Posted tagged ‘Jack Whitaker’

Missouri Sunshine Coalition to hold inaugural meeting

February 11, 2009

Feb. 11, 2009

By Jim Robertson
Columbia Daily Tribune

A new organization for people who want to promote government openness at all levels in Missouri will hold a public reception and program on Thursday, March 12, in Columbia. The event is free.

The Missouri Sunshine Coalition is seeking individual and organization members from all areas of the public. It will hold a 2 p.m. reception and 3 p.m. program at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the School of Journalism at MU.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has been invited to speak at the 3 p.m. program. Other speakers will be Charles Davis, director of the National Freedom of Information Center, which is based at the School of Journalism; and Mike Wood, director of governmental relations for the Missouri State Teachers Association.

The group’s founders have met three times to elect a board of directors, to approve bylaws and a mission statement, and to plan the March 12 program. On Jan. 15 the group elected Jim Robertson, managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune, president.

Until now, Missouri was one of the few states in the country that did not have an organization whose mission is to promote government transparency. This group hopes to bring together all individuals and organizations in Missouri who want to minimize secrecy in the operations of local and state government agencies.

Following is the Mission Statement of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition, Inc.
1. Members of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition believe the best form of government is that which operates in a free and open environment, giving its citizens unfettered access to information as to its activities and the use of its public funds.
2. We believe government exists to serve its citizens and access to such information should be simple and at minimal cost.
3. The Missouri Sunshine Coalition exists to support citizens of this State in their efforts to exercise their rights under the Missouri Sunshine Law, which is premised on the foundation that “It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law.”

Serving the Coalition with Robertson are Vice President Jo Sapp, Columbia, League of Women Voters; Secretary Jean Maneke, Kansas City, an attorney who is an expert on the Missouri Sunshine Law; and Treasurer Mike Sherry, Kansas City, Kansas City Business Journal.

Members of the Board of Directors are Jean Buchanan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Jack Whitaker, Hannibal Courier-Post; Don Hicks, Jefferson City, Missouri Broadcasters Association; Brenda Jones, St Louis, American Civil Liberties Union of eastern Missouri; and Randy Picht, Kansas City, The Associated Press.

The officers and directors were chosen from among those who attended the organizational meetings of the Coalition.

Membership in the coalition costs $25 for an organization or individual.

For more information on membership or to RSVP for the March 12 event, please contact Kristie Williams,, 573-449-4167.


MPA welcomes new President

January 5, 2009

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.”

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.

You’re part of something great!

January 29, 2008

 People across the country have contacted me about the “splash” in last month’s Missouri Press News. All the folderol embarrasses me. I am just not cut out to be a parade leader. Working behind the scenes helping to make things happen is my preferred role. I don’t need, nor do I desire, lots of attention and/or accolades. So just discard the January issue and we will go from there.
Be that as it may, here I am writing another column, and I would like to make a point. If you sincerely believe I had good words to say last month, then follow through by joining my effort to increase involvement in this mighty organization. If you are not aware, we have one of the best state press associations in the country, and I want to keep it that way.
We will be organizing our committees shortly and will be gearing up for a really busy year. Whether your interest lies in legislation that the General Assembly is considering, or in increasing the amount of political advertising we can garner, the Missouri Press Foundation, or any of the other areas, take this opportunity to volunteer your services and expertise. We must have the help of the membership if we are to manage these areas properly. So let us know where your interests lie.
Speaking of participating, February is the month we all converge on Jeff City for the MPA/AP Day at the Capitol. This year we will meet on Feb. 21. But this year will also bring some changes. The evening of Wednesday, Feb. 20, will feature a reception for elected officials and their staffs. (Political advertising will be on the top of our topics list.) That will be followed Thursday morning with a 7:30-9:30 breakfast reception in the Capitol.
It will be a great opportunity to meet and greet representatives and senators prior to the official program later in the morning. That program will feature the new president of the University of Missouri system, Gary Forsee, as well as statewide officeholders. So mark your calendars and plan to attend this expanded event.
Also coming up before you know it will be the annual National Newspaper Association Government Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference is scheduled for March 5-7. Rumor has it the President (as in “of the United States”) may make an appearance.
As I said last month, we can increase participation in a number of ways: encouraging you to take advantage of services offered, participating in advertising programs, attending meetings, contributing to training sessions, joining committees and attending the annualconvention.
I suggest, for starters,that each member newspaper of the Missouri Press Association pick three of the above “Paths to Participation” and agree to increase its level of participation in those three areas. That will get us off to a good start.
If you think of another way that you can participate other than the above list, just let me know and I’ll add it to the participation election list. I can’t stress enough how important it is to all of us to have a strong state organization representing and supporting us.
Let me know what you think and what YOU see as important for the organization to address. I assure you, we will take your suggestions to heart and do our best for you.

