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Discussion: Who Will Report when the Reporters are Gone?

posted on February 26, 2009 at 2:24 PM


So, with the free news sites available to the public, how will the gathering and dissemination of news be financed?  How will traditional news media make that transition?  And in the end, what will be the quality and the content of those media? 

Joining us tonight on our discussion is Michael Gartner, he is a former NBC News president and also he was the former Page One editor for the Wall Street Journal.  He does now reside in Des Moines. 

Bill Monroe is the Executive Director of the Iowa Newspaper Association also based in central Iowa. 

And also on the program tonight is Mark Eno, he is General Manager of KMA Radio in Shenandoah, Iowa in the southwest part of the state. 

Paul Yeager: Mark, we're going to start with you.  Technically aside, let's throw out the technology of the last 50 years, really is KMA doing anything different than what they used to do 50 years ago when it comes to radio broadcasting?

Mark Eno: If you throw out technically, no.  We do the same thing.  We have the same amount of people.  We still cover the same amount of stories.  In fact, we probably cover more because technology allows us to do that.  But the basics are still the same today as they were 50 years ago.

Paul Yeager: What is that basic mantra that you live by then?

Mark Eno: Well, we figure that we are the source of relevant news for our area that can't be gathered as well from anybody else.  So, we like to think that we're a hub for information and that we're a source that would be exclusive for that information that our listeners want.

Paul Yeager: But you're strictly not a radio station, you kind of abandoned that -- you haven't abandoned radio.  You're still doing radio but you also do other forms.  What are those?  Why did you get involved in them?

Mark Eno: Well, I think we discovered a few years ago that one of the challenges in our industry was calling ourselves a radio station because what we really are is a communication company and if we're not finding what those platforms are that people want and are going to be at then we're going to stay just a radio station and I think our industry has probably suffered because of that.  So, we actually have a very active Web site that we have most of our news and information on as well as some access channels that we lease in the area which are cable access channels or telephone company access channels so we can get that information out via TV too.

Paul Yeager: And your Web site is not something that is just viewed by ten people.  It's more than half a million a month, is that usually what you're averaging for traffic?

Mark Eno: Yes, the unique views is what we call it, that's how we gauge it but it's extremely active, yes.

Paul Yeager: And when you talk about -- we talked earlier this week about outside pressures on any of the industry and we'll get into that tonight -- is the Clear Channels of the world that put the biggest pressure on you to allow you to continue to follow in that model that you have gone and lived by at KMA radio?

Mark Eno: Well, I guess if we say that we would say that's not the model that any of us think radio should go at and I would agree with that.  We're owned by a local family who started us back in 1925 and there's not a better way to survive in this world than to be owned by a founding family. 

But really when it comes to that we do a lot of things the same way we've always done them and it's worked and you don't want to change something that's working but yet you've still got to be looking towards the future.  And, again, with our company and with our people and our ownership we're able to do that.

Paul Yeager: Michael Gartner, local ownership -- what is that in broadcast media any more?  Is there such a thing?  Why is that something that is in such small supply right now?

Michael Gartner: Well, because people like Clear Channel and things like that came along and offered ungodly amounts of money to local families to sell out.  They paid way too much in retrospect.  Same thing happened in the newspaper business. 

And so now I suspect that KMA is probably debt free and so they can channel their resources into what they should be doing which is gathering news and disseminating it whether it's disseminating it over the air waves or over the Internet or through cable channels or whatever.  They are providing a terrific local service. 

They can do it because they know the territory, they have an affection for the territory, they hire and keep good people, they don't have to pay debt and they have a market that is basically theirs.  It would be very hard to do what KMA does in Shenandoah, it would be very hard to do in Chicago but it could be done. 

So, there is a huge split in the media between towns like Shenandoah, Carroll, Iowa Falls, the kinds of places that Bill is familiar with and the major metro markets and that's where the huge shake out is coming now and that's where they have to figure out the solution.  He's got the solution for Shenandoah.

Paul Yeager: Is it really dollar signs that got us away from that when it's the second, third, fourth generation of some of these families that were involved with a media company, that had it for generations who said, you know what, I don't know anything about running a television station or a newspaper or a radio station but man that money looks good that's coming in from Clear Channel or whatever the big company would be.  Is that what got us down the path is just purely dollar signs in the eyes?

