Anyone who is watching the growth of the free daily industry is probably tuned into the switch in management at the Palo Alto Daily News. The PADN is probably the most successful free daily newspaper in the United States. Under previous owners Dave Price and Jim Pavelich, the paper was growing, profitable, winning awards, busting out new editions and taking chances. Since they sold the paper to Knight Ridder in 2005, and new management took over in January 2006, things appear to have changed.
Take this week's departure of longtime columnist and editor Diana Diamond. According to the Palo Alto Weekly, the Daily's new publisher, Shareef Dajani, says "We both agreed to go our own way." Turns out, he fired her -- at least that's what she told the Palo Alto Weekly. Dajani hasn't rebutted the charge.
The way Diamond tells it, one day Dajani told her he had a number of problems with her work and a couple of days later, he lowered the boom without giving her a chance to correct what ever alleged problems existed. And then he immediately had a replacement -- an editor he used to work with at the paper in Alameda, Calif.
Diamond says the PADN is suffering under Knight Ridder -- the Monday issue of the San Mateo Daily News was eliminated to save money, deadlines were moved forward to San Jose Mercury and Contra Costa Times evening deadlines, and hiring freeze has reduced the paper's newsroom capabilities.