Knight Ridder has set March 9 as the deadline for potential buyers to submit bids for the chain, and KR has selected three journalists for a panel to evaluate the “journalistic excellence” of a suitor. That’s according to a story posted at 4:30 p.m. today (Feb. 28) on the Mercury News web site by reporter Pete Carey. Carey attributes his information to unnamed sources, and in the past his sources on this story have been solid. The lede of the story is old news however — that Dean Singleton’s Media News (owner of the Bay Area’s ANG newspapers) and Gannett are preparing a joint bid, and that a second bid is likely to come from Sacramento Bee owner McClatchy. As for the panel of journalists, KR isn’t saying who was chosen or why the panel consists of only three people. The company’s articles of incorporation require a buyer to be scrutinized by a panel of journalists from outside the company but don’t specify how many people should serve on that committee. A buyer needs to receive the votes of two-thirds of the company’s shareholders for a sale to go through, unless the panel of journalists objects, then the buyer would need an 80% vote of approval. KR put itself on the block at the insistence of its three largest shareholders, who together hold 36% of the company’s stock. The three are disappointed by KR’s stock price, which lost 34% of its value from April 2004, falling to 52.42 in October 2005. Talk of a possible sale has lifted the stock. Today it closed at 60.02, down nearly 2% on the day. Locally, Knight Ridder owns the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Palo Alto Daily News group and Monterey Herald.