Looking For A Few Good Community Forum Sites

As your point person for The Relevance Project, I inherited the framework of an initiative called the “Community Forum.” With the help of a consultant, a new mission for NAM members was proposed: “To define the new Community Forum for a better democracy and as a platform for local print advertising.”

That was presented in early 2019.

Zoom —no pun, intended — to today. 

Both are urgent actions. 

Few could argue that America and its states are in need of civil, civic discourse to guide positive change. 

Many newspapers, cut off from revenue in the COVID-19 shutdown, also face cutbacks or closing. I’ve heard this over and over in my chats with executive directors of our associations. 

But there’s this reality:  

It’s impossible to approach the Community Forum strategy as a one-size fits throughout NAM. For starters, a consensus doesn’t exist. 

So, I’m asking for help from you, our associations:

Who would work with me on exploring how newspapers can best lead their communities by being the forum for civil discourse that can lead to solutions?

I’d like to start there. And once a strategy is crafted, we can then focus on how to support it financially — that’s the “platform” for revenue mentioned in the mission above.

Do that quickly, I know, I know.

As publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, I worked with a talented staff to organize 78 Public Squares — civil civic conversations about issues of importance to RTD readers and our communities in general — over 15 years. 

Civil conversations are inspiring. 

When backed with trusted journalism, they can make a difference.

They’re also needed now more than ever.

I just need one volunteer to get going.

Thanks in advance. 


‘Support Local News’ Boosts Us, Our Industry

The Support Local News initiative has a relevant connection to NAM. It will maintain a directory of newspapers as a resource where interested parties can link to our members’ web sites for information about subscriptions and advertising, and even stick around to read local news.

With one provision: NAM members need to ensure their newspapers are on the site.

The NAM site itself has an efficient directory of each press/newspaper association that’s a member.

But to build an all-encompassing site with information about each association’s newspapers would be a massive project. 

Thanks to the Support Local News site and NAM member LocalMedia Association, we don’t have to do that. Cheers to the NAM newspapers that are on the new site for the world to see — and better yet, connect. Collaboration is a part of The Relevance Project. So is supporting local news.


Journalists Are First-Responders, Too

Inspiring messages are flowing from NAM members about the deep ramifications of the ongoing pandemic and civil unrest. In particular, I thought Chuck Champion in California eloquently captured a powerful image — Journalists are among our communities’ first-responders. 

After I emailed Chuck a thumbs-up on the California News Publishers Association’s Statement on Journalists and Coverage, he sent me another version that advocated “it’s time to officially classify reporters as first responders.” 

Think about it.

That’s a heckuva story to tell because we all know journalists, and their supporting staffs at newspapers throughout the country, are essential to their communities. 

Read Chuck’s entire commentary here. It was written as he takes over as the new CEO of the CNPA (Congratulations!).

Responding to Civil Unrest 2020

10 Relevant Actions Press Associations Can Consider
Written on Monday, June 1

  1. Localize the Michigan Press Association’s guidelines (shared earlier on the NAM listserv) on press rights in covering protests. 
  2. Organize a follow-up conference/ZOOM call with your association members and an association-designated counsel to explain/elaborate on the legalities and legal safeguards. 
  3. Share the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press advice on how to cover protests (Michigan’s email included a click-thru). Consider doing interviews with experienced journalists on their techniques. 
  4. Track and record on your Web site the attacks on journalists in your state. Keep score. Share the stories. Announce updates. 
  5. Publish first-person accounts from reporters and photographers on the front lines covering protests and unrest. Turn them into videos that can be collected under the banner of Journalism’s First-Responders. 
  6. Invite your governor to speak to members via ZOOM or a conference call on what the state is doing to ensure the safety of our journalists as well as other related issues. 
  7. Encourage your members to invite local officials and police chiefs to speak to your members on how both sides can do their jobs to serve the public. Post those stories on association web sites. 
  8. Gather all comments from readers in support of journalists and the member newspapers, with the intention of composing a statewide message/”house ad” that can be shared and touted.
  9. Consider sending out suggested commentaries from the News Media Alliance and America’s Newspapers, such as the joint statement with the National Newspaper Association. Better yet, match with your own perspective full of local details and facts. 
  10. Continue to use the NAM listserv to share great ideas, best practices and techniques. Several have already done so. Thank you. 


Find ‘Relevant Points’ Here

The Relevance Project now has a home online. Welcome.

Here, in this blog space, you will find Relevant Points — items of interest, advice and suggestions, noted best practices and success stories, and updates about this NAM initiative. 

I’ll post as needed. I hope you will check in when you have a free moment. I

f I have a special mission, it’s to help you and your association. 

My goal is to keep the updates effective, short and to the point. As this forum develops, please let me know what you think. Stay true to NAM’s collaborative strength and send your guidance this way. 

Finally, I noticed that when I type together the initials of my first and last name, the email system automatically injects: Thanks for sharing. 

It’s a natural act.