Community Journalism

Good news: 73 percent say they read community newspapers

Here’s some good news to help you face the new year with optimism: The National Newspaper Association has released results of a new study that shows (insert drum roll here) – 73 percent of people in smaller communities say they read their local newspaper at least once a week. And they’re not just skimming; 78 percent claim that they read all or most of their newspaper. What else? Readers share their paper with 3.34 persons (let us know if you find that .34 of a person), 41 percent keep their paper for six or more days, and they spend 37.5 minutes reading their papers. The study surveyed readers of papers with circulations of 8,000 or fewer.


Simple formula can help publishers develop annual ad revenue forecast

As the year rapidly comes to a close, many publishers, GM’s and ad directors at community newspapers are putting the final touches on their 2011 ad revenue and budget forecasts.  And undertaking the forecasting endeavor can be a challenging, even frustrating process at times.

Over the years, I have developed a quick and easy template that helps develop ad revenue goals which then flow easily into an overall annual ad revenue and budget forecast.

Using the following formula to double-check or create an advertising revenue and budget forecast will save lots of time and effort while motivating sales teams and serving as a compass when navigating a tough economic environment.

Ad revenue goals, whether monthly and/or quarterly and/or annually, are all developed at the same time that annual ad revenue and budget goals are developed. In other words, 12 monthly 2011 individual monthly ad revenue goals for each territory or account list actually flow into the development of the total 2011 ad revenue goal (department wide) and ad budget.

For best results, a forecast is developed for every month in a given sales territory or account list. Additional items could be added or substituted (such as web page hosting revenue). Ad revenue goal revisions should and will take place over the course of the year due to market changes that may occur.

Ideally, each month is initially developed by the salesperson and subsequently reviewed and jointly agreed upon by salesperson and manager. The participation of the sales staff in this process helps motivate the staff, inasmuch as their input is included as part of setting goals for their territory or account list. Here's the formula:

Sample January 2011 Ad Goal Forecast for Downtown Territory

2010 January Actual ROP Ad Revenue:  $00,000

Anticipated '11 Ad Rate Increase + (plus) X%

2011 January Calendar Changes + (gain) Sunday. – (lose) Friday

Color, Commercial Printing, Online Revenue + (plus) $$$$

(e.g. Additional Non-ROP Ad Revenue)

January Special Sections

+ Community Resource Guide, Dollar Days + (plus) $$$$

Declines/Out of Business/Political – (minus) $$$$

Opportunities/New Businesses and/or Accounts + (plus) $$$$

Territory Growth Factor


2011 January Revenue Goal $00,000

Newswriting Reporting

How to develop a ‘document state of mind’ in the newsroom

Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, discusses how to create a “document state of mind” in the newsroom of a community newspapers. Mark’s instruction is adapted from a workshop hosted by the Texas Center for Community Journalism on investigative reporting at community newspapers.

Newswriting Reporting

How to bulletproof your news story

Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, teaches how to “bulletproof” a news story. Mark’s instruction is adapted from a workshop hosted by the Texas Center for Community Journalism on investigative reporting at community newspapers.


How to get public information that people don’t want to give you

Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, shares tips on getting public information that officials don’t want to release. Mark’s instruction is adapted from a workshop hosted by the Texas Center for Community Journalism on investigative reporting at community newspapers.


Memories of one of Texas journalism’s greats

The following blogpost was written by Sonya Cisneros, a former student of Phil Record, who was a consultant on ethics to the Center in addition to being a professional in residence at the Schieffer School of Journalism.  Phil has many friends in newsrooms throughout Texas, so we thought you would enjoy reading Sonya’s piece on one of Texas journalism’s greats. 

And just an additional professional note:  Read Sonya’s piece as an example of a well-done personal recollection feature.  Note her use of show, don’t-tell detail and dialogue and a small-moments narrative to make the story sparkle with life.

The question was simple: “Butterscotch or Chocolate?”

I managed a half-hearted smile. The last time I had eaten lunch at Carshon’s Delicatessen was with Phil Record, reporter, longtime editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, professor, and my friend. Phil died suddenly Oct. 31. He was 81.

He always always ordered dessert. “Don’t tell my wife,” he would say, as his fork plunged into meringue piled up-to-there. I will forever miss our lunch dates.

The first assignment Phil posed to my ethics class at TCU was to provide him with three “absolutes”––any truth relative to our lives. I know he gained particular pleasure from this exercise.

Some students offered, “I will never lie.” Others, “I will never steal.” Phil challenged many of us to rethink our answers or passionately defend our beliefs––to the point where some stormed out in frustration. The conversations in his classroom were not easy. He told us to expect that from the very beginning, when he introduced himself as the “M.O.B” (Mean Old Bastard, a nickname earned from an early student evaluation form for his class).

My absolute? “I will never stop learning.” That, he said, was a first time response for him. The lessons I learned from Phil––the importance of integrity, fairness and living as a model of Christian faith––transcend the classroom. They are the lessons I will share with my children one day. When I do, I will think of him.

Phil made time to help others.

Fr. Luke Robertson, T.O.R., a priest at St. Andrew Catholic Church, once said during Mass, “When you pray, move your feet.” There could not have been a better example of this than Phil.

