10 That Do It Right. (2024)

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Ten that do it right? Are there even five newspapers that can claimwith a straight face that they do it "right" these days? In atime when nearly every paper has been clobbered by plunging ad revenueand declining circulation, when layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs are theorder of the day, when six newspaper companies are in bankruptcy andothers are reeling under massive debt -- is anybody in this industrydoing it right?

The short and encouraging answer is, yes.

Shrunken newsroom staffs are producing some amazing work thatshines a light on corruption or just makes a reader glad she picked upthe paper. Harried salespeople are finding new revenue sources inunlikely corners of their markets. Even as R&D budgets disappear,newspapers create new and engaging products, both online and in print.

This is E&P's ninth annual "10 That Do It Right"feature, and the second time we've asked newspapers to nominatethemselves if they think they're excelling in a particular area. Wealso considered others who did not throw their hat in the ring. Asalways, this is not a Top 10 or "best-of" list, but rather acollection of newspapers that are doing one particular thing very well(sometimes more than one thing), and merit recognition for that effortand achievement.

None of the papers that made the list or were seriously consideredhas escaped the turmoil of the industry. In fact, one of them, the StarTribune in Minneapolis, is among the papers in bankruptcyreorganization. Nearly all have endured deep cuts to their newsrooms.

In fact, a couple of papers say the way they handled hard timesqualifies as doing it right. Susan Holley of The Item in Sumter, S.C.,cited her general manager, Larry Miller, for making the tough butnecessary decisions to drop the Monday edition and outsource printing.Those decisions helped retain jobs at fair pay while making seriouschanges, she maintains.

Roger Plothow, the Post Register's publisher, submitted 10reasons the Idaho Falls daily deserves consideration. No. 8: "Wesurvive difficulty." Because the Post Register is suffering thesame revenue collapse as its peers, Plothow says, he's had to letgo a "high-profile and superb executive editor" and eliminateits Monday edition -- 12 years after finally achieving a seven-daypublication schedule.

Core competenciesOne of the most striking patterns that emergedfrom the self-nominees is the passion that remains for print. Dailiesand alt-weeklies sounded the theme that they had not given up on the"paper" part of "newspaper."

Michael J. Wnek, for instance, says he was drawn from Gannett Co.to Blueline Media Holdings LLC in Wisconsin because of owner PaulSeveska's commitment to the Shawano Leader as a print product. Inaddition to making design changes and adding a localized special editionon Sundays, the Leader's investment in a comprehensive sales andmarketing plan has reversed home-delivery losses and, in the first halfof 2009, increased revenue 5.8%.

To revive its print product, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin switched toa compact format from a broadsheet, and ended its all-day publicationschedule. "Street sales are up about 10% year-over-year, and homesubscriptions have also increased," reports Editor FrankBridgewater, noting the paper faces stiff competition from theGannett-owned Honolulu Advertiser.

In Palmdale, Calif., the Antelope Valley Press is growing circ theold-fashioned way: keeping prices low, says Editor Dennis Anderson. Evenas metros across the nation ratchet up single-copy prices, the Pressremains at 50 cents on weekdays and $1.50 on Sundays. What's more,it slashed its home delivery price.

Subscriptions are up about 3% in the last year, while rack salesare up 8% from two years ago. "All the emphasis has been on thecore product, the newspaper," adds Anderson.

The Midland (Texas) Reporter Telegram also takes a basic approach,says Circulation Manager Rick Forepaugh. It concentrated on the twocategories advertisers most like: paid-in-advance home delivery andsingle copy. The approximately 20,000-circulation Reporter Telegram wasthe Lone Star State's fastest-growing daily in the most recentAudit Bureau of Circulation FAS-FAX. Forepaugh adds, "Absolutely nofluff such as [Newspaper in Education] or bulk sales added to oursuccess."

