Seeking a boost from 'a few good readers'

Body

We received some criticism from a few locals for running a political advertisement sticker on our front page the week before the primary election. It was a candidate we endorsed on these commentary pages, but the reaction to the sticker made us rethink our policy to run these stickers at all for political candidates.

First, a little background. Like all media, we are looking for new “products” to offer to our advertising customers. We now have magazines and digital offerings and we saw that other newspapers have these front-page stickers at a premium price. They are easily removable, yet obviously occupy a coveted space.

Back in September, Hill Country Memorial Hospital inquired about doing pink stickers to encourage women to sign up for mammograms during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The hospital had good results with it. We have since had other businesses inquire about it.

During the hot-and-heavy political primary season, we had two county candidates who were going to go in together on a sticker. 

In the end, one of the candidates decided not to pursue the sticker, so that advertising “spot” was open. Dave Campbell’s campaign purchased the sticker and the spot and we ran it.

After the dust settled, Campbell won Gillespie County but lost District 73. And I was left wondering if doing political stickers at all was a good idea — not because they are not effective, but because of the implied endorsement some readers found objectionable.

I listened to those readers, consulted with some trusted friends and advisers, and decided against running anymore political stickers. That means a local school board candidate who had requested one and a local city council candidate will have to stick with traditional advertising.

Those who read our paper know we will endorse bond issues, propositions or candidates about whom we feel strongly. But those endorsements should and will be limited to these Commentary pages.

A front-page sticker, when it is stuck next to our masthead on the front page, does imply endorsement by some of our readers. That’s understandable, though it is a paid advertisement, not a “gimme” or gift from us.

We still welcome businesses to explore this option as an advertising venue. But since politics carry no small amount of emotion and/or hard feelings, we’ll do away with political advertising in that space. Even if we disagree on some issues or candidates, we respect our readers and are grateful to them.

 

—kec—

 

Some of these trusted advisers mentioned earlier are potential candidates for a Reader Advisory Panel the Standard-Radio Post will form. (See related story on the Business page.)

When Art Kowert and Terry Collier owned the paper, they had a board of directors off of which to bounce ideas, concerns and questions. While our group of sister newspapers offers plenty of expertise, none of it is based here, excepting the staff we have here (and we are grateful for them).

We would like to form a Reader Advisory Panel made up of between 8 and 12 community members to help us with issues, concerns and even ideas on how we might better get out our message to the public. This board would likely meet every two months or each quarter (to be determined). We especially would like to see a variety of demographics on this board so we can better tell all stories of this vibrant community.  

If interested, please email me at ken@fredericksburgstandard.com or call 830-997-2155 during business hours.

 

—kec—

 

I also wanted to mention a little industry action that is concerning to we newspaper publishers.

Each week, I write a check for between $5,000 and $6,000 to our newspaper printer. But a potential new tariff and a squeeze on newsprint supplies may add significantly to that total.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has proposed a levy of additional duties on the North American paper supply of up to 22 percent. This tariff was sought by an American paper producer (a company owned by an investment banker, not a newspaper company).

The tariff, in theory, addresses his concerns of anti-dumping — exporters selling at below-market prices or operating in countries that subsidize the paper. Problem is, Canada is a huge supplier of our paper as well, and this tariff would be applied to Canadian exports as well.

Printing is a newspaper operation’s second highest expense, after payroll, so it’s a bottom-line concern.

Our company has been buying whatever supply we can find. That included some heavier, brighter paper, which you may have noticed threaded into our sections these past couple of weeks.

We are writing our Congressman in hopes he will be willing to help us in some way to avoid this tariff. This tariff, like others, is full of unintended consequences. We hope cooler heads prevail and we can avoid these sharp increases to our industry.