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Off the rack 

It’s official. Break out the ticker tape so we can litter the streets with thin strips of paper in honor of the Tribune’s new overlords. Then sweep all that paper up. And recycle it. San Luis Obispo has a clean and Earth-friendly image to maintain, and nobody wants you screwing that up just because of some lousy parade. Remember what happened to all those Mardi Gras supporters? You don’t want to end up like them, do you? Do you?

Anyway, on June 26, most of the people with a hand in Knight Ridder’s fate used that hand to give a big thumb up to McClatchy’s offer to buy the chain for $4.5 billion or so. Then they raised their middle finger to anyone and everyone who cares more about responsible journalism than the bottom dollar—but I’m getting ahead of myself. Some of you out there, and you, sir, in particular, look like you have no clue as to what I’m talking about.

In case you’re completely illiterate and have never read a local newspaper before, I’m flattered that you’re starting with New Times and my weekly rant. I’m also obligated to tell you that Knight Ridder has owned the Tribune for the last half a decade or so. Yes, it’s been that long. Stop calling it the Telegram Tribune, and for all our sakes, never, never refer to it as the TT again. You know who you are.

I learned recently in my journalistic meanderings that the Ridder family apparently wasn’t very happy to be selling. Money always wins, however, probably because it talks so loud, and cash-thirsty shareholders give investment possibilities more attention than they do piddly little things that only journalists care about, like ethical reporting, extensive local coverage, and quality of writing—not that any of those elements were staples of the Tribune.

Still, we journalists have to stick together, especially those of us who continue to write for the print industry despite the fact that nobody reads anymore and everybody gets their news from TV. And sometimes the Internet. That’s what I do, anyway, and you’re just like me. I know you. I am you. Look in the mirror.

But strike one for online watchdogs, while we’re on the subject. Knight Ridder Watch (“Keeping an eye on Knight Ridder�) hasn’t posted any new information since early May, so someone there must be sleeping at the computer even more than I do. gggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg

Sorry. I dozed off and dropped my head onto the keyboard. Usually I’d go back and delete all of those extraneous letters, but I don’t have time this week, especially after that little nap. It’ll be a miracle if I get this edition of the Shredder in on time.

Speaking strictly from a solidarity standpoint, I’d like to extend my condolences and happy thoughts to the current staff at the Tribune. They are people, after all, just like transients and those guys you see at bars at 10 a.m., and they deserve our sympathy, or at least pity.

Tribune president and publisher Chip Visci, assuring loyal readers that the shareholder-imposed future won’t bring any changes to the beloved San Luis Obispo daily, said that the transaction was actually something being carried out by “actors on a far-away stage called Wall Street.� Gosh, Chip, patronize much? Why not offer them a snack tray with some tantalizing samples of paste and Play-Doh while you’re at it? I know your readers boast a collective third-grade reading level, but you might want to try talking to them like adults next time. You’d be surprised at how well people respond when they don’t think you think they’re imbeciles. Cross my heart and hope to die.

Chip, I am also absolutely and unequivocally (a big word that means “very, very clearly�) holding you to your promise that this sale will have “zero impact� on the good people of San Luis Obispo and wherever else your product is delivered. I think I saw one of your papers in Grover Beach once.

But wait a minute. Chip, when I view your quotes with the discerning eye of a practiced cynic, I notice that you only promised peace and prosperity for your paper’s readers and advertisers, a group that conspicuously doesn’t include any of your writers, photographers, editors, or designers. I’m glad I’m not on staff there at the moment. Actually, I’m glad I’m not on staff there all the time. Today I’m just more glad. Gladder, even. Not quite gladdest, but I’m getting there.

I don’t mean to come down so hard on the Tribune. If I had enough room and time, I’d come down hard on all of the Knight Ridder papers that are now McClatchy papers.

Just to show that I’m a good guy at heart, I want anyone who gets the McClatchy ax in the coming months to know that I’ll never say “I told you so,� at least in your field of hearing. In fact, I’ll let you cry on my shoulder, because that’s what friends are for. And then I’ll write a nasty column about the whole deal, because that’s what I’m for. ggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg ∆

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