Cory O. Arcarese, vice president of circulation at The Gazette inColorado Springs, Colo., reports circ revenue is up by double digits, asa "young, super-smart and motivated" team has won the deliverycontracts for nearly every print product in the market. Similarly, atthe Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, Editor in Chief Kevin Hoffmansays his "young and savvy" staff is "defying theconventional wisdom that newspapers are dying." Readership is up --in print as well as online, he reports.

Glossy resultsThe Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Mass., has plentyof irons in the digital fire -- including the fledgling ET-TV thatprovides live coverage of notable news events. But the50,000-circulation paper is finding most of its revenue success rightnow in expanding print. In the last year it has launched glossymagazines for the Andover area and Cape Ann, reworked its TV book andrelaunched its total-market-coverage product as an entertainment guide.

"The new publications have been a challenge but a good one,tapping a new revenue stream and energizing the staff by giving them anew outlet for their creative talents," says Publisher Al Getler.

TransitionsOther papers, though, maintain they're doing itright by leaping into the digital future.

Last year, E&P listed USA Today among its "Magnificent10" for its innovative social-media offerings targeting businessand recreational travelers. "CruiseLog" and "Today in theSky" are still doing fine, the paper says, noting that it has addedsimilar vertical niche sites for hotels and games. And if you'vegot an iPhone -- there's a USA Today app for that.

With print classified quickly becoming an endangered species, fiveLee Enterprises newspapers banded together to create sellitmt.com, whichaggregates all the classifieds from the Montana dailies and theirshopper siblings. There was no soft launch for sellitmt, notes AllynCalton, director of marketing and niche publications for BillingsGazette Communications. But the promotion paid off: The site nowaverages 6,000 items for sale, and attracts more than 10,000 uniquevisitors a month.

The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., which made the "10"list in 2004, is also leaping into the future -- but is looking topreserve the more lucrative print franchise as well. To reach busyreaders, it now publishes a front-page spadia that includes everythingreaders need to know in a hurry.

Referring to The Miami Herald's quick-read page, P-N ExecutiveEditor David Newhouse points out, "This is the entire newspaper inminiature, from a 'front page' right down to obits and puzzles-- in a single sheet that readers can grab and go."

There are content changes inside, too. Newhouse says stories areeither very brief for the sort of news everyone has already heard beforeopening the paper, or long for "enterprise reporting, perspective,analysis or human interest stories that readers didn't see on TV oronline."

The Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press did not nominate itselfthis year -- it was among the "10" in 2003 -- but its contentapproach in one area is worthy of note again. In 2008, it was surely theonly newspaper in America that endorsed Barack Obama and John McCain forpresident.

The dual endorsem*nt is one result of the quirky merger a decadeago of the liberal-leaning Times and the more conservative Free Press.While the newsrooms of the morning and evening papers combined, theeditorial pages stayed on their separate paths -- preaching fromdistinctly different prayer books.

"I'm surprised that others haven't followed ourlead," says Publisher/ Executive Editor Tom Griscom. Opposingeditorial voices not only offer a choice of views to readers, he says --they also make it hard for anyone to claim its news coverage ispolitically biased. It must work some mojo: The Times Free Press was oneof the few metros to actually gain circulation this year.

In a year that was just as difficult for ethnic newspapers as forthe mainstream -- witness the flat performance of Spanish-languagepapers after years of furious growth -- the black- oriented St. LouisAmerican achieved its highest readership and distribution ever in 2008.At 70,000 free-distribution, the American is not only Missouri'slargest African-American weekly -- it's the second-largest weeklyof any kind in the Show-Me State.

One key to its success is likely what the Readership Institute hasidentified as the "I see myself in the pages" readershipdriver. On an average week, the paper runs 46 photos of local AfricanAmericans.

From those many indisputably doing it right, the following (see themain page of E&P's "In Print" section") madethis year's list, which includes papers that nominated themselvesand those that emerged from E&P staff suggestions.

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10 That Do It Right. (2024)


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