Wednesday, May 30, 2007


A couple of hours after posting yesterday's entry, I was told by our advertising director that he had spoken to the PR guy responsible for the ad campaign of the politician I cited. The PR guy said the candidate was angry about something Political Editor Hugh Reynolds had written, thus the Freeman's exclusion from his ad schedule.

Say what?

Reynolds no doubt has angered scores of politicians of all stripes in his nearly 40 years of writing City Beat columns. (I've heard from many of them personally.) But he's paid to offer his opinions, so he's bound to step on some toes. (And when he's made aware of factual errors, he quickly corrects them.)

The bigger question is, who suffers when someone makes advertising placement decisions such as this one?

The newspaper, of course, doesn't get much-desired advertising revenue. But the advertiser/politician doesn't succeed in getting his/her message out to the widest audience, those independently audited (Audit Bureau of Circulations) tens of thousands I mentioned yesterday.

I'll never forget what a former ad director told me years ago: People shouldn't advertise with us because we're nice guys or not advertise with us because they don't like us. They should advertise where they'll get the best results.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Finding an audience

Newspaper publishers like me have long since been made painfully aware that our business isn't what it used to be.

There was a time in Kingston, for example, when if you wanted to advertise your business, your choices were simple: the Freeman, a radio station and maybe a weekly paper.

That's all changed for reasons and in ways too many to list here -- and daily newspapers all over the country are experiencing it.

But here's something that may have been lost in the shuffle: Daily newspaper advertising, particularly in small markets such as ours, remains extremely effective. This is especially true when you realize that the paid circulation of our newspaper, like most dailies, is independently audited. That's important stuff, because we can tell you exactly how many papers we sell each day and where we sell them. Unaudited weeklies can't do that. Nor can broadcasters. Put another way, if you were buying an advertisement, wouldn't you want to be reasonably sure people were going to see it?

I think about this often, usually when I shake my head in disbelief at the advertising placement decisions made by some businessmen and women (or their ad agencies).

You want to tell me that daily papers might not reach a specific demographic, thus they're not right for advertising a specific business? I'll accept that. As I said earlier, the local media landscape has changed.

But some advertising buying decisions don't add up.

I've noticed, for instance, one local political candidate is on radio, cable TV and at least a couple of the weeklies. Nothing in the Freeman. You mean to tell me that a paid political advertisement, for instance, on days when Political Editor Hugh Reynolds' column appears won't be seen and digested by tens of thousands of readers already devoted to that page? Of course it will.

Diversifying an advertising budget makes sense. Excluding the local daily doesn't. And when it's a politician making what I'd say is an errant call, I begin to get broader doubts about his/her judgment.

Oh, by the way, between the daily paper and our on-line site, the Freeman reaches more eyeballs than ever before. As Casey Stengel used to say, you can look it up!

Friday, May 25, 2007

The old days

When I left the Bronx in 1966 to begin college at New Paltz, I never turned back. I was off on a new new adventure, a new life. There'd be new friends, new experiences and, in my case, precious few lingering inter-personal connections to my formative years. That last part is something I've come to regret now that I've reached an age when you start thinking about where you've been and how far you've come, and you wonder about what happened to those who grew up with you.

Some of you may know that former Ulster County Legislator Laura Chasin and I were junior high school classmates. The joke between us was that for several years after crossing paths professionally when Laura still lived in this area, we didn't remember each other from the old days. Then, at a social function when she was chatting with my wife, it clicked. Laura Chasin was Laura Goldman. (There were other things I subsequently remembered about Laura, but I always promised her I wouldn't tell.)

A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, I received an e-mail from another of my old classmates. Alexandra and I exchanged notes, brought each other up to date on our lives, jobs and families and dropped some old names. She's still in the city and has kept in touch with a handful of our friends. One of them, Irwin, wrote me this morning, no doubt having heard from her.

I must tell you, I'm surprised at how glad I was to be contacted by both of them. I don't consider myself a sentimental sort; after all, newspaper people build a shell around themselves. But thinking about people and places and situations from four or more decades ago has struck a chord in me.

Maybe my fellow baby boomers are experiencing the same emotions. Reaching ages 40 and 50 didn't mean much to me. Sixty (in my case in July 2008) says we're beginning to make the turn for the home stretch. There are plenty of good years left, we hope, but Irwin tells me one of our old friends died three years ago. It gives you reason for pause.

