Buzz: Reasonable expectations

The News Dog would like to talk a little about Community Journalism and reasonable expectations.

When a citizen picks up the phone to dial 911, there’s a reasonable expectation that police officers or the fire department will respond. The same with reporting an issue to the City’s 311 Action Center, there’s a reasonable expectation that a City department will respond.

The same holds true when a media release is sent out by – for the sake of conversation – the City of Kansas City. There’s a reasonable expectation that the media outlets that receive those pressers will actually show up and cover the events in the press release.

But let’s talk about the converse to that. There are a number of local entities that tag us on social media channels every time a media release is sent, pushing an event. The American Jazz Museum, RideKC, Parks and Recreation, Aviation, Public Works and more to make darn sure our news outlet is aware, via electronic media, of a pending event, sometimes three times over. Again, with reasonable expectation that we will cover their event.

We also have reasonable expectations here at The House of News. Reasonable expectations that when those media releases are sent, that the prospect of paid ads accompany those releases – whether they’re from the City, a major Northeast-based free clinic, or an 18th and Vine-based music museum – to single out a few.

Sadly however, our emails seeking paid ads, the very ads that help keep our doors open, mind you, are largely ignored, begging the question, why is The Northeast News good enough for your press releases, but not good enough for your paid advertisements?

Rather discriminatory too, in this canine’s eyes. It’s almost like these same entities don’t think our readers are worth paid ads. It begs the question, are our print readers, who are generally of a lower economic status, not the target demographic of these organizations?

Case in point, this well-read news pooch regularly picks up copies of other urban core weekly newspapers to see what news stories are trending and to see who’s spending money on ads in other local publications. Imagine our surprise when we picked up a copy of one of the Hispanic weekly newspapers and found almost $1,000 worth of paid Help Wanted ads placed by the City of Kansas City for three of the four weeks in December. By this dog’s math, that’s roughly $4500in ad revenue in one month alone. The number of help wanted ads placed by the City in the pages of The Northeast News over the same time period? Zero, zip, nada.

We made a few calls to the City to determine why The Northeast News was kicked to the curb yet again. Our overtures were responded to by a mid-level City staffer who repeated the platitude that there were “lots of layers” to the decision process and that she would “take our information and forward it to the right people.”

Right. We’ve heard that song and dance before. This lil’ doggie has some reasonable expectations that if the City is going to literally underwrite the entire Help Wanted section of someone’s newspaper, that a publisher or a reporter from that paper should be reasonably expected to show up and cover City events.

This dog has been to more than our share of press events sponsored by City departments and we’ve never seen a representative of that newspaper at any of them. And yet the ads continue to flow to a news organization who never shows up at local pressers. How long will the City continue to reward negative behavior? Politics maybe?

Last March we published an edition with a front page devoid of any news, stressing through articles inside the strong need to support Community Journalism. Our message? There’s a reasonable expectation that if local business, non-profit agencies and municipalities don’t support locally owned Community Journalism outlets with paid ad revenue, then those newsrooms would ultimately close, leaving the surrounding community without a news team to cover the hyperlocal news that’s so important in keeping neighborhoods in the city’s urban core vibrant and in touch. 

It should be noted that we have one full time Reporter/Editor on staff to cover all these events. Sometimes we’ll have the luxury of a part time intern or the Boss Dog steps up to fill in the gaps. Our focus is on our community and our neighborhoods. If we, with our limited resources, have to choose between two events to cover, we’ll go with the one that matters more to the readers in our community.  Did the dog mention that despite our small yet incredibly talented staff, we still win awards for excellence in Journalism and Marketing from the MIssouri Press Association? 

Here’s the bottom line, and we’re firing this off directly to the City Manager, the Mayor, and anyone who makes ad placement decisions for the City or those other entities who tag us on social media with the reasonable expectation we’ll spend our resources to cover your event. We have reasonable expectations too. Our ad reps are awaiting your call with the reasonable expectation that paid ads will follow.

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