Increasing participation in association activities is first goal for 2008

As we begin a new year with a new association president, I thought it might be appropriate to share a little background information. My journey to the publisher’s office and ultimately to the MPA presidency, as is often the case, did not come through the news side.
Instead, I began my career in the Circulation Department of a family-owned major metro in Houston, Texas. The Houston Post traced its heritage to two brothers who, as Santa Anna marched from his successful siege of the Alamo to the fateful Battle of San Jacinto with Gen. Sam Houston, threw their printing press into Buffalo Bayou (that’s a small stream for those of you from the north) to prevent the Mexican army from using it. After the Mexicans were soundly defeated, the brothers returned, pulled the press out of the water, cleaned it up and resumed printing.
From that beginning to a big city daily of 400,000 circulation, The Houston Post distinguished itself for 110 years. I began verifying new subscriptions for the illustrious sum of $1.80/hour, minimum wage at the time. From Houston to Dallas to Lubbock, I worked over the next 27 years in circulation departments, leading those at the Dallas Times Herald and the Lubbock Avalanche Journal.
In 1997, I began to get restless and investigated becoming the publisher of a community newspaper. My wish was granted, and my wife, Sarah, and I moved to Hannibal, where I have faced the challenges all smaller newspapers face in these difficult times. But I love my work; I love Hannibal. And I love Missouri (even though Texas is still okay).
When I say that we are facing challenges, that is a significant understatement. Whether it be technological change, the changing advertising climate, or an increasingly difficult labor market, plenty of problems face all publishers.
And that is where the Missouri Press Association comes into play. This is an organization that has at its fingertips knowledge and resources that most of us could only wish for. The best part? Doug Crews and his staff are ready and willing to help each of us to be successful. Your association provides direct access to free expert legal advice, newspaper in education programs that are exceeded by none, sound postal advice, great sales support, excellent training opportunities and many, many more services.
Missouri Press sells ads to run in our newspapers and it lobbies hard in Jefferson City to preserve that which we feel is vital to a free society, especially government transparency.
The Missouri Press Association has been successful in the past in representing daily and weekly newspapers in this state. One challenge that we face, however, is convincing ALL newspapers around the state to participate regularly in their association. This is especially true of the larger dailies.
So my first goal for 2008 will be to increase participation by all newspapers. That means taking advantage of the services offered, participating in the advertising programs, attending meetings, contributing to training sessions (either by attending them or helping to organize and produce them), joining committees, and attending the annual Convention.
Speaking of annual meetings, this year’s should be excellent and packed with opportunities not normally available. If you have not already heard, the annual meeting will be held in Columbia from Sept. 11-13 in conjunction with the School of Journalism’s Centennial celebration. I promise it will be quite an event!
So I invite you to participate. If you aren’t an active member now, please let me know why. If you want to participate and don’t know how to get started, call me or call Doug Crews and we’ll assist you. You can reach me in Hannibal at 573-248-2701 or jack.whitaker@courierpost.com. Doug can be reached at the MPA office in Columbia at 573-449-4167 or dcrews@socket.net.

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