Michael Gartner: I think part of it was greed, part of it was lack of communication within families, part of it was estate issues, probably every seller had a different reason and there's probably a mixture of all of those in every one.  But what goes around comes around, it will come back to family ownership eventually.

Paul Yeager: And there are stations -- I worked at a station in Davenport owned by Young Broadcasting which filed for bankruptcy, Chapter 11 protection a couple of weeks ago. 

They paid too much for Chronicle in San Francisco and it put them in a hole.  There's been other sales that have put other stations -- you look at Gannett and when they bought the Register -- do you think that was one of the things that put them in a tough leverage spot that whatever the medium is when it's a high price there's no way they can go, there's no way they can succeed?  Are they starting on the wrong foot to begin with?

Michael Gartner: Well, whether it's a media business or whether it's a grocery store or whether it's a bottling plant you can't spend too much, you can't put all your profits into paying off your debt or else you won't be able to invest in your business.  And that's part of it.

But you also have to understand that the media business, as your piece showed, has just undergone this enormous transformation and nobody has quite figured out exactly what the future is going to be.  Somebody will figure it out, it will be fine. 

Newspapers aren't dead, television isn't dead.  I'm 70 years old and I've lived through at least four revolutions that were going to kill the newspaper industry or kill the television industry.

I was at NBC when satellites became common and when all news channels became common and it was going to be the end of television as we know it and GE was run by a guy name Jack Welch, a very smart guy, and a guy named Bob Wright ran NBC, a very smart guy, and they said we'll start buying cable companies, let's start getting into all of these cable channels and so now NBC has got CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, all of those things. 

There is a young guy who used to work for me and now he's got this massive job there and he told me he's responsible for like $4 billion in revenue and none of it is over the air.  So, there's always a solution.

Paul Yeager: There's always solutions and I know the newspaper industry, Bill, is looking for solutions of sorts.  Michael talked about it a little bit.  We always hear print is dead, print is dead, it's not.  Why is it surviving?  How is it going to survive?  Give us an assessment of Iowa newspapers, first of all, in just the next year.  Are we going to have all of our newspapers in one year?

Bill Monroe: Well, I would guess we probably would.  I think that a lot of the things that have been said today really apply to the newspaper industry in Iowa.  When you think Iowa newspapers there are 320 newspapers in Iowa, more newspapers per capita in the near states largely because of our education system, our literacy rate here. 

They have been successful over the decades and they are successful in large part because they have figured out how to serve their audience, provide that audience with something they can't get anywhere else, can't get it on the Internet, can't get it on TV, can't get it on radio or whatever.  When you look at the state of the newspaper industry in Iowa today it's kind of a tale of two cities.  In the community newspapers things are going well.

The fact that you've had record crops and record prices for those crops for several years because of ethanol and other factors have really made those Main Streets pretty strong and the local economies are good and so the newspapers are doing well.  In the larger cities they are more apt to be owned by large corporations that have the debt problems that Michael talked about and they are really facing a triple whammy. 

They have got the recession that is affecting them.  Some of the business that they have lost primarily business in the classified area that has gone to the Internet smaller papers never had to lose so they're facing those issues.  They are facing the fact that they have to develop simultaneously two business plans.  One is the traditional print plan that you referenced.  And the other is they are all building online Web site products.

So, they have got that extra expense and then a real twist of fate we've got a spike in the price of news print which is the main product.  Usually when there's a recession that goes down, the price goes down, there is less demand, there's fewer pages published but in this particular recession it's gone up 25%, 30% in some cases because news print is made from the byproducts of wood, the wood they make for lumber. 

Well, there's no houses being built or fewer houses being built so there's less of that raw product so the price goes up.  So, they are really faced with a triple whammy but as Michael said they will figure out a way to survive.

Paul Yeager: Earlier on Thursday before we recorded this program there was news out of Denver, the Rocky Mountain Newspaper, 150 year old newspaper is going to shut down on Friday, that's it, one day notice they were going to be done.  Employees inside are saying can't we just do one more day or do an online version. 

