Home' Local Media Today : February 2009 Contents Bad News Snares & Civic Journalism
Did you see those kids in the Inauguration Parade?
The whispered suggestion by pundits grows ever louder: if advertisers won’t
support newspapers’ business model, maybe foundations and even local gov-
ernment will. As community leaders from Connecticut to California contem-
plate a world without newspapers—and a country with Rod Blagoevich in
every statehouse—maybe the time is ripe, the thinking goes, for newspapers
to get in line for a bail-out, government or otherwise.
This may well be one version of our future, but I beg to differ. Before we
throw in the towel, let’s take a page out of our Scandinavian cousins’ play-
book: Be Useful to Your Communities in a platform agnostic fashion, com-
mission good research to prove your worth, and then promote the heck out
of the results to your advertisers.
We need to keep reminding our readers why local newspapers matter.
Certainly 100 boys , ages 8-18, who live at Bonnie Brae residential treatment
center in Liberty Corner, NJ have cause to celebrate the power of the press,
and not because they enjoy a comfortable life. Far from it. These are boys
who have suffered grievous neglect and worse during their young lives.
Many end up at Bonnie Brae because they have endured up to eight other fos-
ter care placements. All of them have gotten the short end of the proverbial
stick. But, despite this, all of them have hope for a better life.
It’s no surprise that this presidential election looms large on Bonnie Brae’s
75-acre campus in suburban New Jersey. The Obama campaign’s message of
hope and change clearly resonates with the boys. Inspired by the election, and
the reaction of the campus, Bonnie Brae’s leader lobbed in a long-shot appli-
cation for the school’s drum corps of twelve boys to march in the historic
Inaugural Parade. Lo and behold the constellations aligned, and the School’s
application was approved—one of only 50 selected out an applicant pool of
1500, and the only one from the Garden State.
One big problem: as a state-funded institution running on fumes, the school
had absolutely no money available in the budget to finance either transporta-
tion to D.C . or cosmetic niceties like new uniforms and fully functioning
As my old ad director used to say: here’s the beauty part. The Bernardsville
News has been supporting Bonnie Brae with editorial coverage throughout the
School’s 92 year history. So when we broke the story about this thunder
bolt—and then followed up with frequent web updates and an editorial urging
financial support—our readers opened their wallets. The school raised
$45,000 from over 300 donors—in less than a month. It wasn’t long before
the Star-Ledger, USA Today, the NY times, NPR were all over the campus,
“discovering” a story we have been covering for almost 100 years.
Reminiscent of a scene out of the movie Front Page, the staffs of Katie Couric
and Charlie Gibson fought over exclusive rights to interview the boys for their
respective evening news programs. The story of the “Bad News Snares” has
taken off like a rocket but it was our initial coverage that lit the fuse.
My point here is that we are the watchdogs and the conscience of our commu-
nities. We hear a lot about citizen journalism these days, but let’s not forget
about Civic Journalism. Our readers look to us to afflict the comfortable and
comfort the afflicted. We neglect that mission at our peril. Let’s remind our
readers by deed—and by promotion—why they need a strong local news and
information provider. And then let’s remind our advertisers via readership
studies that we matter more than ever.
Forget the government bail-out; we can do well the way we always have, by
From the chairman
of the board
SNA Chairman of the Board
Cultivating good rela-
tions with advertising
clients and spreading
the word about the
value of suburban and
pers among media
buyers have always
been top initiatives at
SNA. The efforts are
fruitful – evidence
the many advertising
media buyers who
participate in SNA
One thing that resonated from the many
encounters with these media experts is
that they needed a single comprehensive
source of data on SNA members. SNA
answered the call and began publishing
an annual Membership Directory a few
years ago. Each update since then has
only gotten better. The 2009 version has
just hit advertising buyer desks and the
book sorts information by state and then
by DMA. Each company listing features
key data including circulation, frequen-
cy, URL’s and contact info.
Check your listing via the fully search-
able membership directory on SNA’s
Web site, www.suburban-news.org
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