This year’s National Newspaper Week should be anything but routine.
We all know the reasons why.
So, put on your planning hat and consider this R elevant suggestion for community newspapers:
Use that first full week in October to conduct community conversations about newspapers.
Your newspapers and web sites.
And their future.
Take good notes.
You could consider one event or a series of discussions.
You have a full week to maneuver.
In “normal times,” you’d have the conversations as part of an in-person town hall or a Community Forum — the concept The Relevance Project is developing. You still might be able to swing it come October.
But by now, you also should have enough virtual conferencing skills to have these discussions online. ZOOM it, for example. Heck, take advantage of the formal declaration of National Newspaper Week to further upgrade your virtual meetings. Go all out.
Now, consider these additional Relevant Points:
Pick an inviting title that’s bound to attract an audience. Do you dare suggest: What would happen if (name of newspaper) disappears?
Or, go the simple route: How can (this newspaper) become the Community Forum?
There are several ways to spark discussion.
Reintroduce yourself to the community. Explain what’s changed in the last year, what you’re working on and what’s ahead. Invite reaction.
Explain how you are dealing with the pandemic. Welcome feedback.
A common-sense but important angle is to ask the community for suggestions on news coverage, customer service and advertising. What to they like best? Least?
Consider publishing short bios on everyone who works at the newspaper. Interest will be high for insights about the reporters and editors, but the newsroom relies on its colleagues in advertising, circulation, the business office and administration to show everyday it’s a true team effort.
Have the publisher or general manager explain the mission of the newspaper and why it is committed to better serving the community.
Remind the public about all the things you do — from special sections to sponsorship of community events to volunteering to employing local residents.
Still, come back to the big question:
How can this newspaper become the Community Forum?
We only need to reflect on 2020 to know it’s far from business as usual.
Imagine if newspapers throughout the United States and Canada experimented with the Community Forum format during National Newspaper Week.
And everyone in the community was talking about newspapers during the week of Oct. 5.
Let’s make some intelligent noise.