How much longer before we see the shattering of paper?  Will we ever see the case where we shut paper completely down and we follow the Iowa Independent model of online only, there's no printing, there's nothing that goes onto your doorstep?

Bill Monroe: I think newspaper companies that are smart will find a way to get information -- really this should be about content, not about technology -- they will find a way to gather that content, package it and get it to the subscriber, reader, whatever it is in a way that that person wants it, the household wants it and it may be different even within a neighborhood, some people want it still in print. 

I'm not 70, I'm 61 but I will always want my newspaper.  I have children who are in high school and junior high and they're going to get all of their information electronically.  It isn't how you get it that counts, it's how you package it and how you can develop a package that no one else can provide to the extent like KMA is doing, to the extent you can do that whether you're a newspaper or a radio station you're going to be successful.

Paul Yeager: I have to move around the table because we're in the final couple of minutes.  We didn't get to discuss too much but give me a 30 second summation of how your industry -- I'll ask radio, television, newspaper -- what is your future in the next five years for radio?

Mark Eno: I think as long as we concentrate on local and understand what the issues are and air those and have the interaction which we have to do through the Internet for asking questions and getting responses, if people can feel like they can connect and interact with us I think that's the secret but it's got to be local.  We've got to talk and do things that affect the people's lives that we're talking to.

Paul Yeager: Mr. Gartner, local network television, how do they survive in the news department?

Michael Gartner: I think there will be a blending you won't realize -- there will be a great news gathering operation which there is now and how that is disseminated depends, as Bill said, how you want it -- news gathered by television newsrooms, some will go over cable, some will go over the Internet, some will go over the air, some might go under your kindle, some might go onto your iPhone.

But there's still somebody has to gather the news, there has to be a gatekeeper there saying this is true, this is valid, this is lousy, don't use this and at the moment the networks are among the organizations that can do that just as radio does it in Shenandoah, as newspapers do it in Carroll and places like that, so it's a glorious future.  The question is just how is it distributed and how is it priced.

Paul Yeager: More people are watching television and reading papers than they have before but yet we're talking about the death it seems like and we don't mean to get that way.

Michael Gartner: It's not the death, it's a transformation of distribution and there's always going to be newspapers that people will want.

Paul Yeager: Newspapers, are they going to stay around?

Bill Monroe: I am more optimistic now about the future of newspapers than I have been since the day I started in this business back in 1969.  More people are reading newspapers or newspaper Web sites now more than ever before.  You go into smaller Iowa towns outside of the six or seven largest towns and you do a circulation drive it's hard to find somebody who is not subscribing to that newspaper.

Penetration is staying as high as it's ever been.  The real winners in the next five years are going to be the consumer.  They have more choices and as they become more educated and they experience how to get their news and get their news packaged the way they want to they're going to have a variety of ways to do that. 

I think one of the things you're going to see happen is right now we're all enchanted by the new devices and the new technology as it is very exciting but eventually people are going to realize I want information that's accurate, that's timely, that is broad and it doesn't have a particular slanted point of view one way or the other.

Paul Yeager: Just last week Lee did reach an agreement on refinancing their debt so they avoided bankruptcy.

Michael Gartner: They were right up against the door.

Paul Yeager: Within days, yes.

Michael Gartner: But still, what is their stock, 30 cents, 25 cents today?

Paul Yeager: It's more than Young Broadcasting which was a nickel again today so in that town it's been a little bit of a struggle.  Mark, when you talk about economics of news your sales department not only sells air but they also sell Web.  How has that changed in what they have done in trying to make money for the family and make money to keep your station on the air?

Mark Eno: Well, they have to be multi-task sellers, they can't just sell one thing and we try to sell our ideas rather than we're selling this format or this format.  And if we can find an idea that will solve a problem then the client will buy it and if we can show them how they can solve certain problems on different platforms then that's what we do.  But luckily we're in a radio business and air is free.

Paul Yeager: I think you had told me earlier this week about the relationship that you have with your clients in town and tell me what you tell a new person who starts in sales at KMA how they should view their relationship from a customer to a listener to a consumer of the Web and the drug store that's in town.