Anyway, if my friends from P.S. 106 or Junior High School 127 (at which we had a particularly special and close class) or Columbus High School happen upon this missive, drop me a line at I really would like to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

About those editorials

We've been getting lots of favorable comments in recent months about our newspaper's editorials. To be sure, not everyone agrees with their points of view, but readers seem to like the writing style and strong convictions.

The most common question: Who writes the editorials?

The answer: It doesn't matter.

Let me explain.

Editorials express the opinion of the newspaper, as determined by its editorial board. In other words, no one person makes the call, although at the end of the day, the publisher -- that's me -- has to approve or reject them. Indeed, historically in the newspaper business, the editorial page has come to be known as "the publisher's page." That doesn't mean the publisher writes editorials -- although I do on occasion -- only that my seal of approval is on all of them.

So who writes our editorials? Could be me. Could be Managing Editor Sam Daleo or Assistant Managing Editor Tony Adamis or Political Editor Hugh Reynolds. That's the editorial board.

But the editorials are different these days, harder hitting, edgier perhaps, you say. Someone different must be writing them.


So why not say who it is?

Because to attach a name to the editorials would distract from them being read as "the newspaper's opinion" as opposed to "that person's opinion." We prefer the former designation.

Cloak and dagger? Maybe. Tradition? Yes.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Short notice

One of our motor route drivers called the Circulation Department this morning to say he was giving up his newspaper delivery route after tonight.

Also today, a recently hired copy editor phoned the managing editor to say he had found a new job and we'd seen the last of him.

I wish I could tell you these two cases were unusual, but it seems to be happening more often than ever in business these days.

Put another way, how come fewer employees are aware of the phrase "two weeks notice"?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A day without Internet

The other day I was telling you about what could happen when there's bad weather -- lost power, poor road conditions and the like. I neglected to specifically mention the loss of our Internet connection. So much of what we do these days is Internet-related, you don't fully appreciate it until it's not there. Like yesterday.

Our Internet service died mid-morning. It didn't come back up until 6 a.m. today. The problem was at our server in the corporate office in Pennsylvania. Actually, it wasn't the corporate office's fault, but a major glitch in its region.

Anyway, we didn't have Internet and that meant lots of what we call "work arounds." Ads were being emailed off site and downloaded onto CDs or floppy disks and brought into the office. Same thing with some of our news features, like the weather package and stock report. Conversely, stories for were put on disks and uploaded to the Internet from the city editor's home.

In short, we didn't realize how much we'd miss the Internet until it was gone.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Radio daze

I'm driving home last night listening to WKNY. A talk show host (whose full time employment isn't as a broadcaster) was crediting his show's sponsors. One was a Kingston restaurant -- with the best food in the city, the radio host declared.

The next sponsor? Another Kingston restaurant.

Not exactly strategic product placement.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Albany adventure

I've spent most of my day in Albany, first to record this week's Media Project program for WAMC Northeast Public Radio (it airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and Monday at 3 p.m.), then to a meeting at the Fort Orange Club, where the New York Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation's trustees were considering grant requests.

The radio program includes the usual sparring between me, Rex Smith of the Albany Times Union, Alan Chartock of WAMC, as well as a lively discussion of some of the week's media issues. I'm happy to say it's one of the station's most popular programs. (By the way, WAMC is rightfully proud of how well it did in the recent Arbitron ratings: It is rose to No. 6 per quarter hour for the entire Albany market. Quite an accomplishment.)

The publishers' foundation doled out lots of money -- including some for an Ulster County agency. If your non-profit organization is involved with reading, literacy, newspapers and the like, send inquiries or formal requests to Diane Kennedy at 291 Hudson Avenue, Suite A, Albany, N.Y. 12210. The foundation board meets at two or three times a year to weigh proposals.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Weather watcher

What's a publisher think about on a day like today?

Circulation? Advertising? Editorials? Personnel? Yes, yes, yes and yes.
But when there's lightning and thunder and wind like we're experiencing this afternoon, a publisher can be a slave to the Weather Channel.

Not much I can do about the weather except hope it doesn't cause a power outage -- which obviously has all sorts of ramifications as far as getting out the paper is concerned.

