Magazine article Editor & Publisher

An Alternative to Bureaucracy

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

An Alternative to Bureaucracy

Article excerpt

AN INFORMAL NETWORK of independent newspapers has formed over the past year, with as many as 25 newspaper companies represented at the first three meetings.

The network, which has named itself the Independent Newspaper Group, has appointed E. Donald Lass, president of the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, as its spokesman. The group has no constitution, no bylaws, no executive director and no dues structure. That is the way most participants would like it to stay.

"There is a strong sentiment among the group to continue exactly the way we are now, to remain a loose confederation that has a commonality of interests," said Howard Sutton, vice president, administration of the Providence (R.I.) Journal Bulletin.

"The informality is really a strength at this point," Lass said.

Participants even shy away from calling ING an organization, preferring "network," "group" or "caucus" to describe the collection of mostly family-owned newspapers.

"The target group is daily independent [non-publicly traded] newspapers of 50,000 circulation or more. However, we're not absolutely precise with those guidelines. We just feel that newspapers in those categories do share an interest in similar topics," said Lass.

ING began with an informal meeting of independent newspaper operators during the 1992 American Newspaper Publishers Association convention in New York City. The group decided to pursue the concept of an independent newspaper group to represent the particular interests of independent daily newspaper publishers.

A second meeting took place on Oct. 1, 1992 in New York, with the Sawyer-Ferguson-Walker representative firm acting as hosts and facilitators for the meeting. Ten newspapers were represented at this meeting: the Providence (R.I.) Journal Bulletin, Buffalo (N.Y.) News, Scranton (Pa.) Times, The Record of Hackensack, N.J., Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise, Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, Bangor (Maine) Daily News and the Baton Rouge(La.) Advocate.

The group agreed to work toward advancing an agenda of common interests, and to share ideas and programs. Topics discussed so far by the group include new technology, database marketing, financial operating ratios, revenue opportunities, cost reduction ideas, quality improvement and the use of reader affinity cards.

Sawyer-Ferguson-Walker agreed to continue as facilitators, with the understanding that the newspapers would establish the agenda and determine the direction of the group.

The third meeting, held on Jan. 27 in Atlanta, had 14 newspapers attending and certain parameters for the group were established. First, membership would be limited to independent daily newspapers. Secondly, all sharing of information would be voluntary and reciprocal. And third, that the group would expand at the discretion of the participants.

Others that have since participated include the Spokesman Review, Spokane, Wash., Bakersfield Californian, Minneapolis (Minn.) Star Tribune, Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, Erie (Pa.) Times-News, The Press of Atlantic City, N.J., Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, Central New Jersey Home News, Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, Little Rock (Ark.) Democrat-Gazette, London (Ontario) Free Press, Quincy (Mass.) Patriot Ledger, St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press, Calkins Newspapers Inc., Levittown, Pa, and Schurz Communication, South Bend, Ind.

At the fourth meeting in Boston April 24 and 25, prior to the Newspaper Association of America annual convention, participants agreed that ING's main purpose would be one of networking. It would not be to compete with NAA or any other trade organization, but would "supplement and support the efforts of other organizations, and maintain an efficient network of independents with common interests."

Everyone connected with the group that E&P spoke with for this article stressed that the independent newspapers were not anti-NAA. …

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