Mark Eno: Well, we're all about business on a handshake, we don't have any contracts with anybody.  Ours is truly a relationship with our clients of trying to help them find out what their problem is and then try to help them do that.  And if we come across that we're genuine in that then we can create a good relationship. 

Most of our sales people have been there at least seven or eight years so they have create a deep relationship with our clients and our clients come to depend on us to help them with their issues whether it's the current recession or over inventoried on something they know they can call us and we can help them.

Paul Yeager: Are you like every other media that is feeling a little bit of a struggle or a pinch with your clients that do advertise?  Are they saying I might not be able to buy as much as I have in the past?

Mark Eno: I don't think we're immune from anything.  We've noticed a little bit in the first quarter but, again, that just means we have to try harder and we have to help solve bigger and larger problems, more challenging problems than there probably were just six months ago.  But, again, that's part of the -- there's always opportunity in anything and so that's how we look at it.

Paul Yeager: And with radio, as you said, the air is free, you've never had to really pay, you're not XM, you're not Sirius but, Bill, you pay for the paper, you pay 50 cents, has that modeled, how you used to have to pay for either a subscription or the paper that you've picked up, has that affected the way you've had to restructure -- people in my generation or younger they want things for free, they want content for free, at the most as we said on the feature 99 cents for a song on iTunes is about as much as I'll pay on the Internet.

Michael Gartner: You've got to pay $100 for phone service or cable service.

Paul Yeager: So, how do you fight that when you're trying to make money as a newspaper with your content?

Bill Monroe: There is a raging debate going on within our industry on just how to do this.  We're in the middle of the biggest transformation of our industry that has ever happened.  In 25 years we'll look back on this and say remember when we were just trying to figure all this out. 

There are people who believe that everything that goes in the newspaper should be also on the Web site and it should be free. There are people who believe just the opposite, that that defeats the purpose of having the print product.  Most everybody comes down somewhere in the middle. 

And at the same time that we're trying to figure all this out you've got the technology changing and both for the consumer and the producer of the information and the content.  And you've got the economy doing their ups and downs and age differentials and so on and so forth so it is a heck of a challenge.  But I still think you go back to the very basics. 

The successful media people are the ones that can figure out, as you said earlier, you're not a radio station, you're a communications company and the successful newspapers will figure that out and they'll provide the content that their individual audience wants, maybe it wouldn't work 20 miles down the road but in their individual market area this is what these people want, we're going to get it to them, we're going to get it to them when they want it, how they want it and if we do that everything else will take care of itself.

Paul Yeager: Point to a good success story, a good paper that has that operation that is profitable, that forward thinking community involved that is working here in the state.  Give us the KMA of the newspaper industry.

Bill Monroe: There's a lot of KMAs in the newspaper business.  In most communities the newspaper is the hub of all commerce.  Their publishers and editors are on the Chamber of Commerce board, they may likely hold office, they have fixed franchises and they are going to do what they can do to help their towns, they are the number one cheerleader of the local communities, they're helping to bring in new industry. 

One good example that Michael mentioned earlier is Iowa Falls.  The Iowa Falls Times-Citizen generation know ownership there, Mark Hamilton and Joe Martin who are now running it, they don't just have a newspaper although they have a very good community newspaper, they also have the local radio station.  They also publish multiple editions of Farm Bureau Spokesman, not only in Iowa but in other states. 

They actually have a new printing plant which just opened last year, a station for the U.S. postal service right in their plant that weighs the papers and they put them on trucks and send them to Texas and all over the country.  They went through a difficult time during the farm crisis and they understood at that time we've got to diversify, we've got to do things differently here. 

Yes, we're still going to do our newspaper but we're going to do other niche products and they have done a great job and a lot of people look to them as a model of how to try to replicate in their own communities.

Paul Yeager: Mr. Gartner, you knew we'd get a chance to talk baseball but you're a local owner in a local market.  Why is it for baseball, for newspaper, for radio to be local if you're a television, a broadcast, a newspaper why is local ownership so important that you see the general manager, the owner of a station involved in Rotary or Lions or something like that, that lives there, that it's not just being sent through the corporate chain from town to town?

