By: Mark Fitzgerald
Incoming Newspaper Association of America chairman Uzal Martz’s Pottsville (PA.) Republican delivers its product in Schuykill County-and cyberspace
IN THE NORMAL leadership rotation at the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), it is time for this year’s chairman to be an executive at a small newspaper.
But while Uzal Martz Jr. is, indeed, president and publisher of a smaller newspaper ? the 110-year-old evening Pottsville (Pa.) Republican has a daily circulation of 28,359 and no Sunday edition ? it is a newspaper that for decades has been among the industry leaders in technology, community service, and innovative management.
The Republican went to photocomposition and offset printing in 1971, and its “saturation coverage edition,” launched in 1973, was the industry’s first total-market-coverage program.
Back when the information superhighway was a dirt road, the Republican was already in electronic publishing. As long ago as 1973, Republican technicians were combining a magnetic tape drive with a stand-alone Harris editing terminal to produce paper tape that typeset wire copy.
The Republican’s INFO-CONNECT audiotex system gets 28,000 to 30,000 calls every week to its 600 basic and enhanced services. INFO-CONNECT has proved so popular that 53 other newspapers have adopted it as their audiotex system.
Not surprisingly, then, the Pottsville paper is already in the Internet, and is only a few weeks away from offering Internet-accessible online and e-mail services through its new RICnet bulletin board service.
But the Pottsville Republican does not limit its innovation to technology.
When NAA adopted the so-called “visioning” process in its efforts to improve member services, the Republican, too, conducted its own visioning effort ? a two-day session led by consultant Terry Maguire and Kathleen Criner, NAA’s senior vice president for industry development.
Clearly, the Republican is a small paper that thinks big.
“The major difference between big papers and small ones is the number of zeros,” Uzal Martz Jr. said in an interview recently. “I have been in meetings where people from the New York Times or Tribune Co. speak, and they have the same problems as small papers.”
As Martz prepares to take the leadership of NAA, he finds himself a small-paper publisher in a familiar setting. After all, he notes, he had previously served as president of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association and the International Newspaper Financial Executives, both organizations with substantial memberships of big papers.
“There has been a conscious effort to emphasize that NAA is not a big guy’s organization ? or a small guy’s,” Martz said.
Even with NAA, however, Martz has big ideas.
One of his three goals for his term at the head of NAA is to take the organization global.
NAA recently took a big step in that direction with the successful joint technology conference with IFRA (the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers), the research arm of NAA’s European counterpart. IFRA and NAA are further cementing this bond with a joint research project on managing newspaper industry waste.
“We can learn a lot from German publishers ? or Japanese. It behooves us not to reinvent the wheel if we don’t have to,” Martz said.
At the same time, Martz also wants to shore up NAA’s domestic relations.
“The second leg of my agenda is to improve and expand our alliances with state and regional associations,” he said. “A lot of the things they do well ? especially the nuts-and-bolts training ? are things we could be joining them in.”
State and regional associations also can be good vehicles for advancing industry goals, Martz suggests.
“Recycling is a prime example. Or telecom public policy. We should be doing more of that,” he said.
At the top of Martz’s agenda during his presidency is what he calls “taking the visioning process to the next logical step.
“Realistically, a lot of good momentum has been built up. The process is open; everyone knows what we are trying to do. It is an inclusive process with big newspapers and small newspapers involved with corporate papers and private ones. It is a process that is going forward,” he said.
If Martz is high on visioning, it may be because he has seen the good it has done his own paper.
One concrete result of the two-day visioning session held at the paper last summer is the ability of his evening paper to advance its press start by a full hour ? “without losing any timeliness,” Martz said.
Another “visioning action team” at the paper is actively looking at making the INFO-CONNECT audiotex system more user-friendly, while a third is designing the look of the bulletin board system that will soon be available to newspaper customers.
In many ways, in fact, these recent visioning teams are simply a continuation of the management-by-task-force style Martz brought to the paper.
“We have relied very heavily on task forces,” Martz said. “I believe in utilizing people at all levels, and giving people the technology that is necessary for them to do their jobs.”
Martz credits this system with helping the Republican dodge many ? though certainly not all ? of the pitfalls that can beset an early adopter, or ? to use the term the Republican publisher prefers ? “early mover.”
“There is an early mover advantage,” Martz said. “If you can get there first, you are ahead of your competition. I also think you end up potentially precluding someone else from starting up.”
This emphasis on technology comes easily to a man with degrees in physics, electrical engineering and management. In fact, before joining the Republican as treasurer in 1968, Martz held engineering positions at Corning Glass and was a senior analyst in the treasurer’s department at Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey.
So what was his impression of the newspaper industry’s state of technology in 1968?
“I guess there was a rude awakening in our industry in general in the late 1960s,” he said, with a laugh. “I think for me it was easy because I had nothing to unlearn.”
Another job in Martz’s pre-newspaper employment history is likely to prove very useful in the NAA presidency: For a brief time, he was a legislative assistant for the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.
“To me, it was a turning point,” Martz said. “First, I met my wife in Washington. I came out half a cynic and half an evangelist. It helped me when I ended up testifying this year before Congress. I know how things are done.”
Martz is satisfied with NAA’s performance on the Hill.
“I would say it is continuously improving. We are very much a part of the process,” he said. At the same time, he acknowledges, “It is tough to lobby because [the newspaper industry] has nothing to give. We can’t give trips or honoraria.”
If Martz is half a cynic and half an evangelist about Congress, he is wholly an optimist and preacher about the newspaper industry.
“I really get a real positive feel,” he said. “I think sometimes there is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth . . . about things. But I don’t think we have to apologize for the strength of our bonds.”
Martz says he is especially heartened by the big investments newspapers are making in their core product, while continuing to navigate the Infobahn.
“In our case, our roots are in the newspaper. I think we have a fixation [at the Republican] on continuing to improve the printed product. It’s content that makes a difference . . . . We are the linkage to the world for people in Pottsville and Frackville and Schuylkill County,” Martz said.
?(The major difference between big papers and small ones is the number of zeros. I have been in meetings where people from the New York Times or Tribune Co. speak, and they have the same problems as small papers.” ) [Caption]
?(Uzal Martz Jr., president and publisher of the Pottsville (Pa.) Republican, and incoming chairman of the Newspaper Association of America) [Photo & Caption]