A few words about the Knight brothers

The Snowblower Ballet is being made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

But who are the Knights?

They were newspapermen, brothers who published some of the best newspapers in the country as leaders of the Knight Newspapers and then Knight-Ridder newspaper chains.

knights

I feel a connection to them because for all of my adult life, I’ve been a newspaperman too, most of it at what was a Knight-Ridder newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch.

I was always proud to work for a Knight-Ridder paper because it was known in the journalism business as the quality chain of papers, with members like the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Detroit Free Press, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Miami Herald and the San Jose Mercury News.

Like the Pioneer Press, they were all newspapers with distinctive, independent voices. They all won Pulitzer Prizes. John S. Knight himself won a Pulitzer for editorial writing in 1968.

The Knights wanted their newspapers to make money, and that’s where they made their fortunes.

But Knight newspapers didn’t stint on spending to report important stories. According to this profile, John S. Knight once said, “A typewriter means more to a newspaper than an adding machine.”

“Now, there was an owner you’d go to — and through — the wall for,” according to Clark Hoyt, a longtime Knight-Ridder newspaperman.

Because I worked at a Knight-Ridder newspaper, I was able to spend six weeks in Iraq in 2005 working at the Knight-Ridder Baghdad bureau.

Because of the generosity of John S. Knight, I spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

The Knight-Ridder newspaper chain no longer exists. But the commitment of the Knight brothers to the cities where their newspapers were located means that St. Paul has enjoyed unique Knight Foundation-funded art projects like the Smallest Museum in St. Paul and the Floating Library.

It means that you can submit an idea on how to make the city more successful through the Knight Cities Challenge grant which has funded ideas like the Saint Paul Hello Welcome Hat program.

It means that a Snowblower Ballet will be coming to St. Paul.

I’m glad I live in a Knight city.

Thank you John S. and James L.

Richard Chin

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