Critical Thinking: Who Should Be the Newspaper Industry’s Spokesperson?
Posted: 1/8/2013 | By: Nu Yang
Q: If you were in charge of promoting the newspaper industry on a national level, who would you hire as your spokesperson and why?
Colin Beck, 22
Junior, Central Michigan University (Mt. Pleasant)
Beck is a broadcast and cinematic arts major and journalism minor. He enjoys film, television, and hockey.
A: I’m a Generation Y kid, and I’m a part of the fastest-growing section of the workforce in America. At least, I’m supposed to be, after I graduate next year — if I can find a job. Generation Y has grown up in an America that has troops stationed in more than 175 countries, and we don’t even blink. The news is “too depressing” for people my age to pay attention to it. It’s always about economic turmoil and war. If we won’t sit and watch the news on TV, which is arguably what we do best, what newspaper spokesperson could possibly get us excited about that same depressing news?
My nominee is Tina Fey.
Fey made us laugh at news topics when she was on “Saturday Night Live.” We already know she’s both informed and funny — two characteristics often admired by the young news junkies who will keep buying newspapers’ mobile apps for years into their post-college lives.
We need to have somebody we can laugh at when we’re digesting the news, kind of like the massive amounts of fiber we have to eat to cancel out all the cheese and pepperoni we consume on a weekly basis. It’s why we love Jon Stewart so much — he’s the human version of orange Metamucil.
We don’t need to have Tina Fey make us laugh at what’s in the newspaper every day, or even four days a week, as Stewart does. We just need to make the connection that someone as smart, funny, and pretty as Fey reads newspapers, so we should too.
Being informed can never be a bad trait, but it appears it will continue to become more and more of a rare one as the world becomes more accessible, though we become more cut off.
Susan Cantrell, 51
Vice president of sales and marketing, Lawrence (Ka.) Journal-World
Cantrell joined The Journal-World in 2011 after spending more than four years as advertising director at Tucson Newspapers. Before that, she worked at The Kansas City Star for 20 years.
A: We, as an industry, are sometimes our own worst enemy. I often tell accounts that you don’t often see the 10 o’clock news anchors lamenting about the fact that they laid off 10 people at their station or that ratings are down 50 percent from 10 years ago. But we often have front page stories telling our readers and advertisers that we are consolidating our operations, laying off people, and that our circulation is down X percent from what it was five years ago. Why are we our own worst spokespeople, first of all?
That said, what we need in an industry spokesperson is someone people trust, someone they have invested their life savings in, someone whom world leaders have relied on for advice: Warren Buffett.
Warren Buffett believes in newspapers. It’s obvious since he has been a longtime investor in the Buffalo newspaper market and has recently poured millions of dollars into investing in the future of newspapers. When reporters ask him incredulously why he has invested in newspapers, he confidently states that he believes in newspapers and especially newspapers that promote a strong sense of community. If newspapers provide value with unique, community content and provide a strong advertising environment of local ads that can’t be found anywhere else, they will not only survive, but thrive.
Warren Buffett makes perfect sense for our industry, because he is highly sought after as a speaker. He hasn’t over-exposed himself. National political leaders, business leaders, and consumers trust and believe in him. Maybe if Buffett were our spokesperson, we could fix the mess that the post office has created with its special exclusive contract with direct mail companies. If Buffett were our spokesperson, he would be welcomed on national talk shows and could tout the vast audience newspapers’ print and digital editions command and why he invested his money in the industry. His credibility and trust in our future is what we need as the face of our industry.