It isn’t enough to wish the world better. Phil knew that. This year, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition reports 2,022 homeless people were identified in Fort Worth emergency shelters and transitional housing programs; 30 percent are children.

Who will help? Phil spent many hours mentoring the students at Cassata High School, which was founded to help young people who struggled to succeed in a traditional high school setting.

To say that Phil was an active member of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church is a gross understatement. Parishioners shared stories at his vigil of how he helped them find faith, comforted a young woman after her father’s death, or simply made a young boy feel welcomed and important.

I was stunned by these stories, not only deeply saddened that this great man, a journalism legend and personal hero was no longer with us, but at the profound impact he had on so many lives. One woman said, “Mr. Record was a saint, little ‘s.’” I am certain he was.

During our lunch dates, I usually begged him to re-tell the story about his involvement in the Warren Commission or about his early years covering the police beat. I also enjoyed hearing stories about his family whom he loved very much. I hung on every word.

The young women in his classroom once nicknamed him, “The Heartbreaker,” after he showed us photos of himself reporting from a crime scene. He bashfully protested and his face turned as red as the sweater he often wore. “There was only one––Pat,” he said. At that point, we all wanted to marry a man like Phil Record.

His life should be an inspiration to everyone to live better, to help one another.

I ordered chocolate pie that afternoon at Carshon’s. After that first, heavenly bite, I looked across the table at my friend, another former student of Phil’s. He and I both had tears in our eyes. God help us all be more like Phil.

Community Journalism Online news

A lesson from Walla Walla: it’s all about people

If you want to see the potential of your web product to draw in readers (and therefore advertisers), check out this project from a rural newspaper in Washington State, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. It’s basically stories and slideshows profiling Walla Walla residents. When you go to the site, click on the “About the Project” link to get the background on what they’re doing. Katrina Barlow of the Union-Bulletin explains it in this way: “Last year, I fell in love with a New York Times multimedia series called ‘One in 8 Million.’ Each weekly episode featured an everyday New Yorker, who shared something about his or her occupation or lifestyle. I realized that characters like those New Yorkers, who were so full of charisma and verve, lived in rural areas. The Walla Walla Valley is full of people who have remarkable stories. This is our attempt to highlight these untold stories.”

Facebook Social media

How your paper can make the best use of your Facebook page

A few years ago, most of us thought of Facebook as something our kids were into. And now, here we are, with a Facebook page for our paper – and lots of us are still trying to figure out how to make the best use of social media in covering the news. If that sounds like you, check out this article in the blog Journalistics. Writer Kim Wilson gives eight ways your newsroom can make better use of Facebook. And it’s practical stuff, like always including a link with your post, posting every two hours, reading and responding to comments, and the like. And do you know what’s the best time of day to post to take advantage of Facebook’s peak times? Check out this article to find out.


Digital first experiment can’t be ignored by community newspapers

We journalists have always recognized the tendency to kill the messenger – because people often take out their frustrations on those who tell them what they don’t want to hear.

The messenger is not the cause of the bad tidings, but it’s easier to blame that messenger than to change the event he or she is reporting.

John Paton, CEO of the Journal Register group of newspapers, delivered a message last week that many Texas community newspapers might not want to hear – but it’s an important message we should all pay attention to.

Paton, in a speech to the Transformation of News Summit in Cambridge, Mass., put on by the International Newsmedia Marketing Association, said newspapers need to be “digital first” in everything they do.

Paton is no ivory-tower news philosopher. The Journal Register group has been living by that principle for the past year. The result: a company that was virtually bankrupt a year ago will have profit margins of about 15 percent this year.

The Journal Register has no papers in Texas – it publishes about 170 daily and weekly papers in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. And its total online audience is bigger than its print audience. Paton’s approach has been to outsource everything he can to other companies who can do it cheaper or better and to put the digital editions at the heart of his business.

The staff of the Center urges Texas publishers and other journalists to read what Paton has to say. Admittedly, he is talking about a newspaper group with some unique circumstances half a nation away. We’re certainly not urging most Texas publishers to adopt the Journal Register business model. But based on all the evidence we see, that model is the future.

Not today’s future, or tomorrow’s, or maybe even the next few years – but the inevitable future for what we now know as newspapers.

Even the Journal Register company still publishes ink-on-paper editions, but the core of their enterprise is now digital.

So take a few minutes to read Paton’s explanation of what his company has done. This explanation goes into the background of their decision to go digital-first and how they pulled it off.

And while the core of the enterprise for most of us is still print and will be for the foreseeable future, we must pay attention to ventures like this and give some thought to the digital transformation we will all eventually undergo.

Business of News

Survey says: Publishers believe ad revenues will rise

You can choose as to whether this is a half-full or half-empty glass. A survey just released by Cribb Greene and Associates indicates that 51 percent of 239 smaller-market publishers surveyed believe ad revenue will be up next year. But that’s down from 71 percent in the spring survey. This survey is certainly worth checking out as an indication of what publishers are thinking. Other interesting stats: 43 percent would consider outsourcing printing, up from 32 percent; 50 percent believe profits will be the same or better as in the past; and 86 percent believe their local economies are improving or stable. Cribb Greene is the oldest newspaper and publication brokerage in the nation.