And that doesn't begin to explain the stomach-churning feeling an impending wintertime snowstorm creates. Not only do you worry about the lights going out, but you wonder how your employees will get to work and your trucks will deliver the papers.

Who said a publisher has a cushy job?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

One size fits all

Five days a week, we publish three zoned editions, one for Ulster County, one for Northern Dutchess/Southern Columbia, the other for Greene. Wednesday, however, we'll go with one Regional edition so readers in all parts of our circulation area can learn how the various school district budget proposals fared.

Saturday and Monday are the days of the week when we regularly publish a Regional edition. We also go Regional on holidays and on some bad weather days, when production of one edition instead of three enables us to get the paper delivered in a more timely manner.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Where's the story?

I'm told that one of our reporters is working on a story today about an incident that allegedly occurred in a local school district and has already been reported by another regional newspaper.
Seems somebody contacted the other paper and provided it with all it needed for a story. Unfortunately, nobody called us. And official police and school sources, from what I understand, had nothing to say. So it's taken our staff a while to catch up. After all, you just can't copy a story from another paper and put it in your paper. That's called plagiarism.

Understandably, we've received a bunch of calls from readers in that school district wanting to know why we haven't reported the story. Our editors tell them. "Cover up," some cry.

Why in the world would we "cover up" a juicy story that just might enable us to sell more newspapers?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Better late than never ... not!

It never fails. In the days leading up to an election or a school board budget vote or anything else that will send people to the polls, we get lots of letters pro or con, or touting this candidate or that one. Plenty of opinions. But the letter writers share something in common: Their letters aren't going to get in the paper.

Put another way, how is it that people believe a letter to the editor arriving less than a week before Election Day -- heck, sometimes a day or two before Election Day -- will be published? Doesn't it occur to them that a newspaper gets dozens of letters a day on a variety of subjects, including elections or budget votes in four counties' worth of precincts? Don't they realize that there are space constraints? And don't they understand that letters pages are prepared in advance, particularly before the weekend?

Suffice it so say, if you want a time-sensitive letter considered for the print edition of our newspaper, we recommend its arrival at least two weeks in advance. And make it short. Longer letters have even less chance of publication, in part because they take up too much space, but also because readers generally aren't interested in wading through lengthy pieces unless they're particularly compelling.

Want to express an opinion relatively quickly? At the bottom of each story on the Internet version of the Freeman there's a "Post a comment" link. Click through and follow the guidelines and you're on.

Still want the opinion exposed in the print editions? Two words: plan ahead.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Comic strip politics

Newspaper readers are passionate about comic strips. I learned that the hard way in 1983, shortly after I became editor, when I decided to flex my muscles and make a couple of changies on the funny pages. Wow! Did the you-know-what hit the fan.

Actually, readers don't like any changes in their local newspaper and they let us know about it when we make them. Eventually, they become used to the new things and move on ... then scream again when the next alteration is made.

But the editors received an e-mail the other day with a new twist. A guy was unhappy with two new comics just launched in the paper. He called them "liberal balderdash imposed by an all-knowing Freeman staff. ... We need liberal elites like you to tell us the right PC view of the day."

Fact is, the "all-knowing Freeman staff" (in this case the managing editor) selects strips already popular in other newspapers around the country, or new ones aimed at attracting demographics we may not be reaching.

"Liberal balderdash"? Maybe in some of our editorials. On the comics page? Sorry, no sale.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Here we go!

It was September 1970 when I first rolled a piece of copy paper into a typewriter (remember typewriters?) at my desk at the Freeman's old building on the Rondout (currently the home of Mariner's restaurant). Thousands of stories and columns later, here it is May 2007 and I'm a blogger! Heck, in 1970, a blogger could have been a villain in a Popeye cartoon.

Anyway, I'm off and running with my contributions to the web. As publisher of the Daily and Sunday Freeman, Las Noticias, the Taconic Press weeklies, the Westchester County Times, Dutchess Magazine and the Hudson Valley Guide, I'll mostly stick to answering your questions and concerns about what it is we do and how we do it. (Why is the Channels TV section smaller, anyway?)

But given this exciting new forum, I may not be able to resist. So look for an occasional straying from the media biz for my two cents and more on a variety of other topics.

Check back soon. We've only just begun.