting as "unequaled by the Bigfoots working at higher-visibility outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times". [7]

Later after the war, their work was featured in Bill Moyers' PBS documentary "Buying The War" [8] and was dramatized in the 2017 film Shock and Awe .

Purchase by McClatchy

On March 13, 2006, The McClatchy Company announced its agreement to purchase Knight Ridder for a purchase price of $6.5 billion in cash, stock and debt. [9] The deal gave McClatchy 32 daily newspapers in 29 markets, with a total circulation of 3.3 million. However, for various reasons, McClatchy decided immediately to resell twelve of these papers. [10]

On April 26, 2006, McClatchy announced it was selling the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Monterey Herald, and St. Paul Pioneer Press to MediaNews Group (with backing from the Hearst Corporation) for $1 billion. [11]

List of newspapers

Daily newspapers owned by Knight Ridder and its predecessors – listed alphabetically by place of publication – included:

Knight Ridder-owned companies

A list of companies that were at one time or another owned by Knight Ridder:

Knight Ridder-owned television stations

Knight Newspapers entered broadcasting in 1946 via the purchase of minority ownership stakes in WQAM/Miami, WIND/Chicago, and WAKR/Akron; all three stations were in markets served by a Knight newspaper. [16] [17] [18] The minority stake in WAKR's parent company, Summit Radio, also included the establishment of WAKR-TV (channel 49), as well as WAKR-FM (97.5) and six radio stations purchased in Dayton, Ohio, Dallas, Texas, and Denver, Colorado. [19] WAKR-TV was built and signed on by Summit on July 23, 1953 as the Akron market's ABC affiliate, [20] moving to channel 23 on December 1, 1967. [21] Knight Ridder divested its stake in Summit Radio by 1977; [22] a planned merger between the two entities in 1968 failed to be consummated. [23]

In 1954, Ridder Newspapers launched WDSM-TV in Superior, Wisconsin, serving the Duluth, Minnesota market. Initially a CBS affiliate, it switched to its present NBC affiliation a year and a half after the station's launch. It was spun off after Ridder's merger with Knight Newspapers, Inc.

From 1956 to 1962, Knight co-owned a then-NBC affiliate, WCKT in Miami, Florida, with the Cox publishing family.

Following the divestment of their stake in Summit Radio, Knight Ridder acquired Poole Broadcasting, which consisted of WJRT-TV in Flint, Michigan, WTEN in Albany, New York and its satellite WCDC in Adams, Massachusetts, and WPRI-TV in Providence, Rhode Island. Immediately after the acquisition of these stations was finalized, Knight Ridder cut a corporate affiliation deal with ABC, switching then-CBS affiliates WTEN/WCDC and WPRI (the latter of which eventually rejoined CBS) to ABC (WJRT was already affiliated with ABC when the affiliation deal was made). As part of the deal, Poole Broadcasting would eventually become Knight Ridder Broadcasting. Knight Ridder would acquire several television stations in medium-sized markets during the 1980s, including three stations owned by The Detroit News which the Gannett Company—which purchased the newspaper in 1986—could not keep due to Federal Communications Commission regulations on media cross-ownership and/or television duopolies then in effect. (None of Knight Ridder's later acquisitions changed their network affiliations under Knight Ridder ownership; for example, then-NBC affiliate WALA-TV in Mobile, Alabama remained an NBC affiliate when it was owned by Knight Ridder and would switch to Fox several years after Knight Ridder sold the station.)

In early 1989, Knight Ridder announced its exit from broadcasting, selling all of its stations to separate buyers; the sales were finalized in the summer and early fall of that year. This deal was made in order to reduce their debt loads from the proceedings. [24] One of the stations, WALA-TV went to Burnham Broadcasting for $40 million, while WKRN would go to Young Broadcasting for $50 million, KOLD-TV to News-Press & Gazette Company for an undisclosed price, and two television stations WPRI and WTKR to Narragansett Television L.P. for $150 million on February 18, 1989. [25] This was followed by the following month with the sale of KTVY-TV to WHO-TV owner Palmer Communications, for $50 million. [26] WTEN was the next-to-last station to be sold, going to Young Broadcasting for $38 million, [27] and WJRT would eventually becoming the final Knight Ridder station, to be sold to SJL Broadcasting for $39 million. [28]


City of license / Market StationChannel
Years ownedCurrent ownership status
Akron, OhioCleveland, Ohio WAKR-TV *23 (22)1953–1977 Ion Television affiliate, WVPX-TV, owned by Inyo Broadcast Holdings
Mobile, AlabamaPensacola, Florida WALA-TV 10 (9)1986–1989 Fox affiliate owned by Gray Television
Tucson, Arizona KOLD-TV 13 (32)1986–1989 CBS affiliate owned by Gray Television
Miami, Florida WCKT **7 (7)1956–1962Fox affiliate, WSVN, owned by Sunbeam Television
Flint, Michigan WJRT-TV 12 (12)1978–1989 ABC affiliate owned by Allen Media Broadcasting
Albany, New York WTEN 10 (26)1978–1989ABC affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group
Adams, Massachusetts WCDC-TV
(satellite of WTEN)
19 (36)1978–1989defunct; License cancelled in 2018.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma KTVY4 (27)1986–1989 NBC affiliate, KFOR-TV, owned by Nexstar Media Group
Providence, Rhode Island WPRI-TV 12 (13)1978–1989CBS affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group
Nashville, Tennessee WKRN-TV 2 (27)1983–1989ABC affiliate owned by Nexstar Media Group
Norfolk, Virginia WTKR 3 (40)1981–1989CBS affiliate owned by the E. W. Scripps Company
Superior, WisconsinDuluth, Minnesota WDSM-TV ++6 (19)1954–1974NBC affiliate, KBJR-TV, owned by Gray Television


Shock and Awe, 2018 film about a group of journalists at Knight Ridder's Washington Bureau who investigate the reasons behind the Bush Administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Notable people

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  4. [ dead link ]
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  28. "Ownership Changes" (PDF). Broadcasting . 1989-05-01. Retrieved 2021-11-02.

Further reading