From the SNPA President

Les Simpson: The barrage of sideline soothsayers is getting a little old


While scanning my e-mail last week, it appeared as if Editor and Publisher had resorted to "click bait" in subject lines to drive traffic.

"E&P Exclusive: Newspapers Should Be Transparent About Their Financial Challenges."

Before opening an e-mail containing such a demand, I attempted to think of a topic that is more well-known than the challenges our industry faces.

I constantly have people give me a sad look, put their hand on my shoulder and ask: "Are you OK?" A fellow publisher tells me of receiving sympathy cards.

It took a while ... a long while ... but I finally came up with something more renowned than challenges faced by newspapers. It's ... the Kardashians!

Listen, I'll be the first in line admitting the mistakes we've made over the years and that revolutionary change is needed.

But what is getting a little old is the barrage of sideline soothsayers who long ago left the newspaper business but still have all the answers. I guess it's a nice cottage industry if you can make it work.

But claiming newspapers haven't been transparent about our challenges? You have to be kidding me!

Public newspaper companies have their quarterly reports. Stories from our own newspaper brethren like The New York Times and USA Today always include terms like "double-digit declining revenue" and "shrinking circulation." And our competitors sure like to point it out.

What we need to do is make sure people know that newspapers and their ownership are fighting harder than ever before to preserve and protect our mission despite the headwinds and naysayers.

We are diversifying revenue through digital advertising, niche products, events and digital subscriptions. We are using video and photos in new and creative ways. Some have branched out in totally new endeavors that have nothing to do with our core business. And we are reaching larger audiences than ever before.

And we are vital to the communities we serve, both large and small.

Most newspapers are still profitable and leaders in local journalism.

To be effective, we must be financially sound. A free press isn't free unless it's profitable.

There are some exceptions, such as deciding to become a non-profit – like the Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner – or when profit may not be the most pressing need – like The Washington Post.

So far, these solutions are few and far between.

But telling us to be more transparent about our financial challenges with the public isn't going to help. It's like telling the beer industry to be more transparent about drunk driving and alcoholism!

What would help us are more allies and fewer critics.

In the end, our challenge isn't complex.

We simply need to learn how to pay for journalism while being financially stable.

And, while it may not seem like it, I believe we are getting closer every day because of the efforts of a lot of hard-working people who are sticking with us.

Les Simpson is publisher of the Amarillo Globe-News and president of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association.



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