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Mercury News publisher Jay T. Harris' final email to his staff

From: Harris, Jay T.
Sent: Monday, March 19, 2001 1:41 PM
Cc: Ridder, Tony; Rossi, Steve; Ceppos, Jerry; Connors, Mary Jean
Subject: Final Letter to Employees

TO: All Mercury News Employees

This is a letter I never thought I'd be writing to you.

It saddens me to do so and yet I do so with my heart at peace, my conscience clear and high hopes for the paper's future - and mine as well.

I submitted my resignation today as publisher of the Mercury News.

In a letter to Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder and the Newspaper Division president, Steve Rossi, I explained I was stepping down "in the hope that doing so will cause [them] to closely examine the wisdom" of the profit targets we've been struggling to find a way to meet. We all know we must make significant adjustments in the face of the currently severe economic downturn. But so far, we have been unable to find a way to meet the new targets without risking significant and lasting harm to the Mercury News - as a journalistic enterprise and as the special place to work that it is.

In the letter I recommended that all involved take "greater time and the appropriate care with the important decisions ahead."

"Particularly important," I wrote, "are those decisions that will affect the quality and reputation of the newspaper, and those that will shape the culture and perception of the company as a place good people will want to work."

I am hopeful that they will take the time and care necessary to make decisions that are wise and good.

So why, you might ask, am I upbeat after having just resigned from of one of the best jobs in the world as publisher of one the best newspapers in America?

Well, first, I'm looking forward to a brief break from public life and a period of reflection and rejuvenation. The last seven years at the Mercury News have been fun, rewarding, and entirely gratifying. The Mercury News family has become my family. I love the paper. But the years have also been as demanding and consuming as they have been fulfilling. Now is a good time for a break.

My plan is to remain in Silicon Valley. I do not know what I will do when I emerge from a few months retreat at my home in the hills above Los Gatos. But I do know that I will look for another platform from which to serve the public interest. Maybe I will do some writing. I used to do that for a living.

As some of you know, I have a passion for books and history and literature, and that I frequently draw on what I've learned in my pursuit of those passions to make a point in my professional life. And so I will at the end of my days at the helm of the Mercury News.

On the wall in my office is a quote from the distinguished African-American scholar W.E.B. DuBois. It expresses well my feeling at the end of my years at the Mercury News and an outlook on life and work that I would like to leave with each of you. I close then with these words from Dr. DuBois:

"I have loved my work, I have loved people and my play, but always I have been uplifted by the thought that what I have done well will live long and justify my life; that what I have done ill or never finished can now be handed on to others for endless days to be finished, perhaps better than I could have done...

"One thing alone I charge you. As you live, believe in life! Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader and fuller life.

"The only possible death is to lose belief in this truth simply because the great end comes slowly, because time is long."

It has been my great privilege to be a part of this great newspaper family for the last seven years. In the years ahead I will always be rooting for you.

Keep the faith. Strive for excellence. Fight for the right.

And, above all, hang in there. You, what you are doing, and what you believe in are worth the effort.


Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder's letter to employees

From Tony Ridder, Steve Rossi, Mary Jean Connors, Jerry Ceppos
To: The staff of the Mercury News

This is a sad and difficult time for all of us. We are deeply sorry about Jay's resignation. It came as a surprise. We asked him to reconsider, but he would not.

Jay has been the leader of the Mercury News for seven years. During that time, he brought honor to the newspaper for its reporting and to the community for his contributions. He is a journalist with a profound belief in the power for good that newspapers can exercise. As a publisher, he strove constantly to improve the editorial content of the newspaper, and he worked tirelessly to involve himself and the paper in the life of Silicon Valley. All of us will miss him.

We also want to tell you about our meeting with Jay and his top managers on Friday. The meeting was attended by Steve Rossi, president of the newspaper division, Jerry Ceppos, vice president for news, Mary Jean Connors, senior vice president for human resources, and Gary Effren, vice president and controller of Knight Ridder. While the meeting was tough and candid, Steve made clear that he wanted no layoffs of full-time newsroom employees and hoped to avoid layoffs of full-time employees elsewhere in the building. He conceded that this might mean restructuring in some business-side departments but stressed that he, like Jay, did not want to damage the long-term future of the Mercury News. We think it is important that you know that.

For several of us, the relationships with Jay and with the Mercury News are particularly deep. For all of us, we are saddened by Jay's departure and promise -- again -- that we will not let the vagaries of Silicon Valley damage the newspaper that we are so proud of.

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Web extra to the March 15-21, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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