Ad Agency Execs Get a Reminder about Newspapers; Newspaper Association of America President Cathleen Black Addresses the Advertising Research Foundation

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THE NEWSPAPER ASSOCIATION of America, when it was formed a year ago, wanted to speak to the advertising community with one, unified voice about newspapers as a medium.

Cathleen Black, NAA president and CEO, has over the past year begun to address national advertising groups and remind them of the value of newspapers.

"I think sometimes we tend to imagine in this whole new world of dazzling advancements and acknowledgments and announcements that we tend to lose sight of the value of the press," Black said recently at a lunch held by the Advertising Research Foundation in New York City.

This was her fifth appearance in front of national and regional advertising groups this year. Earlier she had addressed the Chicago Advertising Federation, the Retail Advertising Federation, the Denver Advertising Federation, and the Association of National Advertisers.

"Press-bashing," she said, "is a favorite pastime among a lot of circles. The news media has taken a lot of heat in the past year over coverage of everything from the presidential elections to Bosnia."

Despite the criticisms, Black said, "newspapers are an incredible franchise of the American diet."

Last year, more than 115 million adults read a daily newspaper, up from 113 million in 1991. On Sunday, more than 125 million people, nearly two-thirds of the adult population, read a newspaper, she told the group.

"Despite all the dire predictions from cynics who try to cast newspapers as dinosaurs, newspapers are very much part of the fabric of American life and, I believe, will continue to be so. Only, however, if we do a lot of things differently," she told the media researchers.

She urged the researchers to forget about the "gloom and doom" predictions that have been made about newspapers, adding that the "printed newspaper has a very strong and promising future."

"Throughout the history of this great nation that we live in the press has been accused more than once of being too sensational, too timid, too liberal, too conservative, too Democratic, too Republican, too elitist and too plebian - often all at the same time," Black said.

But because America has a free press, all of those charges, which sometimes do have merit, are reported and debated in the pages of newspapers.

"That, of course, is how it should be," she said.

Newspapers provide in-depth discussions and analyses of a broad scope issues that allow readers to make effective and responsible choices for leadership.

"Now maybe we will get that out of a laptop in the next several years, but I'm not quite so sure at this point. Newspapers continue to serve as the best source for timely, in-depth and ongoing coverage on a wide variety of subjects, whether that be taxation, health-care reform, education, politics, you name it," Black said.

But how can newspapers remain viable and relevant for the year 2000 and beyond?

"If the newspaper industry is to remain financially sound and thus editorially independent and diverse, [the NAA has] to take an industry that is steeped in tradition and reshape it for a vastly different world," Black said. …