Never Assume: Help The Public Understand The Value of A Newspaper

NAM members continue to press the Relevant Point that a community is in big trouble once its newspaper disappears. We share a recent exhortation:

In a July newsletter, the Wisconsin Newspaper Association distributed a thought-provoking column by Andrew Johnson, the publisher emeritus of the Dodge County PionierCampbellsport News and  Kewaskum Statesman. He also is the immediate past-president of the National Newspaper Association and a past-president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

Johnson details several actions that citizens should take to support local journalism: Subscribe; buy from advertisers; support newspapers in what you say and write; contribute tax-deductible donations that help employ journalists; and engage with your local paper.

The author also reveals his own admirable call-to-action: “The purpose of this column is to make sure the public knows the value of a newspaper. I feel an ethical obligation to write this column and could only do it when I was no longer an active publisher, because of conflicting interests of owning a business and serving the community.

“Actually, there was not much conflict because newspapers in recent years are not businesses that make much money; nevertheless, they are private businesses. It is important that the people in this community are clearly informed on the value of having a community newspaper and the consequences for all citizens if it closes.”

Read the full commentary here.

—TAS

South Dakota Gets The Scoop With ‘Ghosting The News’ Interview

Yesterday’s Point prompted a fortunate find from our NAM member in South Dakota.

SDNA Executive Director David Bordewky tells The Relevance Project that South Dakota was the first stop for Margaret Sullivan’s book tour regarding her “Ghosting The News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy.” It resulted in an interview that was videotaped by the South Dakota News Watch, Dave’s other duty.

View it here.

There’s also a News Watch story, which is a great summary of the book’s points as well:

Among the Relevant quotes:

“Our democracy is built on the idea that the people are going to govern themselves,” Sullivan said. “If they [the public] are not well-informed, the whole thing sort of dwindles away and we can no longer be that movement of, by and for the people that the founders wanted us to be.”

Adds Dave about the author: “She couldn’t have been more accommodating and gracious. Arranged it on a whim.”

Way to go, South Dakota!

—TAS

Keep ‘Ghosting The News’ Handy, Even If You Know The Story

Over the weekend, I read Margaret Sullivan’s “Ghosting The News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy.”

The Relevance Project recommends buying it (retails for $15.99), especially if you plan to opine on the state of newspapers anytime soon. 

All of us at NAM live each day what Sullivan eloquently writes about. So, you might not learn something new.

But the media columnist of The Washington Post captures the current state of journalism, newspapering and digital directions in a breezy 105-page book published by Columbia Global Reports. You can compose your relevant talking points — with credit, of course — in an efficient manner.

It’s all there in one place — the tenuous good, the unmerciful bad and stinging ugly. Least anyone think the five-chapter-plus-introduction-and-conclusion paperback is only a downer, journalist Sullivan acknowledges: “But I’m certainly not without hope.”

I’ll have other Relevant Points to offer on “Ghosting The News.” If anyone wants a fuller commentary, just ask.  

—TAS

Keeping The Journalist’s Toolbox Handy During The Pandemic

The Society of Professional Journalists updates its Journalist’s Toolbox as conditions continue to change during the pandemic.  Good on NAM members for calling attention in newsletters, Web sites and publications to relevant resources to help keep our people safe. The SPJ site aggregates guides from all over the world. Plenty to pick as you keep the toolbox handy. Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. Finding fresh ways to highlight safeguards is another Relevance play. 

Thanks to our colleagues in California for the SPJ tout.

Fundraising Information For Newspapers In One Place? Priceless

Congratulations to NAM member Local Media Association for launching the Center for Journalism Funding with Google dollars. Among the center’s goals: “Strengthen the understanding and capabilities of local news organizations regarding fundraising programs and working with philanthropic organizations to support journalism projects.”

The Relevance Project agrees that finding funders to support newspaper causes isn’t easy. We need all the help we can get, especially as America and Canada need more journalists.

Also, eagerly looking forward in August to seeing LMA’s NewsFuel, a platform that matches funders with journalism projects. Hope this helps NAM associations’ foundations as well in their admirable missions to be super-relevant to their members.

PS: Congrats to NAM members the News Media Alliance, America’s Newspapers and the National Newspaper Association on today’s introduction in Congress of  The Local Journalism Sustainability Act. Just saw the news. 