Michael Gartner: I once told Al Newharth when he was the Chief Executive of Gannett Company, I said I can make all your newspapers better overnight.  And he said, what, what, tell me.  I said, ground your airplanes and just quit transferring people around. 

It takes a long time to learn a community and if you're a local owner, first of all, you love the community, you have an affection for the community and second of all, you really want the community to succeed. That is where you live, that's where your kids are going to school so you want trails built and you want sports franchises and you want good schools and things like that. 

You're not keeping your eye on if I do a good job, if I stay out of controversy I'll get promoted to the next biggest town in the chain whether it's a bank or a newspaper or a television station or radio station.

So, it's a place where you've decided that you love and you chose to live there.  Either you grew up there or you moved there as a young person and that's where you want to -- that's where you've kind of cashed your lot.

So, it's hugely important whether it's the baseball business, the radio business, the television business, the newspaper business I think you have a huge advantage if you're locally owned and you're an owner-operator, you're on the spot.  You go down to the ballpark and the opening night is April 17th and tickets are still available -- you're on the spot, you're walking around, people come up to you and if there's something wrong they'll tell you right away. 

It's the same way if you're a local publisher or a local editor, nobody is ever shy about telling you what they think and they will but that's what you want, you want that feedback.  And I just think that there's some great chain newspapers but I just think that as a rule local ownership whether it's a bank, a baseball team, a newspaper or a radio station you have a huge, huge advantage because you know the community, you're going to stay in the community and people know you.

Paul Yeager: So, what happens here?  I want you to poke the FCC a little bit.  What if the FCC would change a law and would give preferential treatment to applicants who are local ownership of groups?  Should they be favored more?

Michael Gartner: I don't believe that's a role of the government to determine who should own something or who should be favored, I wouldn't believe in that even though I'm a tax and spend 1960s liberal democrat, I don't think that's a role for the government.

Paul Yeager: Because they shouldn't be sticking their nose in it but isn't it in the FCC's interest though to make sure they have good running television stations ...

Michael Gartner: The FCC's interest should be that signals don't collide in the air, it should have nothing to do with content or ownership, it should be with the technology to make sure that here's a radio station and it's assigned a frequency that the guys in the next town aren't assigned.

Paul Yeager: Mark, you can poke the FCC now if you'd like.  What do you think if they would give preferential treatment to a local ownership group that would come in?  Say the May family would decide to sell and whether it's you or somebody else that would put an offer and Clear Channel you'd be against, throw a name out that people know or Citadel -- do you think that you should have an advantage with the FCC?

Mark Eno: Well, I have to agree exactly with what Michael said.  I think that's exactly where the FCC ought to stick to and that is the technical side of it and they're already beyond that and now they're talking re-enacting the fairness doctrine and all that and that is an awful thing because 99% of the stations today are doing it exactly the way it ought to be. 

And so to add more administration and more hassle with that just doesn't make any sense and so if the FCC would concentrate on what they should to make things right then we wouldn't even have to worry about this other.

Michael Gartner: The answer to your question is if for some reason the family were going to sell they're such a good family and they're such good owners they would put the preference in for the local owner and you don't need anybody else to do that.  It's like the guy when Obama gave his speech the other night and they showed this banker, he finally sold his bank but he gave all the money or a huge chunk of the money to the employees.  That's a good local owner.

Mark Eno: And somebody else might do that because he did it on his own, not because he was forced to do it by the government or anybody else.

Michael Gartner: Yeah, nobody said give this away.

Paul Yeager: Do you think the deregulation of the FCC did put some of the holes for radio when they allowed to own so many stations at one time?  Do you think that also hurt, accelerated maybe the falling out of radio with some people?

Mark Eno: I think without a doubt it was generated by, I hate to use the word greed, but it was a money thing, they could see an opportunity there but what lacked and what suffered was the local content and the connection with the community because those people weren't serving on boards in local communities and it was definitely I think a downturn in radio history.

Michael Gartner: But I think what's going to happen is the big chains whether they are newspaper chains or radio station chains or television chains they're going to start shedding and they're not going to be able to get the big money that they think they can get. 

