McGuire: Bottom-line Focus Threatens Newspapers

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By: Joe Strupp

Tim McGuire, outgoing president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), criticized the bottom-line focus of many newspaper owners Wednesday, claiming they are threatening the industry’s future.

McGuire, editor of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, made the remarks during his opening speech to the ASNE annual convention being held here this week.

“Layoffs, newshole cuts, and short-term financial imperatives cast a long shadow over our work,” he told the convention’s attendees. “Editors today worry whether they can truly affect the direction of their newspapers because the balance of power has shifted away from editors.”

McGuire challenged editors not to take publishers’ belt-tightening without a fight, while urging both newsroom managers and business-side administrators to work together. He said the troubles of the industry will not go away unless publishers and editors stop treating each other as enemies.

“It’s high time we show some courage,” McGuire said. “Every publisher, editor, and newspaper CEO in America is an independent human being with free will, values, morals, and ethics.”

McGuire said newspapers need to better explain the unusual nature of the newspaper business to investors and stockholders; use organizations such as ASNE and the Society of Professional Journalists to find solutions; and, most of all, bring editors and publishers together in a common effort to keep papers valuable and profitable.

“Profit is good,” he said. “But we must engage in this discussion about values and profits with a courageous and deep sense of commitment to our own personal set of values and ethics.”

Pointing to specific solutions, McGuire said editors and publishers should remember that readers are the customers, not advertisers; while reminding editors that they must not ignore the business-side of the paper. “Grow or die must be the motto of both the editor and the publisher,” he said. “The franchise must grow, not just the bottom-line.”

McGuire, who received a standing ovation following his speech, will leave the ASNE president’s post on Friday when Diane McFarlin, publisher and former editor of the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune assumes the duties.

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