The weak ad economy continues to hurt the bottom line of publishers, as two more major newspaper groups reported lower-than-expected earnings this week. Knight Ridder Inc., San Jose, Calif., reported net income of $60.5 million, or 71 cents per diluted share, for the second quarter, down 33.2% from net income of $90.6 million, or $1.02 per diluted share, for the same period last year. The per-diluted-share figure for the second quarter of 2001 excludes an after-tax charge of $47.1 million for buyouts and severance as a result of layoffs announced in April. Knight Ridder posted second-quarter revenue of $738.4 million, down 8.4% from $806.2 million a year earlier. Arlington, Va.-based Gannett Co Inc., which owns USA Today and 97 other newspapers, reported a 12% decline in second-quarter earnings due to sagging advertising sales. Second-quarter net income totaled $233.5 million, or 88 cents a share, compared with $265.8 million, or $1 a share, a year earlier. The earnings were in line with Wall Street estimates. Meanwhile, revenues rose 12% to $1.63 billion from $1.45 billion a year earlier. Since June 2000, Gannett has bought News Communication & Media plc, 19 newspapers from Thomson Corp. and Central Newspapers Inc.