Some of them are declaring bankruptcy and so those will be sold off and they'll be sold off to local families.  They might buy them for the right reasons, they might buy them for the wrong reasons but ultimately they'll operate them for the right reasons.

Paul Yeager: Who else do you see that would -- if there is a local family that has no history, no experience in whatever media is it going to be a family or is it going to be a local employee owned, a Hy-Vee model of sorts?

Michael Gartner: No, I don't think employee owned things work that well in most industries.  I think it will be a local family that loves the community that says we have to have a good radio station, we have to have a good newspaper, we have to have a good television station. So maybe they'll get together with one or two others and they'll say let's buy this.

But they'll buy it at a reasonable price so that they can operate it at a fair profit margin without all of their money having to go to pay off an enormous debt that they shouldn't have taken on in the first place.  I absolutely believe that's what is going to happen and maybe not in my lifetime but certainly in yours.

Paul Yeager: I have to pin him on one thing, you said you're 70.  You've owned newspapers before.  Are you in a position now that you would want to get back in the business and if a newspaper would come available ... ?

Michael Gartner: No, like I said, I'm 70 years old but if I were 40 years old I would and I've invested some money with a very bright young guy who owns an alternative weekly in Des Moines and about a dozen suburban monthly magazines and he's doing just fine, Shane Goodman, he's a very smart guy, you ought to have him on the show some time, he understands newspapers, he's worked for newspapers, he's got a free distribution weekly that does very well because he's a smart guy, he knows the community and he understands all of the new technology.

Paul Yeager: Very good.  Bill, I cut you off, I'm sorry.

Bill Monroe: That's okay, I always like to listen to Michael.  I was going to underscore your point.  I just talked within the last two weeks to a corporate officer of a multi-state media company with newspapers in many states in the country and he said what he believes is going to happen to his company is that they will be selling those papers into the local communities. 

And he says, I'm a corporate officer of this corporation but I'm here to tell you that when that happens the newspaper will be better off and those communities will be better off.  That's what it was like 20 years ago, 30 years ago when I came to this job and I think you're going to see some more of that happening.

Paul Yeager: I know you're getting close to retirement with the newspaper association and a successor has been named, I don't know if we've just made news or not but we're going to go ahead and make it. 

Should the next generation of the Iowa Newspaper Association get into a position to lobby some of these corporate owners in a town whether it's an Ottumwa or a Mason City, that would be Lee paper, but to say go into a community and find a few or a family that might have an interest in trying to promote and keep your industry going in the direction you're talking about?

Bill Monroe: I don't think the association has that role, I don't think that's what our mission is. 

But I do think that we're there to support those people when they do make those transactions to help them in any way to get up and running and our role is to protect newspapers from adverse legislation, to sell advertising for their newspapers and to help educate and train their staff and we have a lot of work to do no matter who owns the paper but as this transition that we're talking about happens or as it happens that role will be very important.

Paul Yeager: We've seen the stock market almost get below 7000, we continue to see prices -- we talk about the Lee stock below $1.00, how low do things have to go before we start seeing some of the sell-offs whether it be Lee ... ?

Bill Monroe: If the corporate officer of that company that I talked to is right, it will be very soon.

Michael Gartner: There's all kinds of papers for sale, the question is just when the price gets to something that makes it economically viable to produce a journalistically strong news operation, part print, part Web and what have you and I think the day is coming.

Paul Yeager: Clear Channel is going to be looking to maybe shed -- they headquartered KMA back in the 80s -- are we going to see the tables turn?  Does May Broadcasting say, you know what, there's a Council Bluffs station we would like or do we see that radio is going to follow the same trend?

Mark Eno: Yeah, I think you never say never. I think that could happen and Clear Channel already is shedding, it's already happened and it is happening and one of the things I want to throw out, I think what could happen too in newspaper and radio is other people who traditionally haven't been in that business could then become owners of radio stations or newspapers.

And there's been some in-breeding in both of our industries and I think if we could bring some people in from the outside with some new ideas and some new technical skills that could be exciting for both industries too.

