Michael Smerconish, a columnist at the Knight Ridder-owned Philadelphia Daily News, doesn’t buy McClatchy chief executive Gary Pruitt’s claim that he’s selling 12 of the 32 KR papers he bought because they are in no-growth markets. “My hunch,” Smerconish writes, “is that McClatchy doesn’t want papers with strong unionized work forces in a labor town like ours. How else to explain selling off the Inquirer and DN, but keeping the newspaper in someplace called Kansas?” In the Bay Area, Pruitt said a financial analysis indicated that he had to sell the unionized Mercury News because its profit margin (9%) was too low. Once Pruitt decided to sell the Merc, the Contra Costa Times, Palo Alto Daily News group, Monterey Herald and other KR properties were thrown into the same package to give a buyer a “cluster” of newspapers in the Bay Area. Clustering papers often brings down costs.