I know this is probably old news, but the Newspaper Association of America has named me to its industry magazine’s 2006 list of the “20 under 40.”
I was nominated by Gregg Jones, the former chairman of the NAA and the publisher of The Greeneville (Tenn.) Sun.
I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to be nominated by Gregg. He is definitely one of the people I really, really look up to in this business, and someone that I probably talk with on the phone at least every other week. Everytime I talk with Gregg, even if it’s just a casual conversation, I learn something new.
The best part about being a member of the NAA’s current “20 under 40” class is that I just barely qualify. I’m closer to 40 then I am 30. That surprises people because I’m often told that I act a lot younger, say maybe closer to 13 or 14.
As a part of the online version of the “20 under 40” stuff on the NAA’s site, I was asked to answer some additional questions. Here are those responses:
In what ways do you think your current position will change over the next five years?
Right now, even after 10 years of online publishing for most newspapers, there still is a feeling in our industry that there are newspaper people and there are new media people. I have little doubt that in five years there wonâ€™t be that kind of distinction. Weâ€™ll all be on the same team, and the word â€œnewspaperâ€ will mean the organization that helps its community live a better life by communicating through printed pages, video, audio, online, via cell phones, and in ways we havenâ€™t even thought of yet.
Reaching our readers in many different ways will just be something that we all do. We won’t even think twice about it.
Whatâ€™s the best career advice anyone ever gave you?
While I was at the Lawrence ( Kan.) Journal-World, Bill Snead taught me that itâ€™s not about the technology, which can be more than a shock to the system for a person whose career is new media. Yet, Iâ€™m not sure it can be said enough. He emphasized to me that what our industry really is about is connecting with our audience. Technology is nothing more than developing new ways of connecting with our audience and giving them something that they never knew they needed, but love having.
Bill always said we have to give our readers these little gifts and surprises whenever we can. The key is the connection, not the delivery method or the software. With every project, I now ask myself a million times, â€œHow does this connect to our readers and what are they getting out of this?â€ Taking newspapers into the digital world isnâ€™t about the coolest software; itâ€™s about the coolest connection we can make with our audience.
What three things would you change about the newspaper industry?
* Sometimes, I get the feeling that Iâ€™m viewed as a radical. Yet, I donâ€™t see myself as a radicalâ€”instead as a realist who loves this industry. I say that because there seems to be so much doom and gloom out there right now when it comes to the newspaper industry, and, to be honest, there is no other period in American journalism that I wish I was a part of. We should be excited about our current challenges, not freaked out about them. The doom and gloom has got to go because it just feeds upon itself. Talk about an industry with a self-esteem problem!
* We canâ€™t be afraid of changes in our business model. It seems like things are definitely more complicated than theyâ€™ve ever been, but the opportunities also are greater. We shouldnâ€™t be afraid to reinvent a dying revenue stream before it dries up completely. We shouldnâ€™t be afraid of margins that look differently than they did five years ago. It seems like we spend so much time worrying and talking about the industry and the institution, when instead I think we should be talking about what our readers and advertisers want. My gut tells me that if we focused more on what our readers and advertisers, everything else would take care of its self.
* We should be investing more in new ways to serve readers and advertisers. When I worked at the Lawrence newspaper, our publisher there always said we need to be driving with our brights on, and man, oh man, was he right. Right now, it feels like there arenâ€™t enough people in the newspaper industry driving with their brights on.
Well, I hope everyone has a great holiday! I am back in Kansas right now, and I can’t tell you how frickin’ good it feels to be home for the holidays. Damn, I love this place.