Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Neuharth Sounds His Familiar Theme

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Neuharth Sounds His Familiar Theme

Article excerpt

THE NEW YORK Times' national edition at $1 a copy is the only "realistically" priced newspaper sold today.

Others could raise their prices and improve their bottom line and content any time they summon up the courage to do so."

So spoke Allen Neuharth, a pricehike proponent dating back to the time when he headed Gannett, and, more particularly, when he set the pace for USA Today.

Neuharth made this point while leading up to the central question at a conference called "Do Newspapers Have a Future?" sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.

The speaker, now chairman of the Freedom Forum, predicted that some newspapers will survive well into the next century, but higher prices are only one of the factors that will determine the winners.

Standouts will be the papers that learn to segment their market, aiming special editions at particular consumers such as youths and sports fans and moving away from a general circulation audience, he said.

Although asserting that USA Today led the charge in this direction, Neuharth said its innovations were "just the tip of the iceberg."

Still, he jibed, most of the critics who labeled USA Today "McPaper, the fast food of journalism ... have stolen many of our McNuggets."

Journalists sneered at USA Today because "newspaper people have gone too uptown," he contended. "If reporters once identified most closely with ordinary people, now more often than not reporters are elites, or at least they act like it'"

But Neuharth conceded that newspaper men and women are not quite like "ordinary folk," in that they are generally better educated and more liberal than average Americans, live in apartments instead of houses, and "identify with big shots."

As such, reporters often miss the point of a story, Neuharth claimed. They blew President Clinton's proposed tuition tax credit, ridiculing it as "kiddie credit," although the cut "represented real money to average taxpayers with kids," according to Neuharth.

Newspaper survival also depends on running fast and smart in the technology since content battles being waged against newspapers by television, cable, online services, magazines, MTV News and even supermarket tabloids, which should not be ignored, Neuharth continued.

"Like it or not, they are newspapers, too, and . . . have been a source of information about the O.J trial for the august New York Times," he said.

Forward-looking papers, Neuharth said, are actively engaged in electronic services to personal computers and are even working closely with TV stations in trading news and information. …

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