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When the Storytellers Become the Story

My heart went out to the employees of several Knight-Ridder newspapers this morning, when it became clear that their ongoing roller coaster ride was not yet over. Although the McClatchy Company won the bidding for the newspaper chain, it immediately announced that it had no intention to keep 12 of the 32 papers and would immediately resell them. So for employeers of such newspapers as the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury News, it was back to the drawing board yet again.

We at Mansueto Ventures could totally relate. It was just under a year ago that our former parent, Gruner & Jahr USA, announced it had sold the four women’s magazines to Meredith Corporation–but that it hadn’t sold Fast Company or Inc. Regardless of what happened to us, we were no longer going to be on their books by the time the Meredith deal closed several weeks later. A crazy auction ensued, with the best possible outcome for us: We found a buyer, Joe Mansueto, who believed in both magazines and also believed that investing in the two neglected brands was the best way to operate going forward.

As business journalists, we spend a lot of time writing about how rapid change often outpaces many industries, about winners and losers, about the broader implications of new technologies. And more and more often, the industry most affected is, well, ours. But it’s a lot harder to be the story than to write the story. It also might make it a little more difficult to do the normal coolheaded interpretation of a deal when you know that that deal might mean you can’t pay your mortgage. How do you keep morale up in such a time of uncertainty? Anyone want to share experiences?

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