Posted tagged ‘Hannibal Courier-Post’

In times of cutbacks, I’m learning

August 2, 2010

…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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Foregin journalists visit Hannibal newspaper

February 6, 2009

A small group of foreign journalists, in the United States to observe pre-election news coverage and campaigning, visited the Hannibal Courier-Post on Oct. 31. Editor Mary Lou Montgomery told them how her paper handled local, state and national election news.
The U.S. State Department’s Foreign Press Center sponsored the 10-day trip for the visitors. On the day before their Hannibal stop, the foreign journalists attended a morning rally for Sarah Palin.
Tamrat G. Giorgis, managing editor of Fortune in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was surprised by the conduct of those attending rallies.
“I’m amazed by the discipline of the electorate,” he said. “When they go to rallies they line up for hours and there were no disturbances at all.”
He noted the willingness of citizens to discuss their preferences. “All the people are quite free to talk to you. They don’t have any inhibition, any fear of what they would say and the consequences of that,” he said.
He also said the visit dispelled a preconception he had about Barack Obama’s popularity. He said if the whole world were to vote, Obama would enjoy a landslide victory.
“I had that sort of perception when I first came here … and that’s not the case. It’s quite a split,” he said.
Jinan Hussein of the Awan Daily Newspaper in Kuwait said there was high interest in the Middle East about the election.
“Whether it’s Obama or John McCain, we hope there is a new direction with the problems in the Middle East because it’s very important for the Arab countries.”
—Hannibal Courier-Post

Trustees even in hard times

January 13, 2009

by Ken Newton
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Joseph Charless knew a trade and understood the problems of a start-up business. He also knew about causing a ruckus.

Mr. Charless fled Ireland in 1795 as rebellion took hold, and he settled in America, first in Philadelphia, then in Kentucky and finally in St. Louis of the Louisiana Territory. A printer, he established the first newspaper west of the Mississippi River in 1808, the Missouri Gazette.

According to the State Historical Society of Missouri, Mr. Charless contended with “shortages of paper, unpaid subscriptions and irregularities in mail service.” But he also stirred up the local populace with his anti-slavery sentiments. A subsequent newspaper in St. Louis, the Western Journal, countered with the anti-abolitionist writings of Thomas Hart Benton, an oak-hard character who once shot Andrew Jackson in a duel.

These newspapers came into being before Missouri got statehood, a squabbling and illuminating addition to the frontier landscape.

Missouri newspapering arrives in its third century with some problems heading forward and a documentary looking back. The hour-long program, “Trustee for the Public: 200 Years of Missouri Newspapers,” airs Thursday at 8 p.m., on KCPT (Channel 21 on St. Joseph Cablevision).

The documentary notes writers who worked for state newspapers before broader renown. Ernest Hemingway credited his time at the Kansas City Star as tutelage for the crisp language that would become his trademark. Eugene Field, who labored for the St. Joseph Gazette and took a bride in this city, used the experiences here in his later poetry.

Samuel Clemens worked as a “printer’s devil” at the newspaper in Hannibal, apprenticing as a typesetter but, “surreptitiously and uninvited,” editing the paper from the back shop. Nearly six decades later, known to the world as Mark Twain, he wrote to the hometown paper, “I hope the Courier will long survive me and remain always prosperous.”

One hundred and two years after this letter, the Hannibal Courier-Post indeed survives.

The documentary includes this story without dwelling on the well-known. Rather, the program, with origins in a Missouri Press Association oral history endeavor, focuses on smaller experiences — street corner hawking, press breakdowns, journalism teaching — that add to a fuller view of an industry built daily.

Newspapers find themselves now on shaky ground. They face economic problems in a world of warp-speed information and changing consumer demands.

The nation’s largest publications land too often in their own headlines, usually in strife with creditors. Smaller journals work to stay an essential part of lives caught in news cycles briefer than a yawn.

What remains unchanged in the upheaval is the newspaper’s role in a free society. Publications still perform watchdog roles, still follow the public’s money through a maze of governments, still supply depth and perspective to the day’s issues.

At this newspaper, founded just 37 years after Mr. Charless’ Gazette, earnest souls work in the continuum of reporters who covered the Pony Express, the killing of Jesse James, the Greenlease kidnapping and any of thousands of historical moments preserved in first-draft form.

The word “trustees” proves instructive. It implies a faith, in this case between newspapers and their readers. And 200 years of history suggest the relationship endures even in tough times.

x x x

Ken Newton’s column runs in the St. Joseph News-Press on Tuesday and Sunday.

Missouri Press has much to offer

October 7, 2008

By Jack Whitaker
By now you either attended the annual MPA meeting in Columbia or have heard about it. Either way, I can
report that the meeting was a great success. Registration was good and we virtually filled the Stoney Creek Inn.
Individual sessions were great and the coordination with the MU Journalism School Centennial worked out well. Our political forums were well attended and lively. All were very informative.
A highlight of the Convention for me was the Newspaper Next presentation that we sponsored. I was fortunate to attend the all-day workshop on this program in California last year. We have implemented numerous ideas from that workshop in Hannibal.
But I want to talk to you about a different topic this month. The Missouri Press Association is a multi-faceted organization that does many things for this industry and for each of us. Not only does it lobby in Jefferson City for open records and to protect our profession, it also provides many other services for us.
One of the most important services, one that assists us in achieving financial goals, is advertising placement. Several programs form the foundation of MPA’s various networks. And Networks pay big dividends.
To cite a few, I offer the following facts and figures that you may or may not be aware of:
• The statewide classified ad network paid out $29,600 in June to all participating newspapers. In addition to that, nearly $14,000 was paid in sales commissions over the last six months.

