Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

5-21 Why Newspapers Matter

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE – Surveys reveal that newspaper readers are the best informed and most likely voters. I know you'll like that information because we're talking just among ourselves right now.
Rush Limbaugh proclaims that his listeners are the best informed people on the planet, but somehow newspaper readers perform better than his listeners on survey quizzes about current events.
The beauty of newspaper readers is that they are independent folks. You are the boss when you read a newspaper. You read what you want and skip what you don't want. You can read rapidly or slowly, skimming until you find the nuggets you can study closely and enjoy at a leisurely pace.
It doesn't matter when you are ready to read a newspaper, it will be waiting for you. There's no need to watch the clock, waiting for an electronic media report. And there's no need to twiddle your thumbs while waiting for the news reader to get to the subject that interests you.
If the phone or doorbell rings, if the baby cries or junior needs help with homework, no matter what the interruption, you won't miss the part that matters. Your newspaper will always be there waiting for your return.
Sure, you have to take the initiative to do the reading yourself, rather than having it spoon feed to you. But it is a quality experience with no worry about only a fleeting mention of your favorite topic on the air waves. There, before you, is much more information on a far wider range of topics than radio or television can ever offer.
And it's all yours. You can save it, re-read it, copy it, frame it, enlarge it, or mark it up with stars, underlines and highlighting pen. And when you finish, you can file it, send it to a friend or stick it in your pocket to back up an argument at your office or club.
Personally, I like to spread a newspaper on a table in front of me. None of this leaning back on a sofa, reading a section at a time. I want to get the total feel of a page layout. That's not for any intellectual exercise. I never took Journalism 101 or any other such course. I do it for the esthetic experience. Since I read many newspapers a day, I like to compare styles, fonts, layouts and editorial page placement from a purely eye-pleasing point of view.
It is unfortunate that politicians and their highly-paid consultants haven't realized the advantages of newspaper advertising. A few candidates have gotten the idea.
Mike Foster, a long-shot who was elected governor of Mississippi a few years ago, ran a series of newspaper ads formatted and sized as opinion columns. While other candidates were investing heavily in television, foster enjoyed a direct and unfiltered access to average voters, as well as political, civic, business and media leaders.
Some candidates also buy newspaper space so they can run the full text of the statement announcing their candidacy. Then, they don't have to worry about a reporter and various editors deciding what they will and won't print.
Other candidates even go so far as to buy space to print their entire campaign platform. These candidates have spent much time and effort writing a detailed platform and they want to be sure as many people as possible read it. There are people who read such things – people who have grown weary of sound bites and want some substance.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of newspaper advertising is for timing last-minute messages to voters. Typically, candidates try to do that with direct mail, but the vagaries of the U.S. Postal Service mean the message will not hit in a uniform or timely manner. Many candidates and all consultants have stories of catastrophes inflicted by the U.S. Mail.
With a newspaper ad, a candidate can decide the exact date voters will read that final appeal – even on a Sunday, when mail isn't delivered.
WED, 5-21-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)

Oops, I didn't send 5-21.


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