—TAS

Ownership Trend Is Worth Underscoring

Noting this sentence in The Wall Street Journal’s July 13th story about hedge-fund manager Chatham Asset Management coming out the winner for McClatchy Co.:

“A sale to Chatham would mean roughly one-third of all newspapers sold in the U.S. each day are published by companies controlled by financial institutions.”

Meanwhile, McClatchy DC’s story adds this Canadian connection, known by NAM members in that country:

Chatham is the majority owner* of Canada’s largest news chain, Ottawa-based Postmedia Network Canada Corp. 

*The Journal story called the fund manager’s position a “large stake.”

—TAS

Hang Out In Twitter And Everyone Will Know Your Name

If you need added proof that Twitter is a journalist’s hangout, check out the string of comments prompted by TV news guy Zachary Downes’ question posted on July 12:

Why did you become a journalist? Wrong answers only.

When I last checked Twitter, retweets had soared passed 3,100 and likes exceeded 2,300. Downes is a producer at WFTV in Orlando, FL.

Some answers are funny. (“To marry a member of Congress?” “Couldn’t do enough math to be a meteorologist.” “A glass of wine can change a lot of things.”) References to pay, hours, complainers, social media, and wealth dominate the responses. 

In a pandemic, you gotta find alternative places when the bars and restaurant remain closed. And where to attempt a conversation. Or draw a crowd. 

—TAS

Localize The National Campaign To Show Greater Relevance

Cheers to America’s Newspapers for its latest campaign promoting newspapers as the trusted source for advertising in the communities they serve. It provides a timely rallying call for newspapers as a much better investment than Facebook. It also complements The Relevance Project’s emerging NEWSPAPER ADS WORK series. (Look for a new release soon.)

SUGGESTION: NAM members could localize AN’s campaign at the state/province level to be even more relevant. Get 5 to 10 (or more) examples of your newspapers experiencing explosive audience growth while covering the pandemic. Then, tell that story by pointing to the growth to show community newspapers have both the best audience AND the valued trust because they’re LOCAL. Add the impressive local impact to the AN message. In essence, YOUR newspapers are BETTER than Facebook.

AN OFFER: I’m willing to champion a NAM-wide relevance message if each association sends me the best example of audience growth among its members. IMAGINE MORE THAN 50 EXAMPLES ACROSS NORTH AMERICA.  I could work with our partners at Metro Creative Graphics on such a promotional play. Our huddle is on Tuesdays. 

Thanks for considering. And thanks again to America’s Newspapers for its consistent advocacy.

—TAS

Don’t Back Off Quality, Especially In Challenging Times

“There’s nothing to read in the newspaper.”

Ouch.

That’s a killer complaint, especially coming from a longtime subscriber.

Now what?

Try predicting how your member newspapers would respond?

Is it:

  • A. Sorry, we wish we could print more news but print advertising has declined.
  • B. Our reporters were on furlough last week. We’re still looking to replace the city hall reporter who left six months ago.
  • C. We had to trim newsprint costs to make budget. Corporate, you know.
  • D. Tell us what you’re looking for as we want you to remain a loyal subscriber.
  • E. Go to our website.

Earning more reader revenue from subscriptions should be matched with improving the quality of the newspaper. There will be strain and pain, but it’s the best solution.

Watching companies eliminate days of publications makes you wonder if that move is instinctively matched with improved news reports for the remaining newspapers that are printed.

If not, it’s only cost cutting.

And that’s a downward spiral.

Cheers to those using improve quality as a way to fight back. May the industry be with you.

I remember after a desperate period of cutting pages, this publisher received a card. Attached to it was a pair of tiny boots, with this handwritten note.

“If you’re going to die, then die with these on.”

The point:

March on with a quality newspaper that meets your reader needs.

Even when things are tough.

The reader who got my attention was right.

It’s the way out — and up.

—TAS

Newspaper Power Campaign Enters Phase II

Part II of the NEWSPAPER POWER Campaign starts a series of advertising categories where research confirms strong results for newspaper advertisers. NAM members can adapt the campaign in their sales pitches to local advertisers. The initial set of five categories is based on data supplied by Coda Ventures, which has worked with NAM members to provide readership studies. The promotions were created by Metro Creative Graphics as part of The Relevance Project. We thank our two partners for their collaboration with NAM. Stay tuned for Part III.

CLICK HERE to see or download all ads in the series.