In times of cutbacks, I’m learning

…certain cuts should never be made.
It was about eight or nine years ago when I was named to the Missouri Press board. If you didn’t know, the full board meets three times per year. My first board meeting, I pretty much smiled and nodded my head — didn’t say a word. I was surrounded by veterans Bill Miller, Bill James and others. Second meeting, I think I coughed once and threw in an “aye” here and there. I went into the third meeting telling myself “say something this time!” I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I knew I was going to at least utter one darned sentence. I was just waiting to comment on something, anything.
Well, we started reviewing MPA’s annual numbers — revenue, expenses — a lengthy, line-by-line list of everything. Like any responsible organization, we were at the “looking at our costs” phase of the meeting, reviewing expenses and seeing if there was anything we could cut for the financial health of MPA and its members.
I finally spoke up. What did I say?
“What if we cut out the monthly Missouri Press News magazine?” (Yes, this magazine that
you’re reading now). To say that I could hear a pin drop would be an understatement. Everyone around the table went from looking down at the financials to deliberately looking directly at me, almost at half-speed it seemed.
Bolivar publisher Dave Berry glared at me like a scene in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” He was Clint Eastwood, and I had just shot his horse.
Berry squinted and spoke in a calm, raspy voice. “You can’t cut the magazine.”
Yikes. Sorry I mentioned it. Point well taken, Clint.
Berry talked about how important it is for Missouri Press members to see positive news about themselves and their newspapers, IN PRINT, every month.
At the time, I really didn’t get it. I just saw a $$$ number, and wanted to cut it.
Like most newspapers across the country, my paper has had to make cutbacks. Some were easier than others, of course. Due to drastic increases in newsprint, we had to cut some of our content. After much deliberation, we cut our horoscopes section and a few other items. We had a few calls and emails, which we don’t take lightly. However, the number was limited, because we asked for a variety of input and did a lot of research with readers.
If an outside consultant or a major newspaper corporation would have studied our newspaper, it would have insisted that we also eliminate our Religion page. Why? Because if they’re looking at the raw, bottom-line numbers, they would immediately note the substantial lack of advertising on that page. Besides our Editorial page — which has 100% copy and 0% advertising — no page in our entire publication earns less than our Religion page.
Now I’m feeling like I’m starting to get what Berry was talking about. While many press associations could do without their monthly
magazine, it was important for us to continue it in Missouri. It’s what the readers WANT.
Readers of my paper want a Religion page. They want a Bible verse every week. Can they get that information elsewhere? Obviously. But we found they want that from us.
Further, while I used to quickly view the MPA magazine for about five minutes, I now read it from cover to cover. My favorite part — the “Scrapbook.” It tells brief success stories of other Missouri newspapers. Last month I learned about a lot of out-of-the-box ideas going on in our state, (which I can use) from papers such as the Hannibal Courier-Post, Lincoln County Journal, Versailles Leader-Statesman, Rolla Daily News and many more.

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