Cantwell to Newspapers: Help Me Help You

The U.S. senator called “one of our industry’s greatest champions” is urging newspapers and their trade associations to help persuade lawmakers in Congress to add financial support for local journalism in the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan proposed by the president.

Senator Cantwell

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington state, spoke to America’s Newspapers’ virtual conference Pivot 2021 today (May 11) and repeated her position that proposed federal spending should add $2.3 billion for “communications infrastructure,” with the intent of boosting local journalism crafted by newspapers and television stations. Adding back journalism jobs eliminated during the newspaper industry’s continued contraction, in turn, helps to “build communities and ensuring trust,” she said.

The federal assistance would come in the form of tax credits and grants to the newspaper industry. The tax credits would offset the costs of health-care benefits and employee payroll, she said. The grants would come from the Department of Commerce. Both credits and grants would allow newspapers to restore jobs and to “build back” local content, Cantwell said.

She labeled local news a “centerpiece of democracy.”

When introducing Cantwell, America’s Newspapers President Alan Fisco called the senator “one of our industry’s greatest champions.” Fisco is also the president of The Seattle Times Co.

Last year, Cantwell distributed a welcomed report that examined the challenging state of local news as well as the “unfair competition” and “unfair market practices” used by digital giants to dominate advertising online. (Read the Relevant Point about Cantwell’s “Local Journalism: America’s Most Trusted News Sources Threatened.”)

In her America’s Newspapers appearance via Zoom, Cantwell mentioned the lost revenue and workforce cuts to make this point:”We need to build this critical infrastructure now.”

She applauded newspapers’ performance in providing essential news and information during the disruptive COVID-19 pandemic and said it once again confirmed local journalism’s relevant reputation and accountability. “I can’t imagine going through COVID without newspapers,” she added. “We still saw the public and advertisers holding on to trusted brands.”

When asked by an attendee whether the rest of the Senate shared her perspectives, Cantwell said she thought other senators were “coming around” and then acknowledged perspectives were “all over the place.”

There’s also no immediate consensus among the Democrats and Republicans on what infrastructure encompasses in President Biden’s plan.

Cantwell called the next two to three years crucial for the future of local news and that company executives, publishers, general managers and executive directors should press their respective representatives in Congress for the federal help that she outlined.

“Please persevere,” Cantwell said before heading to her next meeting. “Trust me, we need you.”

–Tom Silvestri

Florida Compromise Installs FPA As The State’s ‘Gateway To Public Notices’

All eyes in the newspaper industry have been on Florida in 2021 because of another round of high-stakes challenges to public notice laws.

Where trendsetter Florida goes, other states could follow.

Press associations throughout the U.S. and their members read with intense interest the recent news about a Florida resolution worked out by both sides in the drama. “New Florida Public Notice Law First To Authorize Internet-Only Notices” was the headline on the summary by the Public Notice Resource Center, whose monthly newsletter is a must-read.

The resource center noted the “outsized role” the Florida Press Association will play in the administration of the new statute, calling it “the most significant piece of public notice legislation in modern history.”

“It requires FPA to ‘ensure that minority populations throughout the state have equitable access’ to notices posted on the statewide site and to publish quarterly reports identifying the newspapers that post notices on the site and their legal basis for doing so,” the center reported in its May update. “The press group is also required to report the number of unique visitors to the statewide website, as well as the total number of notices published in print newspapers or exclusively online on newspaper websites.”

Interesting.

The Relevance Project asked Florida Press Association Executive Director Jim Fogler for his assessment and he kindly participated in this Relevant Q&A:

Executive Director Jim Fogler

How did the public notice debate turn out in this year’s Florida legislative session?
We think we reached a solid compromise in light of the political dynamics in Florida. The compromise recognizes the continued need for effective notice to citizens and that newspapers and their websites are still a superior way to provide notice, as opposed to simply posting them to lightly trafficked government websites. While the current public model in Florida has been disrupted by the bill and the increased competition the bill fosters will hurt some of our larger papers, we think it is still the best outcome for Florida.

The May newsletter of “Public Notice Monthly” reports Florida is the “first state in the country to significantly dilute the statutory requirement that notices must be published in print newspapers, but there’s a lot for the newspaper industry and residents of the state to like about the bill.” What’s your assessment?
We think the printed newspaper will still be an important part of public notices going forward and the bill recognizes that. But the bill also contains forward-looking technology ideas, such as allowing local governments to use newspaper website-only publication in some cases. The bill also sets up an audience threshold non-rural newspapers must meet to qualify.

