When they went up at the end of the last century, they set a proud tone. By last spring, lit up in the night sky, they induced wistfulness. Nostalgia followed quickly. And now embarrassment is quickly setting in.
They are the twin Knight Ridder signs still hung almost 20 stories high at First and San Fernando in downtown San Jose. San Jose had made a major appeal to Tony Ridder to locate in the Mercury News' home city, when he announced in '98 that he was moving the company out of Miami. Tony heeded the San Jose call, secured first-class space and got the city council to make a few minor (!?) changes to the signage code. Then, after a weekend of heavy lifting: the branding emerged: two Knight Ridder signs, one facing east, one west, each 13 feet tall, 94 feet wide and weighing 57,000 pounds.
It's been half a year since McClatchy bought Knight Ridder. It has moved to sublet the KR space on several floors on the building, but those signs towering over downtown San Jose remain. They're no longer lit up at night, but they're getting to be a symbol of corporate hq loss for America's 10th biggest city (slogan: twice as big and a hour south of San Francisco).
It's got to be pricey to take down those signs, and hard to find a recycler willing to take them. So what about re-purposing, something the news industry knows about. How about mixing and matching the sign's letters?
Over chili and Corona, a few friends came up with a few ideas:
THINK GRIDDER (in appreciation of winning San Jose State football)
THIRD RED KING (spy novel in the making)
and then we came up with this one, we liked best:
HIT RED INK
Yes, it leaves a few letters left with which to play, but tells the story fairly well.