Sunshine, shield on legislative agenda

December 13, 2007

Revenue Dept. rules newspapers should not have to pay taxes on delivery costs 

By MPA President David Bradley
St. Joseph News-Press
My term as president of Missouri Press Association has passed by in a flash. Yes, the official duties took a little time, but the enjoyment of carrying them out far outweighed the work.
The MPA staff has done a great job of keeping me on task. The group, particularly event director Kristie Williams, made the annual MPA Convention in St. Louis the highlight of my year. Next year’s convention in Columbia will be huge joining with the 100th anniversary celebration of the Missouri School of Journalism.
Jack Whitaker of Hannibal will fill the presidential role in January. Jack has been on the
MPA Board for several years and helped push our state’s newspaper industry into the digital age. He has also built a financially viable community website and, at the same time, increased his print circulation. That’s impressive.
In November, University of Missouri Interim President Gordon Lamb hosted an MPA luncheon at the president’s residence on the Columbia campus. Dr. Lamb presented a $38 million proposal to increase the number of health care professionals for Missouri. He said the state is facing a growing shortage of pharmacists, nurses, dentists and doctors in rural and low-income urban areas.
Dr. Lamb said all Missouri colleges and universities are working together to come up with a funding formula for the schools. He is going on a statewide “University Unity
Tour” with other higher education institutions to make their case for funding from the legislature.
The MPA is also gearing up for some important legislative initiatives in 2008. With the help of MPA counselor Jean Maneke, we will try to button up some loopholes in
Missouri’s Sunshine Law. We also will try again to push through a Free Flow of Information bill, known as a shield law, to protect reporters and editors (and their sources) who are investigating misdeeds.
Also in Jefferson City, the Missouri Department of Revenue issued a private letter ruling that could provide many Missouri newspapers relief on their sales tax burden. The letter,
issued to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ruled that the newspaper shouldn’t have to pay sales tax on its delivery costs to newspaper customers.
MPA played an important role in facilitating face-to-face meetings between the department and publishers from the Post-Dispatch and The Kansas City Star.
Before you stop paying this tax, you will need a departmental ruling addressed to your own newspaper. But at least the template has been created for your paper to qualify for such an exemption.
On another matter, your MPA Board reluctantly approved a 25 percent dues increase
for 2008 to fund a statewide newspaper website for public notices and other legal advertising. We hope to reassure legislators that Missouri newspapers will make sure this type of advertising adequately reaches the public in print and online. This is the
first dues increase since 2001.
We were surprised to hear that Gary and Helen Sosniecki have sold The Vandalia Leader and are taking time off for a well-deserved rest. They have been superb MPA board members, and Gary headed the association in 2004. Gary assures me that they will be back after the first of the year looking for newspaper work. “And if we can’t find anything, we may be buying a paper,” he hinted.
Finally, we were glad to see one positive article about our industry in the Oct. 29 issue of Advertising Age headlined “Stop writing those obituaries for the newspaper industry.” Marc Brownstein of the Brownstein Group in Philadelphia said that “innovation and a keen sense of competition will win the day for newspapers.”
MPA knows that is top priority, too. So keep telling us how we can help.