How does collaboration work in these types of legislative negotiations, given the divisive nature of politics these days? Was there a particular turning point?
We worked with the Senate sponsor, Senator Ray Rodrigues, and his staff, to reach a compromise after a long weekend of collaboration in mid-April, and a growing realization by the parties that something needed to be done to avoid the government-website option that had been moving on the House side. Everyone realized the time was ripe for a change, but it had to be the right one reflecting good policy for the state with the overarching goal of providing citizens of Florida adequate notice.

The Florida Press Association played a major role in the new law. Can you explain?
We were involved but it was a joint effort by the Senate sponsor, other senators, their staffs, allied newspaper and business groups, and, of course, our member newspapers who were there to testify at the many committee meetings.

Do you think what happened this year will do for the foreseeable future or will legislators who want to hurt newspapers will be back again?
Not sure. We are hopeful that this compromise will address concerns on both sides for at least the time being.

You also garnered some praise in the legislature and support for printed newspapers. Were you surprised?
It was nice to hear some of the positive comments but we believe that reflects what we have been saying for many years. We have been heralding the important function that newspapers bring to the public forum, by providing what is still the most effective means of informing citizens about the actions of their government and related actions.

Did being relatively new to Florida help you deal with the situation?
I believe I brought a new perspective to the table, but needed to get up to speed quickly, and at times it sure felt like I was drinking from a firehose. It was a total team effort. The Florida Press Association has a strong active board and we decided at the end of last session to put together a solid Public Notice Action Committee who were instrumental in leveraging our local leadership both on the House and Senate side, which I believe made the difference in the end. Instead of lumping us together with the national news media, they now have a better understanding that we are local community news organizations providing hyper-local news and information, and helping to make a difference in the local communities we serve.

Some people, including newspaper folks, wonder why in a digital age, we’re still fighting for public notices in print newspapers. Is this a lost cause or a principled fight even if revenue for newspapers and government wishes are at odds?
Even in the digital age, our newspapers still have an unsurpassable reach and traffic on their websites and other digital platforms. This has become a crucial additional way to get these notices to the citizens that rely on them, along with the print component, which is still important, especially in rural areas and with Florida’s demographics.

Finally, what is ahead?
Getting all of our Press Association members up to speed on what this means to them by hosting a few Public Notice Virtual Information sessions via Zoom calls, and then at our upcoming conference in July, we are placing this topic on a panel discussion which will included county clerks sharing their perspective on this new public notice bill. Then, we will need to get all of our quarterly tracking requirements in place for our statewide site as we become the Gateway to Public Notices.

Good luck, Jim and FPA. Thanks for the insightful answers.

–Tom Silvestri

Paste-Up Only Computes For Publishing Longtimers

Leave it to David Thompson in Kentucky to remember that today is National Paste-Up Day.

The executive director of the Kentucky Press Association suggests that ink-stained veterans — working in the industry before desktop publishing arrived — spend time today explaining the “paste-up era” to younger staffers and why it’s important in the history of newspapers.

Newspaper layout and design haven’t always “been done on a software program installed on your computer,” Thompson wrote in a blog item referenced by his weekly “On Second Thought” newsletter.

“Desktop publishing is quite new actually,” added Thompson, who got his start in newspapers in 1965. “For the rest of us, we’ll think of Xacto knives and pica sticks, waxers and blue-line layout sheets, Compugraphic Juniors, 7200s and Headliners. Of sterile pens (OK, I know they’re called non-reproducing pens bet we refer to them as sterile). Of those days we went home after standing around the layout table most of the time and realizing that missing paragraphs was waxed to the bottom of your shoe. Of burnishing the layout sheet after all the copy was down just to make sure it was stuck to the page and not going to fall off.”

Thanks, David, for the trip down memory lane of hand-drawn layouts, type coming out of a machine in long sheets, boards, hot wax, cutters, rollers and rulers to keep it all straight.

Paste-up is special to me as well. I met my wife there.

–Tom Silvestri

Add California To ‘Inclusion’ Membership List

California is the latest newspaper trade association revising its bylaws “to foster membership inclusion.”

The changes, approved April 29 at the Annual Business Meeting, also reflects ever-changing U.S. demographics and digital’s role in the future of community newspapers.

