There’s something to be said for being in the exact right place at the exact right time…
Such appears to be the case with Star publisher Mark Zieman. The Star announced yesterday Zieman is being promoted to VP at the newspaper’s embattled parent company, McClatchy.
Some newsies say they’re surprised at the promotion, given Zieman’s lack of business experience.
Zieman has only three years working the business end of the newspaper. He was appointed publisher in 2008. And as for the Rockhurst "Executive MBA" the newspaper is touting, Zieman picked that up on the night school plan a handful of years back.
Second, there’s a reason the Star has fared better than many newspapers in the current catastrophic three-year downturn, insiders note:
"Kansas City has always been pretty stable and profitable compared to other newspapers. Kansas City and Ft. Worth were (always) the highest perfroming papers at Knight-Ridder."
So nothing new there on the Star outperforming other McClatchy papers in the current downturn.
As KCC contributor Jim Fitzpatrick notes on jimmycsays, recent adjustments to how newspaper circulation is measured have allowed the Star to inch back above the 300,000 mark for its all-important Sunday paper and 214,000 weekdays.
But let’s put those numbers in perspective…
Under the Star‘s previous stewardship, daily circulation ran from 270,000 to 275,000 with Sunday at 375,000. Sans any help from the tweaked measuring that brought Sunday back from 290,000 circulation.
So while Zieman may look good to McClatchy, he’s clearly the beneficiary of the Star’s historic stability, insiders say.
Now let’s look at some of the highlights that, were McClatchy not reeling from its current financial woes, might not have boded so well for Zieman, certainly not under the previous management.
1) Making a seven-figure losing deal to print the now-defunct Rise Up weekly. Sources say the Star won the printing bid for Rise Up because it was the only bidder not to require cash up front – a costly mistake.
2) Zieman’s wife’s embarassing DUI bust and his cover-up of the incident in 2009, as reported by the Pitch.
3) The poorly handled, three-month long Jason Whitlock exit episode last year.
4) Accusations by Whitlock that Star editor Mike Fannin had been having an "inappropriate relationship" with sports editor Holly Lawton. The Star never responded publicly to the charges, but Lawton submitted her resignation shortly thereafter. And sources said at the time that had Knight Ridder still owned the paper, an investigation would have been launched by corporate.
5) Reports by KCC of Fannin’s unreported DUI – his second – and an assault conviction in Texas. Combine that with Fannin’s claim that he warned Zieman of his checkered past when initially turning down Zieman’s offer to make him editor. Fannin quietly served two days slam time, three days of house arrest and a year’s probation with a drug and alcohol treatment center on the second DUI.
Does any of this mean Zieman is unqualified for his new post?
No. But it does call into question whether he’d even have been under consideration were it not for the financial freefall parent company McClatchy has been caught up in since practically Day One of its acquisition of the Star and more than a dozen other Knight Ridder papers.