Michael Gartner: But I bet you if the family that owned KMA if they had bought a station in Council Bluffs it wouldn't be as good as the station in Shenandoah.

Paul Yeager: How do those community stations -- do you see any model, do you feel like you're a trend setter when it comes to those models or are there other stations whether it be in Waverly or Cresco or Decorah that would say we need to really follow what you're doing?  Do you have other managers that call you and kind of try to follow your models?

Mark Eno: We've had a couple but there's a lot of ego and pride in our industry and sometimes you don't want to admit -- but do we have a model that we could take out to other stations?  Yes, I think we do. 

Whether they would accept it I'm not sure but the ownership -- one of the things Ed May, our owner, comes down a couple of times a week or a couple of times a month and he knows every employee, that makes them feel good so it's not only making the listeners and viewers feel good, it's making your employees feel good about where they are and our owner does an excellent job of that.

Paul Yeager: I should have asked this question earlier but why should the average person at home watching who is not involved in the media, has a family member other than just a consumer of the industry care that we're even having this discussion?

Michael Gartner: Because the average person at home desperately wants to be a well informed citizen so he can make intelligent decisions about his own life or her own life and you can't be well informed if you don't have new sources that you trust and can rely on and if the main source of news in Shenandoah is coming out of Denver, Colorado that's not good.

Paul Yeager: You talked about content just a little bit, didn't know if we would get here, has what is perceived as either a liberal bias or a conservative bias of one agency or another -- is it bias or is it just good marketing by companies trying to find a demographic that they are trying to succeed with their station or drive their message to a station?

Michael Gartner: I think that on certain cable outlets there is an audience that they're going for.  I think Fox News goes for conservative, I think MSNBC with Olbermann and Rachel Maddow goes for a more liberal audience and I think you tend to watch those people you agree with. 

I think for the same reason liberals subscribe to liberal fort nightlies and conservatives to conservative fort nightlies to reaffirm their own wisdom and I think that's the same with cable, I think it's the same with radio talk shows but so what.

Bill Monroe: The more the merrier.  Go back and look at today's newspaper titles and you heard about what's in the newspaper today.  The conservative, the liberal, the democrat, the republican ... those meant something at one time when those papers were formed.  The more voices in a marketplace the better. 

And the consumer is going to go where the consumer can go to get the most information they can use most conveniently and if that's a newspaper that's where they're going to go, a radio station, cable, Internet.  It's just a package with the content. 

You go back to this content question and it's always been then umber one driving factor and it will always be the number one driving factor and it's not going to be the same, there's no template you can just stamp in a given community except the template of local.  And it's interesting to see now that some of the larger newspapers in our state are becoming more and more focused on that local news, the same local news emphasis that's been in the weekly newspapers and the small dailies forever. 

Paul Yeager: But what happens when there are folks that need to be exposed or should be exposed and are well rounded they might listen to only the conservative side or the liberal side?  Shouldn't they hear what the other side is or what the other message is on any given subject matter or any story?

Bill Monroe: You would hope that they would want to know both sides of the story.

Paul Yeager: So, we know that we've seen this great dissent in this country about certain things.

Michael Gartner: Do you think the liberals read the editorials in the Wall Street Journal?  No, they get to that page and they just turn by it and it's the same why liberals don't listen to Rush Limbaugh or conservatives don't listen to Rachel Maddow or watch Rachel Maddow. 

You want to reinforce your own views.  It's nice to know they're there and the broad based person reads them both and then sits down and debates with himself or herself but that's just not the way it works. 

Bill Monroe: The beautiful thing is it's all out there for the taking and it's very inexpensive to access.  You don't expect a grocery store just to put up healthy foods, just vegetables and fruits.  You can choose whatever you want when you're in a grocery store and the more choices you have the better. 

It's the same with media, that nourishment you need, intellectual nourishment.  It's there for the taking and the part that newspapers focus on is the local news you can use and nobody else can touch that. 

Network news can't touch it, the bloggers can't touch it, it's a different piece and the exciting thing about where we are now and where we're going forward -- excuse me for being so Pollyanna here -- but we have more tools to use than we have ever used before, videos -- videos on newspaper Web sites are in some communities, some smaller communities drawing more attention than local TV stations are.