“With the revision, the bylaws now acknowledge mixed print and digital subscriptions and days of publication for digital products,” the California News Publishers Association reported in its May 4 newsletter, CNPA Bulletin. “They also consider Active Members to include community news outlets that serve non-English readers with ‘content that is not necessarily California focused, but it is of importance to predominantly California readers or the specific audience or demographic in California that the publication serves.”

The Association noted that the new bylaws require the publisher of content that’s in a language other than English to “certify that either the content published by the applicant is either principally focused on California or their readership is principally based in California.”

The membership changes are the latest in a series of moves by the Association under the leadership of new President and CEO Charles F. “Chuck” Champion.

Last month, a Relevant Point reported the South Carolina Press Association also changed its Constitution to allow minority-owned publications that are not weeklies or dailies to join as Active, or full benefit, Members. Read it here.

We’ll keep an eye out for who will be next.

–Tom Silvestri

Iowa Newsrooms Unite To Produce Investigative Series

Video can change the course of history.

Americans witnessed that fact with the George Floyd trial and the murder conviction of a police officer in Minneapolis.

Now we’re seeing the use of body cameras by police as ripe for closer examination, especially whether the public has adequate access to the videos.

The Iowa Newspaper Association and its member newsrooms are doing just that.

The Association helped launch a statewide project to examine police video rules, regulations and related policies. The result is an investigative series that already is sparking debate about the public’s right to know, privacy, and transparency in policing.

Two parts have been published. A third is ahead.

The unusual series shows the important role an association can play as an orchestrator of distinctive projects and as a master collaborator that unites its newspapers for a higher purpose.

It also helps to have engaged members.

“We have a very active government relations committee and the idea came from a member on that committee,” said Susan Patterson Plank, Iowa Newspaper Association executive director. “A small group was put together for planning purposes and then a smaller group was pulled to actually do writing. The core team meets weekly.”

As part of the project, more than 50 journalists from 30 different newspapers in Iowa have requested copies of body-camera policies from local police departments, sheriffs’ offices and other law enforcement agencies. The Iowa Press Association received a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to help pay for the cost of filing public records requests, resources such as mentoring, and in some cases, legal review of stories.

Body-camera footage was obtained from more than 220 law enforcement agencies across Iowa. The journalists found that while many police departments shared videos when asked, others declined to make their videos public.

The first installment in January highlighted that “a decade after law enforcement agencies in Iowa started using body cameras, there are a widely divergent and unregulated system of rules and policies in place, according to a review of more than 200 policies,” the Association reported in its Bulletin newsletter.

A sample of newspapers publishing the first installment of the InFocus series.

The story confirmed disparities in video use, retention and public release, along with examples of police videos that have been made available through the efforts of Iowa newspapers and the public.

“Those disparities can endanger the ability of everyday Iowans to answer questions about a family member’s death or prove their innocence,” the Association added.

A second installment in late April explored “how Iowa law enforcement agencies balance accountability with privacy of people show in police recordings,” the Bulletin reported. “There are legitimate questions about how videos should be redacted to protect privacy, but there also are cases of law enforcement agencies using privacy as a red herring to keep videos secret.”

The Des Moines Register added to the Part II publication with a guest column from Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. “Advocates for government accountability make the case that the open records law already requires police to release the immediate facts and circumstances of every crime or incident officers respond to, and videos recorded at the time of such incidents provide an unaltered accounting of those circumstances,” Evans wrote.

The series is front-page news in Iowa.

“While these advocates and some law officials disagree over the interpretation of the open records law, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled two years ago that the need for confidentiality of police investigative materials must be balanced against the need for transparency in important circumstances,” Evans added. “This is a conclusion we all should agree on.”

In an interview with the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Erin Jordan, one of the series coordinators, said the project shows that “local newspapers are on the front lines of pushing for police accountability.”

“Travis Mayfield, who is publisher of the Maquoketa Sentinel-Press and is on the INA government relations committee, wanted Iowa newspapers to do this series because his paper struggled to get video of a July 2019 incident when a 22-year-old man died after being Tasered by police,” said Jordan, an investigative reporter at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “Doing a statewide story on his own would have been tough, but joining forces with the INA and other news outlets made it possible.”

In its newsletters, the Association saluted the project team and the newspapers publishing the “InFocus” series, which is being “made available without charge to all INA members.”

