Newspapers have had touch-and-go times lately, and sometimes, no news certainly is good news. While Knight Ridder (NYSE:KRI) enjoyed a fine quarter last time around, the newspaper firm said today that second-quarter profit will be flat.

Knight Ridder Chairman and CEO Tony Ridder said that severance costs and lower operating income in Detroit contribute to the forecast. The company expects second-quarter earnings that just match last year's, which came in at $1.08 per share. Last year's second quarter included tax benefits and other one-time gains that totaled $0.06 of benefit. (Ridder called the consensus estimate for $1.05 per share "interesting," since last year's figure included such gains.)

The company also included results from May. They reflected the trend in declining circulation that was discussed last month (not to mention the connected issues that are so important to newspapers, such as ad revenues). There's been a lot of opining about the future of newspapers -- and while it's arguable that they will never go away, newspapers continue to innovate with Internet acquisitions, digital content subscriptions, and new initiatives such as free dailies.

And of course, some investors would be perfectly justified in wondering how companies such as Dow Jones (NYSE:DJ), Gannett (NYSE:GCI), Tribune (NYSE:TRB), New York Times (NYSE:NYT), and others will fare.

Although Knight Ridder's flat profit may not be terribly heartening (nor is it the end of the world), it's also not terribly surprising given the preexisting data. In general, investors would do well to keep a close eye on newspaper stocks' potential engines of growth, and which stocks are placing focus in the right places. There may very well be a variety of winners, losers, and consolidations as the industry evolves.

For more newspaper content, please check out the following Foolish commentary:

If you'd like to discuss the news after you read it, give our Current Events board a try.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.