NNA’s newspaper summit a must for community publications

February 1, 2013

By Chip Hutcheson
Region 3 Director

There’s an idea being floated around these days that is intended to help people be more productive. For the majority of folks who find there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish what you would like, you might examine your schedule and ask, “Why would I do that?”
The reasoning? By asking that question, you determine where you want to devote your time and energies. Most likely one finds that the most important tasks you could do are squeezed out by distracting and unproductive ones.
That question is particularly important when you weigh your decision on whether to attend the National Newspaper Association’s We Believe in Newspapers Leadership Summit. Why would you do that—why attend this summit? Because it’s the right thing for your newspaper and it’s the right thing for our industry. In Kentucky horse racing parlance, we would say that’s hitting the daily double.
Your presence is needed. Postmaster General Pat Donahoe will speak to our group in the morning of March 14, and an overflow crowd would send a strong message that newspapers want to have their voices heard when it comes to postal decisions that affect the way we do business.
With a financial crisis affecting the USPS right now, newspapers cannot afford to sit idly by and allow proposals that will adversely affect us to gain any foothold. The PMG needs to hear loud and clear our opposition to such things as the Negotiated Service Agreement with Valassis Direct Mail, which may take advertising out of your newspaper. He needs to understand how ending Saturday mail delivery will not only have an adverse effect on many newspapers, but potentially force some newspapers to leave the mail stream altogether in favor of carriers.
And your involvement in voicing our concerns to legislators is sorely needed.
For those unaccustomed to making personal visits to their members of Congress, NNA will provide a briefing as well as talking points and leave-behind pieces. For those who feel uncomfortable about meeting with a legislator, NNA will make every effort to have someone accompany you who can help in the conversation. All you have to do is tell your story about how the postal situation affects you. You’ll be given directions and any other information necessary to make your visits go smoothly.
In some instances, you might not get to see your representatives. But you would be able to meet with a staffer, and that is important. Don’t consider it a lost cause if your senator or representative has another commitment and cannot meet with you personally.
If there was ever a time for the newspaper industry to exert influence in Washington, it is now.
NNA President Merle Baranczyk and Chief Executive Officer Tonda Rush have mentioned on numerous occasions that when NNA goes to Capitol Hill, word travels quickly from office to office among the staffers who work on our issues. But more than a handful of people are required. We need numbers. If we have a strong contingent, it becomes obvious that we are firmly committed to our issues and our influence multiplies. Members of Congress are prone to listen to those who knock on their doors. They believe that if you are really concerned about an issue, you’ll show up at their office and plead your case.
Consider how your newspaper operates. Your advertising reps are much more successful when they meet face-to-face with advertisers. No one doubts that approach is far better than just making a phone call or sending an e-mail.
And what about the cost? NNA has eyed every aspect of this summit to make it more feasible and affordable. In past years this conference lasted several days and was headquartered at a Washington hotel. Now it has been pared to one day and moved to a convenient—and less expensive—location near Reagan International Airport (the Crystal City Marriott). Fly into Reagan and you can get a free shuttle from the airport to the hotel.
In the final analysis, there really isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t do it. There is too much riding on its success for you to miss it.
chiphutcheson@timesleader.net

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