Give back to your industry

Dec 26, 2013

By Robert M. Williams Jr.
NNA President 

I know what you’re thinking.

Money is tight. You’re busy. Work demands your presence. Someone else will see that this gets done.

I can’t argue with a single one of those points. The truth though, is that all of those factors are among many reasons why you need to start making plans now to be in Washington Thursday, March 13.

Who has time for another seminar or a tour of our nation’s capital you might ask?

I don’t. And neither do you. That is not what I am asking. 

What we must make time for is just one full day given back to our industry and spent educating representatives, senators and, perhaps more important, their key advisers, on critical issues facing the community newspaper industry.

If not us, then who?

The 2014 We Believe In Newspapers Leadership Summit is nothing at all like what many recall NNA’s Government Affairs Conference used to be. The days when we traveled to the District of Columbia, enjoyed tours, and listened as policy makers came and talked to us is no more. We can no longer afford to sit back and wait for them to come to us. We have to walk the halls on Capitol Hill ourselves. Policy makers must listen to us for a change. They need to hear about the continuing vital role community newspapers play in promoting and informing thousands of American communities. If we don’t go speak up for our industry’s needs regarding federal policy, others are already there working against our best interests. It happens every day. That’s partly why Congress can’t pass a bill to reform the U.S. Postal Service, the longtime partner our newspapers depend upon for timely delivery of our products. That’s partly why Congress is considering ill-advised plans to create new taxes on advertising. Such bad policy will serve not only to reduce our revenues; ad taxes will further impede efforts to revive our country’s struggling economy. And we all know there is absolutely nothing wrong with community newspapers that an overall upturn in America’s economy cannot heal.

More than 100 of America’s finest community newspaper leaders answered the call last year to help NNA’s officers and board as we “stormed” Capitol Hill, taking our agenda—complete with talking points—to dozens of members of Congress and their key staff members. As we tell our advertisers, however, one shot is not enough to insure a message is heard. We have to show up again in the offices of our elected representatives to remind them that your community newspaper: (A) is watching what they do (B) wants to help them succeed and (C) needs their help in return by considering the needs of our industry as they make their decisions.

Although talking with legislators when they are home is important and effective, it is our appearance in a mass on one day that gets the attention. It is the relationships with the key staff that actually work on our legislation that carry through at critical times. 

Although this Summit is open to every NNA member, truth is we can’t accommodate more than about two to three from each of our 50 states. Last year, 37 states were represented. Our goal is a minimum of two articulate, politically savvy publishers from all 50 states who can speak one-on-one with knowledge and authority about community newspapers to those on Capitol Hill who need to listen. We will provide you all the information you need on the legislation. No one on Capitol Hill expects you to be a legislative expert. Your industry needs you because you are an expert on community newspapers. 

If you’re not the one, protect your interests by making sure at least two other leaders from your state will be there. Every state press association will have the invitations. Community newspapers are our livelihood. Can you be counted on to help protect our industry’s future?

I sure hope I know what you are thinking.

To register online for the conference, go to