Home' Local Media Today : March 2005 Contents Circulation Challenges -- including The Phantom Pinkler
Circulation is such a challenge, whether we produce a total-mar-
ket free publication, or a subscriber and newsstand based paper.
While publishing a free delivery community newspaper, I received
this letter from a reader:
"I am writing to you in hopes that you are the person who can
help me solve a citizen-reader problem. I have a fine, early 19th
century farmhouse with a beautiful 100 ft. stone wall with an
entryway of stone stairs. Where the stone stairs turn, one is visu-
ally screened from the street, a fact you need to appreciate in
order to understand the circumstance of my problem.
Regularly since last summer, someone has been micturating (read
on --you'll figure it out) in my stairwell.
I find this déclassé, distasteful and downright dull to haul a buck-
et of water out each week to disperse this defilement of my prop-
erty by this unknown individual. I have named him "The
Phantom Pinkler." As the months wore on, I became annoyingly
curious about his identity. Several months ago, I made a connec-
tion. One day I noticed that I received both your paper and the
puddle on the same morning, side by side. That conjunction
became a hypothesis that I have tested repeatedly until coming to
the conclusion, substantiated as late as last Wednesday when I
again received both paper and puddle, that your man who delivers
your newspaper to me is probably "The Phantom Pinkler"
Needless to say, once the problem was brought to our attention,
we were able to correct the situation and resume delivering a dry
paper to our customer each week.
Although this incident happened some years ago, the challenges
of circulation haven't gotten any easier. While we used to rely
heavily on youth carriers, parents and kids both seem reluctant to
try the once popular "little merchant" experience. And the obsta-
cles to soliciting paid subscriptions continue to grow. The do-not-
call registry has significantly eroded our ability to garner new
subscribers by telephone. And we face new challenges as a new
generation is weaned on electronic methods of gathering informa-
At this month's SNA conference in Orlando, multiple sessions
will focus on the challenges of circulation we all face. Randy
Brandt, Editor of the Journal Times in Racine, WI, will share suc-
cesses with the Readership Institute's findings that have helped
his paper reverse a decade's worth of circulation decline. And a
panel discussion of circulation experts across the country will dis-
cuss strategies for building readership and circulation. Attendees
will enjoy success stories, problem areas, and plenty of ideas to
take back and implement at their own newspapers.
Even if you don't have the opportunity to join the experts at the
conference, SNA has many resources available to you to help your
circulation department. Look for summaries of the conference pre-
sentations on the SNA Web site. Use your SNA directory or the
e-mail member request option to ask other circulation managers
how they handle a specific challenge. And participate in the
member circulation conference calls -- they are free!
SNA Board President
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Ask The Winners.....
Editors and Journalists of the Year were
asked to give advice to cub reporters
starting out in the business.
From John Humenik, Quad City Times
"That's simple. The best stories are never in the newsroom. Get out and
meet as many people as you can. Listen, learn and find the best storytelling opportuni-
ties. Develop the craft of writing. Words are special and it takes a special person who knows how to
string them together. Most important, however, fall in love with newspapering. It will prove to be a
From Douglas Clement, Litchfield County Times
"Though I don't consider myself a sage, I would give two types of advice to young journalists---to
be accurate, thorough, fair and tireless in endeavoring to get to the true heart of any story, no matter
how long, and to become an expert in whatever they are passionate about, which will help land a
niche job that blends life and work into one happy amalgam."
From Lorna Thackery, The Billings Gazette
"What I would advise new reporters is to read everything you can - novels, nonfiction, biography,
history, newspapers, magazine. Look at it carefully and figure out what you like or don't like about
the way it was written. What made the story worth reading, and how did it hold your interest? Did it
irritate or bore you, even though the subject could have been interesting? Were there questions
you would like the writer to have asked or answered?
From Dave Greber, Fairfield Echo
Reporter Wil Haygood once said, "Somehow, the light outside hits your story differently." Any jour-
nalist knows this to be true. We cannot make our readers see our perspective; this is ultimately their
decision. What we can do, however, is be honest...honest with our sources and honest with our-
selves. With this principle intact, I will never feel guilty when I route a story to the copy desk.
Use finesse when needed, but take issues and people head on. Be aggressive, but know when to take
a step back and just observe. Walk in others' shoes, and invite them to walk in yours. Allow them to
know you are human, too. Be passionate, and don't be afraid to show it. Believe in the upward
mobility of society and be a part of its progress. Broaden your horizon with experiences that make
you feel uncomfortable sometimes, but validated always.
From Kurt Kuban, Observer & Eccentric Newspapers
"If I have any advice for reporters just starting out, especially those still in college, it is to take
advantage of internship opportunities. It is something I didn't do, and as a result had many doors
slammed in my face. Also, before you head out looking for a job, learn as much as you can about
the workings of city government. Most of us start at that level, so it will help immensely if you go
in knowing what a millage rate is, or the difference between a storn mayoral form of government as
opposed to a city manager run government."
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