Jordan said the support from the Iowa Newspaper Association and Fund for Investigative Journalism “feels kind of like a ‘we got you’ that can help motivate small newsrooms to do great work.”

–Tom Silvestri

Louisiana Press Leads With Its MediaNext Initiative

Louisiana Press Association this year launched a new training program with the goal of fostering collaboration among other newspaper trade groups and becoming a “thought leader” in the industry.

The initial focus of MediaNext is digital, advertising and revenue, given the intense challenges faced by newspapers. Later, journalism, leadership and programs will be added.

So far, LPA’s initiative has delivered two digital programs.

“The training is meant to move us forward,” said Jerry Raehal, executive director of the Louisiana Press Association. “Print is not going away, though revenues will look different. And I know there still are papers that don’t want to deal with digital, but with the industry revenue needs, we need to know that digital is not going away either.”

Digital also is where the audience growth occurs, especially based on results during the pandemic. “Reach isn’t our issue. Monetizing it is,” Raehal added in an interview via Zoom.

MediaNext began in February with a webinar on the importance of local media websites. A program in April explored selling against social media. View it here.

(I attended both webinars and found the advice to practical, useful and clear. It also was refreshing to hear digital experts admit personally disliking Facebook but acknowledging having to be on the social-media platform because clients used it.)

LPA Executive Director Jerry Raehal

MediaNext will benefit from a partnership with AdCellerant, a technology and digital advertising company that Raehal worked with when he was a publisher in Colorado. Raehal also is a former executive director of the Colorado Press Association.

“They are most competent and willing to do training,” he said. “We need to figure out training that can be administered at different (skill) levels, with a robust structure.”

Raehal said MediaNext plans to offer monthly webinars, short on-demand video training, one-sheet handouts with advice, other resources for members, and different formats. The topics will cover a range of subjects and issues, including:

  • How print and digital work together in a sales cycle.
  • Easy digital marketing strategies.
  • Effective advertising for small businesses.

Because newspaper staffs are often pressed for time, the 60-minute workshops can viewed live online or on-demand by connecting to MediaNext’s page. “We want MediaNext to be worthwhile for the time invested,” Raehal said.

MediaNext is free to participants, though some future programs might have costs depending on speaker fees. Raehal is inviting members of Newspaper Association Managers to use the training as well.

Once the program gets to full speed, Raehal said, LPA might use MediaNext to help secure grants for the Louisiana Press Foundation, and might ask for donations as part of the sign-up form. “Or maybe something else,” he added.

Raehal also hopes other press associations can collaborate on future training programs and projects to avert duplication while expanding learning opportunities.

“We want to be an advocate for thought leadership in the media space,” he said. “We want to help our members and the industry for what’s next.”

–Tom Silvestri

RP Adds ‘Support Local Journalism’

The Relevance Project offers a new advocacy resource: Support Local Journalism.

The addition is part of a reshuffling of the Revenue Resource 2021 section so it can concentrate on advertising, marketing and other revenue concepts for NAM members.

One of the messages in the “We Trust Newspapers” series.

Nothing prevents an ad staff from touting local journalism, but The Relevance Project has created enough content to spin off the journalism-oriented advocacy into its own area on http://www.relevanceproject.net

The newest series in the Support Local Journalism section is “We Trust Newspapers,” which begins with three strong messages. Review them here. Thanks to our partners at Metro Creative Graphics for its design work.

The Relevance Project focuses on helping local news trade associations and their members tell the true story of the strength and viability of community newspapers.

As a reminder, association and newspaper staffs can use everything on The Relevance Project website without charge. Credit Newspaper Association Managers (NAM) for the initiative.

Also, I’m available to present “10 Things You Need To Know” about The Relevance Project to association staffs, boards and conferences. Included in the workshop is The Relevance Meter where attendees can judge for themselves just how Relevant they are to their readers and communities they serve.

Thanks for supporting The Relevance Project. More resources are in the pipeline. Stay tuned.

–Tom Silvestri

9 Opportunities For Association Ad Agencies

The future of newspaper trade associations depends on becoming even more Relevant in finding advertising and marketing dollars for members.

Here’s to their success. Newspaper ads work.

I had the honor yesterday of presenting a Relevance Project update to the NAM Advertising Conference. The overall message: Start with a mindset that advertising services are the No. 1 benefit an association offers its members.

