Media Watch

Scripps spurns Pulitzer?

E.W. Scripps officials indicated last week in New York--somewhat indelicately--that at least one piece of history probably won't repeat itself.

Scripps, which bought Joseph Pulitzer's famed-but-failing New York World in 1930, said it will take a look at the Arizona Daily Star's St. Louis-based parent, Pulitzer Inc. But the way Scripps' top two execs said they'd take a look seemed to indicate that it'll probably be a "just to say we've been there" visit

"We'll kick the tires, but that's about it," Scripps President and CEO Kenneth Lowe said Dec. 8 at the 32nd annual Media Week Conference in New York, sponsored by UBS Investment Bank. The conference is an Armanifest of the nation's publicly traded media conglomerates' chieftains, who make presentations to financial journalists and major institutional investors regarding past performances, as well as the coming year.

(Lowe's comments, along with quotes and comments from other conference speakers, have been drawn from recordings of their presentations released online by UBS.)

Pulitzer did not send a delegation to the conference.

As if to further dispel any thought that Cincinnati-based Scripps has an unusual interest in Pulitzer, Richard Boehne, Scripps executive vice president, said, "We got Contreras, and that was probably the part of Pulitzer we most wanted."

Boehne was referring to Scripps' hiring of Mark Contreras, Pulitzer's senior vice president and head of newspaper operations since March 1999. He will join Scripps Jan. 4 as vice president for newspaper operations. Contreras' resignation from Pulitzer and hiring by Scripps was announced Nov. 16--five days before Pulitzer confirmed that it was putting itself up for sale.

Boehne then said, "They (Pulitzer) have a great management team and a very good collection of assets. But that's probably where we stop."

Scripps, the nation's first newspaper chain, is doing some heavy cross-pollination between Internet streaming media and cable TV programming from its HGTV, DIY (Do-It-Yourself) and other networks.


Gannett President/Chairman/CEO Douglas McCorkindale, also speaking Dec. 8, surprised no one by acknowledging that Gannett will take a look at Pulitzer. His comments--Gannett's first statement of interest--were very direct and short. "They're a good group," said McCorkindale. "We've known them for a long time."

What he and other CEOs had to say about the acquisitions environment was a little more telling.

McCorkindale wasn't the only voice to use the phrase "disciplined buyer"--a subtle signal in the M&A world that it's not a seller's market these days. (As noted above, newspaper chains are finding new outlets--and new incomes--for their dreams of corporate manifest destiny, which means fewer buyers.)

"What we are seeing is some very aggressive prices on stand-alone properties, off the charts from our point of view," McCorkindale said. "And we're not going to chase them at that value."

He said that asking prices also are higher than Gannett feels is reasonable.

"There seems to be a good deal of money out there chasing transactions, but you won't see us overpay," McCorkindale added, noting that asking prices for television stations also seem too high in Gannett's view.

As far as operations for 2005 are concerned, McCorkindale had another no-surpriser: "In 2005, we will again demonstrate that we can do more with less while prudently investing in the future."


Kudos to three artists at the Arizona Daily Wildcat, who reached the semifinals in "mtvU Strips," a talent search for the nation's best collegiate cartoonists, selected by college readers themselves.

Arnulfo Bermudez ("Serape's Grill"), Mike Padilla ("Murph") and Micah Zahler ("optimal stubble") were selected from among "thousands" of entries, said Sharon Liveton, spokeswoman for mtvU, a subsidiary of MTV Networks that provides programming for closed-circuit dorm cable systems.

They didn't quite make the cut, failing to reach the final five. However, a student just up the interstate took home the top prize: "F Minus" by Tony Carillo of Arizona State University, was announced as the winner on Monday, Dec. 13. Carillo receives a development deal with United Media.

There is a strange turn to this story. While readers of the Daily Wildcat had the chance to vote for their local faves, they never officially got the results. MTV's Liveton said that when she contacted the Wildcat, a staffer said they wouldn't be running a story because it was inappropriate for the paper to cover itself.

An interesting policy, that. While it's not a wise thing for newspapers to create news, staffers do become news when they win awards. I wanted to talk to Wildcat editor-in-chief Caitlin Hall about that, but she didn't reply to several phone messages.

Wonder what she'll do if she wins a Pulitzer ...


Michael E. Pulitzer continues to make PTZ (the stock listing for Pulitzer Inc.) a little more public. He sold another 4,500 shares of company stock--1,500 shares each on Dec. 6, 7 and 8--raising $284,185. That brings the total to 128,500 shares sold since Jan. 30, with a value just shy of $7 million.

As noted last week, he's got a long way to go before the well's dry. He's still got 20,500 in hand and has access to another 1.4 million shares, as well as 264,800 shares available under three unexercised stock options.

He and wife, Ceil Pulitzer, have also been selling off holdings in Hearst-Argyle Television this year. Through two planned sales--one a 60,000-share deal--the Michael E. and Ceil Pulitzer Foundation has raised a little more than $1.5 million. Michael, who became a company director when Hearst-Argyle bought Pulitzer's broadcasting properties in 1999, has grossed $465,700 on the sale of 20,000 shares of HTV, while the Cecille Pulitzer Trust gained about $466,000 on the sale of 20,000 shares.

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