MPA welcomes new President

FROM THE MPA PRESIDENT—Vicki Russell
At midnight, Dec. 31, did you celebrate the arrival of 2009 or, blessedly, the conclusion of 2008? Was that
not the year that just wouldn’t end?
As we tread carefully into the New Year, unsure of what might befall our economy next, we are faced with enormous
challenges, certainly. Now, more than ever, we must collectively become more discerning about defining and explaining those problems.
I was astonished by the many news stories last year, often published in major dailies, reporting matter-of-factly that our industry is in the last throes of death. Those of you who were doing just fine, thank you, prior to the economic
meltdown, surely winced along with me at our virtual obituaries.
Unfortunately, the message is filtering down and the public is beginning to believe it. If we don’t react appropriately, we could be talked out of business.
Yes, many newspaper companies are in trouble, but that trouble was brewing long before the financial markets collapsed. Specifically, the problem is debt.
I’ve lost track of how many times some nearby Missouri newspapers have been bought and sold. You can bet there was new debt piling up with each transaction, and the situation is made worse by the economy.
Nonetheless, many newspapers in this state were finding ways to meet increasing competition prior to the
economic collapse, and they will — as newspapers have done through other Dark Eras — fight their way through
the current one.
Without going into too much analysis here and now, I think it’s high time for our industry to stop leaving the reporting of our “condition” to others and to start providing the bigger picture. If we don’t stand up for us, who will?
In the coming months, with the help of various entities, I hope to help craft ready-to-use talking points, marketing
materials, revenue-generating ideas and other tools for our members.
Newspapers doing their jobs properly continue to enjoy community loyalty and trust at levels that make our competitors salivate. Most of us have a great story to tell. (And don’t forget: The economic and competitive pressures we face are similarly tough for our broadcast and electronic counterparts. Yahoo announced a big layoff at the end of 2008; a number of broadcast media companies are swimming in debt while competition grows.)
As I tiptoe into my new role as the president of this organization, I hope to bring our members together in new and creative ways to help our industry thrive. We need each other and our country needs us more than ever. So let’s
get to ’splainin.’
And speaking of needing each other … My hat’s off to Jack Whitaker, publisher of the Hannibal Courier-Post, for his intrepid leadership as president of Missouri Press in 2008. He set the bar high for his successors.
Please remember to make time for regional association meetings this year, where we will be developing
and sharing some of our tools for newspapers. We need all the muscle we can get, and your ideas are critical. The first regional meeting is the Northwest Press Association, Jan. 22 and 23.
Make reservations promptly.
Judging of the Nebraska Press Association contest will be Feb. 6 in Columbia. We want the Nebraskans to do a good job judging our contest entries, and this is our part of the bargain. Judges have been harder to come by in recent years, so please recruit some fellow members and join us. There’s a bonus:
Maybe you’ll find some good ideas to “borrow.”

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