By: Joe Strupp
What does the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association have in common with baseball’s World Series and airplane travel?
All three got their start in 1903. And SNPA’s place in journalistic history is strong, most of all for newspapers in the 14 southern states that make up its membership. For them, the association has been a leader in everything from joint cost control efforts to training programs that have surpassed those of many national newspaper groups.
“It has really provided a voice for the smaller newspapers,” Roger Kintzel, SNPA president and publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said as the organization celebrates its 100th anniversary this week during its annual convention in Boca Raton, Fla. “It is an organization driven by publishers.”
Created in April 1903 by executives from 24 newspapers, which spanned a region from New Orleans north to Louisville, Ky., and east to Charlotte, N.C., the association originally organized to help address two key issues that still concern publishers: advertising and newsprint. The original contingent cut newsprint costs by starting the joint purchase of newsprint among member papers. “They also got together to pressure Congress to repeal the duty on wood pulp and print paper imports,” said Edward Van Horn, SNPA executive director. The same group later created one of the first national newspaper promotional plans that brought in more ad revenue from the north and west.
“A lot of southern publishers have collected on a lot of things over the years because of this group,” said Walter Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a former SNPA president and its unofficial historian. He cited the group’s leadership in getting built the first newspaper mills in the south.
In recent decades the SNPA’s major accomplishment is likely its training programs, which began in 1964 when each SNPA member paper pledged to contribute 1 cent per subscriber each year to subsidize the first seminars. The organization’s training efforts have since grown to about six major events each year, in addition to its vaunted Traveling Campus, which holds low-cost sessions in different locations around the south. “I think we have broken the mold on newspaper training,” Hussman boasted. “It has been phenomenal.”
SNPA’s membership now tops more than 400 member newspapers. But the group has not lost its commitment to smaller papers, according to Van Horn, who said 80% of its members have circulations below 40,000, and more than half have circulations below 20,000. “Its strength is in its networking,” he said. “That is the value of it.”