Knight-Ridder usually is high on the list of newspaper corporations rated by many publishers and securities analysts as among the best managed.
The company "is one of the best run and most news minded chains in the country. I think they are first rate," says an envious publisher of a large metropolitan paper. "Progressive and sophisticated," says John Morton, an analyst who researches newspapers for Colin, Hochstin Co.
Of the company's 13 top executives, nine have been either publishers or general managers of newspapers, four have been editors, three hold law degrees and three are certified public accountants. Their average age is 54.
To some, however, Knight-Ridder management is too rigid. Sylvan Meyer, former editor of the Miami News and now editor and publisher of Miami Magazine said the organization has an almost "computerized, dehumanized" quality.
"I think the computerized, very hard nosed structure tends to grind up some people pretty badly, although it may produce better newspapers in the end," Meyer said.
Knight-Ridder is one of the few newspaper corporations that run a training institute for its news and business managers. They study together "because the techniques of leadership and management are basically the same for editorial and business people," Alvah Chapman said.
Managers of other papers may not be quite that cozy, however. Several years ago an expert in organizational behavior, Chris Argyris, publsihed a book in which he painted a dismal picture of New York Times Management. He found deep philosophical divisions between news and business-side executives. Among other things, News executives were suspicious of the money-making role of the paper, he said.
From a management standpoint, many newspapers are still evolving from a paternalistic system, said Alan S. Donnahoe, president of the Richmond-based Media General, Inc. But, he added, the development of newspaper companies that sell their stock to the public has required more professional management.
"Today, many newspaper companies can boast a new breed of professional editors, managers, sales and marketing executives, circulators and financial executives. Without modern management procedures and the new technology (of production) many newspapers today would be drowning in a sea of red ink," Alvan Chapman said.
Some management trends, however, disturb a few newspaper executives. "Today, newspapers are run by people who don't care about the news or the paper . . . just the bottom line," said John P. McGoff, a conservative publisher and president of publicly owned Panax Neswpapers, in a recent Editor & Publisher magazine advertisement.
"If we do our job in news reporting, the bottom line will take care of itself," added McGoff, who once tried to buy The Washington Star and who recently acquired the Globe Newspapers here - with nine editions and a shopper in Northern Virginia and three Advertiser newspapers circulated in Maryland.
But McGoff obviously has his own ideas about news reporting. Two of his Michigan editors recently were fired after they failed to run controversial articles about President Carter - one suggesting the President condoned promiscuity, the other saying Carter was grooming his wife to be a future vice president.
George Bernard, a former National Enquirer reporter and now New York bureau chief for McGoff's chain of nearly 50 dailies and weeklies, wrote the articles. A company memo attached to the articles urged front-page display for the "explosive" material. McGoff said the dismissal of editors at Marquette and Escanaba was "one that any good leader should exercise," because they ignored orders.
The National News Council, an organization set up to monitor the press, said it would conduct an open hearing on Aug. 16 into the alleged news control exerted by Panax. The hearing, which will be held at the council's offices in New York, stems from a protest by McGoff that the News Council denunciation of his actions in the dispute was "misleading," the Associated Press said.
McGoff has characterized Eastern-based media as "an old-boy's club" and he said coverage of the Watergate scandal was overblown at the expense of inadequate repporting on U.S. economic problems.