‘I could not imagine running a newspaper without NNA’

Oct 1, 2019

Our industry has been on a roller coaster the past several years. We endured challenging fights — the newsprint tariff case and the challenge of trying to figure out which business model will work for our unique publications; however, the role of community newspapers has never been more important to the citizens of our country.

This was confirmed by recent polling research conducted for the National Newspaper Association. According to the research released August 2, 64% of households read a community newspaper, 79% of respondents agree community newspapers “provide valuable local shopping and advertising information” and community newspapers are the most trusted source of information about political candidates.

NNA, a cooperatively owned and run organization of newspaper people, recognizes this value and has been on the front lines fighting for the community newspaper industry … many times, all alone. I cannot imagine running a newspaper without NNA. I would be like a captain directing a ship through a storm with a blindfold on — NNA helps people in the industry navigate to smooth sailing.

Since our last convention in Norfolk, Virginia, NNA has gone through many changes. The organization transitioned management services from Illinois Press Association to Lynne Lance Association Management LLC. Other visible changes include the successful launch of a Publishers’ Auxiliary digital edition in February. More than 5,000 NNA publishers, owners and staff viewed our first digital edition, and display ad sales were above the printed version just one year prior. NNA has published a digital edition every month, plus print editions mailed quarterly. These changes — along with many others with our members in mind — provided positive financial turnaround for NNA.

Last year, NNA lost over $150,000, and this year we are in the black. Led by Lynne Lance, there was a lot of hard work that went on behind the scenes that made this possible. It certainly helped that all NNA board members are “hands-on” and have a heart for the business.

We thought this would be a quiet year for policy work after last year’s tariff battle; however, thanks to Tonda Rush, we became aware of and fought for many issues important to our members. Rush kept us focused on the right issues at the right time and effectively strategized with our board to make sure community newspaper interests were heard in Washington, D.C.

NNA supported new legislation to save the Postal Service with a focus on ensuring universal service and fair periodical rates. NNA also supported legislation that will correct a confidentiality claim of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that sided with the grocery industry in saying the taxpayer-funded Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP — also known as food stamps) information is confidential.

NNA advocated for increasing the threshold for exempt salary workers over five years instead of at one time, which would have hurt the smaller papers. And recently, NNA put its support behind legislation for the establishment of a fallen journalist memorial.

There was never a dull moment, which clearly demonstrates the need for NNA.

The most amazing thing NNA did this year was when I, Rush and several other NNA board members personally met with the Postal Regulatory Commissioners in Washington, D.C.

We were aware they were considering double-digit rate increases for periodicals each year over the next several years. We told the commissioners about the impact of postal pricing on newspapers and the importance of service standards and universal service. We provided samples of our newspapers to show them what a community newspaper means to a community.

It meant the world to me when one of the commissioners told us that it was important we came and they would consider our positions when they made their decisions. Could you imagine the outcome if we had not communicated our message?

NNA is bringing back the March Congressional Action Team (CAT) Conference in Washington, D.C. in 2020 to ensure the voices of community newspapers are made known. We did not have a March meeting in 2019 so we could direct our resources into the tariff trial the previous summer. I represented NNA as one of two newspaper industry witnesses that testified at that trial. It is important we put our limited resources in to the right fight at the right time.

I invite you to come to Milwaukee for our Annual Convention & Trade Show. It is going to be held on October 3-5 at the historic, five-star Pfister Hotel with activities within walking distance.

This year’s Extravaganza event will be held at the Harley-Davidson Museum. In addition to a full–trade show, opportunity to share with others in the industry and meaningful educational sessions, there will be a Leadership Summit co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and facilitated by Marty Kaiser.
Kaiser is one of today’s leading newsroom visionaries and is the former longtime editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where he led his newsroom to Pulitzer Prizes in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Kaiser, along with other industry leaders, will explore what it takes for a community newspaper to succeed, both financially and as a public asset.

As a Gold Star father, I want to especially recognize NNA for coming to the assistance of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund seeks photos of servicemembers killed in action listed on the Wall of Faces, as many government records were lost in a fire.

NNA helped spread the word to state press associations and to its member newspapers for several years with amazing results. Community newspaper people from around the country helped find thousands of missing photos.

In 2014, there were more than 16,000 missing photos, and today there are less than 700 missing. It is my hope that we will help finish this job in the near future. (Visit http://bit.ly/31Cjejt for more information.)

At convention, it will be time for me to pass the NNA gavel to the next very capable president, Matt Adelman, publisher of the Douglas (Wyoming) Budget. Thank you for allowing me to serve you, our members. I look forward to seeing you soon!

Andrew Johnson, publisher of the Dodge County Pionier, Mayville, Wisconsin, is the president of the NNA Board of Directors for 2018-2019. Email him at johnson@dodgecountypionier.com