• The statewide 2X2 display ad network paid $28,675 to participating member newspapers in December, 2007, along with an additional $3,500 in sales commissions.

• The statewide online ad network, the new kid on the block, paid $1,092 in July to participating newspapers.

• The ConnectMo ad program has been paying between $12,000 and $15,000 per month to participating newspapers.

Add these up and you find a significant amount of money just waiting to be earned by participating in these programs. These ad networks produce amazing results, but not only for the newspapers that run the ads. Members that sell the ads are also paid the most through high commissions on their sales.
Most important, however, is the fact that these networks are producing tangible results for our advertisers. This form of advertising is extremely cost-efficient, so it is extremely attractive to ad buyers. Since their ads produce results and generate leads and sales, they are relatively easy to justify.
Once an advertiser gets results from his ad(s), he usually continues to run the ads.
Believe it or not, ad buyers of these programs are in every local community. They include employee recruitment firms, retailers with online sales, tourism agencies, Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus and their festivals and fairs. Real estate brokers, developers, attorneys, manufacturers, collectors and auction houses are just a few of the potential advertisers.
So, what is my point? If you are not participating now, give each of these programs serious consideration. If you are participating in one or two of the programs, consider expanding to additional ones this year. It costs nothing to join and you simply can not lose money. There is only an upside to all of this.

Our paper’s role in the community

May 5, 2008

Rather than talk this month about my travels and the interesting meetings I have attended, I thought it
would be appropriate to share some of my philosophy on the role of community journalism in our communities.
My point of view on this topic has been greatly influenced by my editor, Mary Lou Montgomery. Mary Lou has a passion for her job and believes nothing can or should stand in the way of our providing the best local news and information possible. After 30 years in the business, Mary Lou admits that she is having more fun than ever.
But back to the passion and our role in our communities. Mary Lou shared a story about a telephone conversation she recently had with a reader. Let me let her tell the story in her own words:
“Trudy Strieker called from Collinsville, Ill. Her husband, Joe, has been officiating baseball for 30 years. Last weekend, he officiated at two triple-headers. He is pictured in the background of an HLG (Hannibal-LaGrange College) play. It is on page 8A of Saturday’s edition. Shaun (Sports Editor) took the picture.
“He (Mr. Strieker) was so excited that his picture was in the paper, his wife said. After all these years, she doesn’t have a single picture of him umpiring, so she wants a copy of the picture to give to him. Their wedding anniversary is coming up, and she is going to surprise him.
“He’s not even in focus in this picture. The focus is on the pitcher, and Joe is in the background.
“Please don’t lose track of the impact we have on people. When the world seems to be pounding down on us, remember Joe. His picture was in our paper, and he’s thrilled.
“We make a difference in people’s lives.”

The point of this is not new to our members who publish weekly newspapers. They have known that local news and features are their bread and butter. But daily newspapers lost sight of this important fact years ago. And I believe that has contributed greatly to the decline in circulation and readership, especially at major metro newspapers.
We at the Hannibal Courier-Post have committed to our readers that we would return to our roots and publish local news and local faces in our newspaper every day. We committed to keeping our local content to at least 67 percent of total content and to publish at least 1,000 local faces in our paper every month. To maintain accountability, we track those numbers every day in a chart on the editor’s wall.
To further demonstrate our commitment, and to be sure our readers don’t forget or take it for granted, my editor and I publish a “To Our Readers” open letter on the front page of the newspaper on the first of each month. In that letter we report what our percentage of local content was last month and how many local faces were published.
And the response? It has been overwhelmingly positive. I rarely go anywhere, even now 20 months later, without someone commenting on how they like our new local approach to news. It demonstrates to me that readers are not looking for national news in our product. They really don’t care too much about state news unless it impacts them in some manner.
Like I said earlier, this is nothing new to our weekly newspaper members. But it is something all dailies should note and heed well. For if we do not satisfy our readers, then we have truly lost our reason for being. And without that, we certainly cannot withstand the economic pressures that exist in this country today. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “local, local, local.”

Gatehouse buys 2 Missouri papers from Morris Publishing

December 10, 2007

Morris Publishing Group is selling 17 newspapers, including the Independence Examiner and the Hannibal Courier-Post, to GateHouse Media, Inc. for $115 million. Morris, which bases its operations in Augusta, Ga., will use the cash to pay down debt. The sale will leave the company with 10 medium-sized newspapers.
GateHouse, headquartered in Fairport, N.Y., has 86 daily publications in 19 states.
Other daily newspapers being sold are the Dodge City (Kan.) Daily Globe, The Newton (Kan.) Kansan, The (Pittsburg, Kan.) Morning Sun, the Hillsdale (Mich.) Daily News, The Holland (Mich.) Sentinel, The Grand Island (Neb.) Independent, the York (Neb.) News-Times, The Daily Ardmoreite (Okla.), The Shawnee (Okla.) News-Star, the Yankton (S.D.) Daily Press& Dakotan, The Oak Ridger (Tenn.), and the News Chief (Winter Haven, Fla.).
The nondaily newspapers are La Estrella (Dodge City, Kan.), The Girard (Kan.) City Press and the Vermillion (S.D.) Plain Talk.
Also sold was a commercial printing operation, Flashes Publishing (Mich.), which also publishes The Holland Sentinel and the Flashes Shopping Guides.
All the newspapers sold were formerly part of Stauffer Communications, Inc., a Topeka-based media company. SCI sold its holdings to Morris in 1995.
The publisher of the Hannibal Courier-Post, Jack Whitaker, is president-elect of Missouri Press Association. He will succeed Dave Bradley of St. Joseph on Jan. 1.