Part of a series available to download on http://www.relevanceproject.net

Feeding off The Relevance Project as an opportunity for NAM, I spent the back half of my 45 minutes listing actions the associations’ advertising staffs can consider when upgrading their strategies and sharpening their priorities.

My presented “9 Major Opportunities” were based on a review of the information on the associations’ websites about their advertising services and a year of conversations with NAM members.

My list is by no means definitive. But it’s meant to provoke discussion and self-analysis. Again, it’s based on how associations pitch their services.

A bonus consideration: Greater collaboration can speed desired results despite stretched local resources. That’s where the NAM network, including The Relevance Project, can help.

Onto The Nifty Nine:

  1. Make A Spectacular, Convincing Case For Newspapers: Upgrade your advocacy for local newspapers as the most trusted media. Focus less on talking about the sales process, and more on the effectiveness of newspapers in general as well as more on the unique value of community newspapers. (“LOCAL, LIKE YOU” is a Relevance Project promotion, for example.) Brag in the advertising services section that an informed reader is the best customer for clients and explain why. Tout the fact that local journalism attracts a quality audience.
  2. Use Data To Win Sales, Commit To Updated Research: Invest in readership and advertising surveys, local, regional and state research, and other facts that show newspapers are the best choice. Find the money. Too many sites are research deserts. Make a stronger case with facts that motivate customers to partner with us. If necessary, pool investment dollars and collaborate with other associations. But by all means, lean into current data.
  3. Go After Marketing Dollars, Not Just Advertising Deals: Accept the reality that marketing, not advertising, budgets are growing. Think like a marketer to pull in more of these dollars that are going into digital solutions. Which has a better future: Marketing or advertising? Follow the money.
  4. Use Video To Upgrade The Industry’s Image: Video might be the easiest way to show newspapers are platform agnostic. Plus, video can upset damaging stereotypes about our industry — stodgy, resistant to change, and dull. Please! Forecasters point to spending shifts that favor video and OTT (over-the-top media; video on demand delivered via the Internet). Update your image big time. We’re more than “those print people.” Prove it. Extra Points: Practice by completing an exercise of converting your various written messages to video. Step by step. Don’t forget to add creativity.
  5. Boast You Solve Problems; Go Beyond Just “One Call, One Bill”: Associations have done a great job documenting how they make it easier for ad buyers to reach newspapers. So, let’s assume most people know the association is indeed a one-stop shop. If that’s all you are, then it’s limiting. Zero in on how you solve customers’ problems and deliver solutions that increase their business. Solutions attract others. Boast you are a solutions machine. One Call, Many Solutions. Sounds better already.
  6. Think Economic Development — Markets, Not Newspaper Titles: This might be my favorite suggestion. Maybe it’s because I’m a former business news editor. Build on the ad agency approach by stressing the attractiveness and diversity of your MARKETS and why they are valuable. Value propositions in this case are more than a list of newspapers titles. Be a tour guide to your state or province, and get excited about larger business possibilities, thanks to newspapers. Think of the association as a business developer with money to invest and draw attention to markets that have potential for businesses to grow. Consider: What if advertising services were pure economic development?
  7. Commit To Innovation: We must fight the perception that we are a medium of the past. I know it’s frustrating. Take a deep breath. Think here: Innovate processes, products and peoples’ skills. Add to your digital expertise. Be a nexus of innovations for association members. Build labs if you have to in order to practice innovations. Promote it. Move into innovation as a home.
  8. Elevate Testimonials And Reviews, Wins With Partners: Tell these stories. Inspire. Use testimonials for Boomers. Reviews for Millennials. And both for Generation X. Avoid dull at every chance. Great sales make great stories. The journey to a sales victory is ripe for storytelling. Here’s another opportunity to use video to tell stories about your staff’s ability to help customers succeed. Stack up your victories and update regularly. Use social media to amplify. Work on making your clients’ successes your achievements.
  9. Add “New” to Newsletters: Associations distribute admirable newsletters. Many are weekly. More could include “news” about advertising services. So, go ahead and celebrate a sale. Salute your advertiser partners. Cheer newspapers that makes an association sale. Give the ad reps space to talk about, yes, opportunities. It’s OK to start a trend: BREAKING SALES.

There you have it. What did I miss? Tell me and I’ll add to the list.

In the meantime, here’s to association advertising services winning big in 2021 — and beyond.

–Tom Silvestri

Author’s Note: A special thanks to conference organizer Mark Maassen in Missouri for the invitation.

