NNA keynote speaker: ‘The demand for what you do has never been higher’

“Newspapers are the backbone of educating Americans,” members of the National Newspaper Association were told Friday at the 125th annual convention of the organization in Albuquerque.

Dean Lowell Catlett of New Mexico State University was the keynote speaker for the opening session of the convention.

“The demand for what you do has never been higher,” Catlett said.

More than two dozen Texas newspaper men and women are at the convention.

Chad Ferguson of Columbus is the president of the Texas Press Association and carried the state flag during the opening ceremonies.

Postal issues top the convention agenda followed closely by digital programs.

Max Heath of Shelbyville, Kentucky, chairman of NNA’s postal committee had a session on problems related to USPS plans to close many more post offices in the near future.

Two Texas newspaper men are past presidents of the national organization including Jerry Tidwell, publisher of the Hood County News in Granbury and Roy J. Eaton, retired publisher of the Wise County Messenger in Decatur.

Another program set for Friday was “Beyond Libel”, which covered legal pitfalls in the digital age and how to avoid them. The convention ends Saturday afternoon.

Ask an Expert Questions and Answers

Do you ever send your sales representatives out as a collection agency?

When an account is 60-days past due, accounting takes a copy of the statement to the advertising sales manager and she or the sales representative call the past-due advertiser and put them on a “cash only” basis and try to encourage the customer to pay a portion of the past due with their cash payment for current advertising. The sales rep usually handles the first contact by telephone and occasionally makes a personal call on the advertiser. If not successful, the general manager gets involved and no further advertising is accepted.


Are ad-supported news sites “giving it away”? Not exactly

It’s a question as old as the newspaper industry.

Why should we give away our content?

As community newspapers face a new age of competition from the Internet, the question has become more relevant. For many of us, we have effectively been “giving it away” for years as local radio and television stations get their cues from our newspapers and crib the stories for their own use.

My argument for an active website is not “giving away” the content, but shifting the cost to the advertiser instead of the subscriber. Look that this question: “Which would I rater do, sell you a subscription for $35 a year, or sell an advertiser a daily ad on my Web site for $35 a week?” The math is simple: $35 a year from the subscriber or $1,820 a year from the advertiser.

I am convinced that once your webset “catches on” with the community, you can easily sell more than one ad for your daily news update. The site will be especially attractive during political season when local candidates want their names and pictures before the public every day — not just once or twice a week in your newspaper. And that is all cash business — a tremendous boost to your cash flow. Ask your advertising sales staff to work up “combination” packages for your print and Internet additions and it will result in “plus revenue” for your newspaper.

Why don’t you try it sometime? An election is a good opportunity. For the May 9 local city council and school board elections, put a house ad in your newspaper saying that you will have “live, up to the minute” election returns on your Web site. Ask an influential business leader — the local Ford dealer, a community bank, your hospital or the Dairy Queen — to be the “sponsor” of the live coverage. Make the price attractive, say $100.

After all, you won’t have those results in your weekly paper for four or five days. Even though you have shared the results with your readers on the Internet, your newspaper coverage can be fresh with interviews with the winners and losers as well as great photo coverage of the “courthouse stand-arounds” in the county clerk’s office on election night.

It’s an experiment worth trying — I think you’ll be very pleased with the results.


A culture of breaking news is essential in the online era

What happens when a major news story breaks in your hometown? Do you surrender the coverage to the near-by major market daily and television stations or do you “lead the coverage” through your web site, even though the story broke the day after you went to press.

The importance of developing a culture of covering “breaking news” on your web site was never more evident in early April when violent criminal activity broke in Wise County — a county of 60,000 persons a half-hour northwest of Fort Worth.

There had been an almost hour-long police chase of a man suspected of hit-and-run driving and car theft when the man, driving a stolen GMC Yukon, slammed into the back of a Bridgeport police car, ramming the car into a trailer and instantly killing Police Sgt. Randy White.

Reporters in the Wise County Messenger newsroom had been following the chase on police scanners when it came to a crashing halt in Bridgeport. Photographer Joe Duty, busy shooting a track meet, was alerted. General Manager Mark Jordan grabbed graphic artist Andrew May who also handles video for the paper and off they rushed to the accident site about 10 miles away from the newspaper office in Decatur.

That proximity gave them a good half-hour to hour jump on the big city newspapers and television stations. Working quickly, reporters Robert Morgan, Travis Measley, Denny Deady and Kristin Tribe got the story up on the newspapers “breaking news” page. Production Manager Todd Griffith kept updating the story with Duty’s photos from the scene. Video with the Department of Public Safety spokesman was on the web site before the metro television stations’ 5 p.m. newscasts.

Throughout the night and the next day the Messenger kept updating the story with more details and photographs. Wise County Sheriff David Walker, who had a helicopter at the scene, asked Duty to shoot crime scene photos — giving the newspaper the aerial coverage that could have been a television exclusive.

Later, Bridgeport police asked Duty to accompany them to DFW Airport to pick up the “honor flag” that is flown when a police officer or firefighter dies in the line of duty.

A dramatic cover in the Messenger’s Sunday April 5 edition of the police officers’ badge draped with black tape capped the newspapers coverage. The story began on page two with photos from the scene.

The culture of “breaking news” was also a headline-grabbing experience for Randy Mankin of the Eldorado Success in 2007 with the raids on the compound of alleged child abusers in Schleicher County.

In Randy’s case, newspapers and television stations from throughout the nation used his stories and some even “moved in” to the newspaper’s office during the siege.

What both these stories emphasize is the importance of building relationships with the law enforcement community. They learn to trust the local paper and when major stories hit, most policemen and firefighters will not forget those relationships.

I recently read a quote in theTCU Magazine from the great Sports Illustrated writer and author Dan Jenkins, who was asked to compare current TCU coach Gary Patterson with a couple of his great predecessors, Abe Martin and Dutch Meyer.

Jenkins said that times were different today and Patterson had to be more cautious with the media — but that wasn’t the case with Martin and Meyer. Of the reporters covering Meyer and Martin, Jenkins said “it was easier for them to make friends with the press and trust them. I was part of that. We weren’t scandal mongers and we knew what to write and they appreciated that. We earned their trust and therefore we came up with a lot of good information that we could eventually use when the time and atmosphere was right.”

To me, that is what community newspaper publishers editors, photographers and reporters do every day.

And when breaking news happens — and your newspaper is ready — it will pay off big time as we fulfill our responsibility to be the dominant source of information for the community.

See all of the Messenger‘s coverage about the death of Sgt. Randy White