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Date Posted: 15:50:12 05/02/16 Mon
Author: Former PGer
Subject: Re: Fine answer. Here's another question
In reply to:
Smoker and boozer
's message, "Fine answer. Here's another question" on 20:15:52 04/29/16 Fri
I have no insight as to how long both Pittsburgh dailies will continue to publish. It's like picking lottery numbers, your guess is as good as mine.
There are some facts, however, that I don't think anyone with a background in journalism would argue -- too loudly:
* The PG, while but a shell of what it was under Bill Block and John Craig some 15 years ago, remains the better of the two dailies. In recent years, I've come to think the Trib tries harder than the PG, but the PG still has the edge, overall, in (upper-middle) management and writers/reporters/columnists. The Trib has some good editors and reporters. The PG, however, still has more of both.
* While the Trib reportedly had funding in place to guarantee the paper's future for several years after Dick Scaife's death, I suspect all bets are off since Scaife's two kids sued to get an accurate accounting of their father's foolish spending ways.
If forced to chose as to which paper will fold first, I'd say the Trib. But, that's nothing more than a educated guess. Personally, I'm a old newspaper guy and I hope that both continue. Two mediocre papers are better than one -- or none.
Yeah, things have been bleak financially at the PG for several years, but one thing most people predicting the PG's eminent demise don't take into account, or aren't aware of, is the resolve of the guy calling the shots at the PG: John Robinson Block.
While I'd say John's people skills are below average, his ability to ID and attract top-notch talent is no better than average, his intelligence is perhaps a 7 (on a 1-10 scale), his resolve to continue the PG is 9-10. John is the newspaper owner's version of the proverbial ink-stained wretch (writer). Newspapering is in his blood. For that, I was always thankful.
In reality, John could be a poster boy for much that is wrong with too-many American newspapers. He is top dog not because of any journalistic or biz acumen, but because of his genes. He's the proverbial spoiled rich kid who inherited the family business, and has spent much of his time searching for survival solutions while bailing water.
The Block family has controlled the PG since John's grandfather, Paul Sr., purchased the paper in 1927. At the time, Paul Sr. was one of America's most influential journalistic movers and shakers. He rubbed elbows with American presidents and the giants of the newspaper industry, William Randolph Hearst, et al.
His two sons, Paul Jr. and Bill, inherited in the 1940s the PG, The Toledo Blade and more than a dozen other papers, from New Jersey to California. When Bill died, the chain had shrunk to the PG and Blade. Bill included the Block-owned Red Bank, NJ, paper and the Monterey, Calif., Herald as partial payment to Scripps Howard for the Pittsburgh Press, which Block folded into the PG in 1992.
The next generation of Blocks to control the family's shrinking media empire, consisted of Bill Jr., who was always more intrested in the bottom line than journalism, and the twins, Alan, who took control of the families electronic media (cable and TV interests), and John, the only one of the three with a sincere interest in newspapers.
John has always strived to maintain his father's newspaper legacy. That has been paramount since the day he walked into the PG a summer intern in the late 1970s. The early days of the PG's slash and burn efforts to cut costs began six months after the merged with the Press in the early 1990s and began to take its toll on the overall product about 10 years ago. While the cuts began under Bill Block and began to escalate seemingly out of control under the next generation of Blocks, John was, at least in the beginning, always a relucant participant.
So to those who predict and or wish the Blocks would sell or fold the PG, hear me out on this one point: It would be folly to underestimate John Block's resolve to continue operation of the Post-Gazette.
That said, John is only one vote on the Block Communications board. These days, I don't know the identities or how many voting members there are today on the Block Communications board.
For several years, I've suspected that the family took profits from its cable and commercial television interests to keep the Blade and PG afloat. And, only a fool would continue to operate a business that continues to operate in the red with no relief in sign other than more cuts in staff.
My guess is, and it's just a guess, Dick Scaife's son and daughter will get their hooks into Trib Total Media and fold its newspapers interests before any talk begins in earnest on the Block board to pulling the plug at the PG.
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