Leave Print Alone In A Digital World

Add “Bottom Line Personal” to the list of publications that learned mixing print and digital design isn’t always pleasing to longtime readers.

The bimonthly publication, which is one of my favorite sources of practical advice for living smarter, tried a new design this year that “was in sync with a more contemporary style.”

“We wanted to unify our corporate look and make the publication more appealing to the next generation of readers growing into our demographic,” Editor Marjory Abrams wrote in her column.

Social media and marketers apparently loved it.

Print readers? Not so much.

In its April 15th edition, Bottom Line Personal returned to its old design.

The bottom line:
“Sometimes we just like our old pair of jeans. Even though the new design was clean and contemporary, it didn’t feel as welcoming as the old design for many of you,” wrote Abrams, under the headline Welcome Home. “And I think, after this year of cocooning and rediscovery of traditional activities and simpler times, a sudden change was not what was needed right now.”

Timing indeed is everything.

Publications should try new things, but the Relevant Point here is: If your print publication scores high in functionality, leave it alone.

Innovation is still perfect for online and digital products. That audience gets change.

The print audience wants outstanding stories to read, trusted guideposts, and simple design that’s easy to navigate — not noisy.

Take it from a publisher who also learned the hard way.

I give Bottom Line lots of credit for its do-over. And to the editor for personally replying to upset readers.

At this point in the crazy world of publishing, let print be print.

Put your Relevant energy into storytelling and news coverage.

–Tom Silvestri

Deepen Trust With The Community Forum

Community newspapers must win the trust issue on their own.

Sorry, I guess I’ve read too many national studies about misinformation and readers losing confidence in “the media.”

It’s depressing.

Take the recent Media Insight Project report that found “not all Americans universally embrace core journalism values.” The major study then noted that doubts exist on just what is the job of journalists. (The Project is a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.)

Add in CivicScience’s recent check-up on Americans’ news consumption in which the headline says “Distrust in News Media Ticks Up, Concern About Misinformation Is Strong”. CivicScience checks quarterly on the news sources Americans trust most to deliver unbiased news.

Community newspapers, forget looking for your score that’s jammed in with others.

Besides.

By the time the survey responders consider newspapers, they’ve already been distracted by their feelings — I mean, beliefs — about big media: Broadcast network news, cable network news, national newspapers, and digital-only sites. Community newspapers are further pushed out of the picture by getting lumped in with “regional newspapers.”

As I said, forget it.

Plus, you’ll only feel bad because “distrust has rebounded back to pre-pandemic levels.”

Enough.

Here’s my advice to community newspapers: Don’t let anyone get between you and your readers. The only survey or conversation that counts is the one YOU conduct with your readers and the community at large.

Be the Community Forum — a civil, civic conversation on issues of importance.

Embrace the Community Forum strategy to strengthen connections with readers. Control the narrative about how newspapers are indispensable. Engage readers to deepen their trust in your brand of local journalism.

DO IT DIRECTLY.

Regular readers of this blog know that a priority of The Relevance Project is to help newspaper trade associations and their members become THE Community Forum.

Why?

Trusted local journalism needs greater community support to adapt, survive and, yes, grow. The good thing is we know there’s a crucial need for our reporting of news, providing vital information and publishing fact-based commentary on current events. We saw that big time during the pandemic.

Part of the challenge is that community newspapers are being squeezed by the rigors (and challenges) of the print franchise and chaos of social media fed largely by corporate giants.

Still.

Local newspapers have got to carve out more time to be the Community Forum.

Our Relevance needs renewal in a turbulent world.

Let me propose one route that follows my opening rant about “the media” studies. In launching a Community Forum initiative, start with these Phase One Topics:

  • What is the future of your local newspaper?
  • How can we better serve our readers?
  • Has the pandemic challenge changed us for the better (as a trusted news source)?
  • How do we build trust with our news coverage? (Why should you trust us?)
  • How can we be more Relevant to you? (My favorite.)

Add your own.

Use the invited answers and meaningful exchanges to plot improvements in coverage — and the next conversations. For example: Reward reader interest in boosting newspapers with your renewed efforts in helping the community solve its problems.

Keep at it.

Don’t let the national-stage noise distract you.

You are not “the media.”

You should be THE Community Forum.

One more point:

Cheers to the state and provincial press associations that help their members achieve it.

–Tom Silvestri