We're doing blogs and we're learning how to customize delivery so that people can get just what they need.  It's very exciting times.

Paul Yeager: Mark, you had mentioned that you have some involvement especially in the Web site, polls, daily polls that you want people to interact with but do you go to the next step of citizen journalism whether it be on a Friday night calling in scores, say I'm at this game tonight, I'm at the Red Oak game and I'm going to phone in this report?  Where is the role of citizen journalism when it comes into radio?

Mark Eno: I think it's critical to have that because now we're talking about more ownership by our listeners and our viewers to our station and our industry and that is wonderful. 

The more people we can get involved the better it will be and I want to go back real quick to what we're talking about before. 

This is all a business model about supply and demand and the reason Rush sells well is because they can sell his show and any radio station is going to sell what they can but I think what has happened in our country is that we pretend that Rush or any of them are experts on news and the economy and stuff.  They are entertainers number one and that's what I think we've got to remember, they are not news experts but they laugh it all the way to the bank.

Michael Gartner: The only reason you can do it is because there's this thing called the First Amendment which is the greatest thing in the whole world and that's why you can have this great cacophony and diversity of voices and that is what sets this country apart from every other country and that's what has to be protected most.

Paul Yeager: So, bring on the bloggers ...

Michael Gartner: Bring them all on, yes.

Paul Yeager: Give your advice for folks to sift through all of this message whether it's this station or any of them or paper or a radio station -- how do they sift through to get the best information, Bill?

Bill Monroe: Well, I'm a little biased but in my community I'm going to definitely subscribe to my local newspaper, it's going to have a lot of broad information and if I have a local radio station in that community and if they do news I certainly would want to listen to the news and I would read news magazines and I would watch television, I'd try to get a variety of things. 

I think what's happening with our society as we're getting more and more compressed in our schedules and things are getting crazier and there's so much media out there, there needs to be a gatekeeper function and there needs to be someone who can organize things for you and deliver it to you so that you can get what you need and not things you're not interested in.

Paul Yeager: We mentioned Kindle, that's the electronic reading device -- content wise for newspaper how will we see our newspaper -- do you think we'll see a model of it as an electronic device in five, ten years where that content comes to you in that type of an electronic product?

Michael Gartner: You can get that on Kindle now, you can subscribe to anything on Kindle.

Bill Monroe: You can and I think the next thing that's going to happen is there will be a way based on your selection of what you read in the local newspaper or the newspaper on Kindle or a Kindle of its time.

The newspaper will know what you're interested in and as the newspaper learns your reading habits you'll get more of what you're interested in and eventually you're going to say those editors are really getting it down there, they're so brilliant because everything in here is important to my life.

And as that happens and it also has tremendous applications on the advertising side, if you know how many people are looking at ads you become a marketing partner with an advertiser, not just a space or time salesperson and the opportunities there are amazing.

Paul Yeager: I'll give you the final 30 seconds here, Mark.  Do you see KMA will eventually just be a Web site with a radio station or will you always be a radio station that also has a Web site?

Mark Eno: I hate to say what I think it's going to be -- it's going to be a combination.  Mobility, as Bill was talking about, is really what he's saying -- mobility is the key and if you can offer that information and get it to them in the platform that they want and need then you're going to be the winner in the end and you have to be mobile in whatever form you're putting that ad in.

Paul Yeager: That's Mark Eno, he's General Manager of KMA Radio in Shenandoah.  Mark, thank you so much for making the trip up, good to have you here.  Michael Gartner is former NBC News President, also former Page One Editor of the Wall Street Journal and owner of the Iowa Cubs, season opening date is April what?

Michael Gartner: The home opener is April 17th at 7:05p.m. and tickets are still available.

Paul Yeager: Since we didn't give him his chance to wrap it up we gave him a chance to get a plug.  And Bill Monroe, Executive Director of the Iowa Newspaper Association.  Gentlemen, thank you so much for taking time tonight on this extended version of this Iowa Journal which you can also see online at iptv.org. 

 

Tags: blogs economy Internet Iowa journalism news newspapers radio television

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