Strupp’s Notebook: The End of ‘Newspapers’ for ASNE?

By: Joe Strupp

One of the first changes members of the American Society of Newspaper (ASNE) noticed at this year?s conference in Washington, D.C., which opened Tuesday , was the logo. No more does the ASNE name rest on a red and white box, with its formal name written out, surrounding the logo with the folded corner.

The new logo does not even mention the word, ?newspaper,? stating, in a slick black and white design, ?ASNE ? Leading America?s Newsrooms.?

ASNE president Dave Zeeck acknowledged the ?identity transfer? during his address to members. He said the idea was to expand the newspaper image beyond just print and on to online and other facets of the business. ?That is what moving ASNE forward looks like,? he said.

Zeeck, editor of the News-Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., also said the word ?newspaper? may eventually be removed from ASNE?s full name. ?It deserves consideration,? he said. ?Do we work for newspapers or news companies??

He also said the conference, currently a four-day event, may be shortened to two or three days to save members time and money. More association with the Online News Association also may take place. ?It is all being considered,? he said.

Among those addressing the crowd in coming days will be U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and ABC News journalist Bob Woodruff.

A year after brokering the biggest newspaper deal of 2006, Gary Pruitt has no regrets. In fact, the chairman of the McClatchy Company says his chain would have been worse off during the recent economic downturn of newspapers if it had not taken over Knight Ridder.

?I don?t regret doing it because our performance was actually better,? Pruitt told E&P during McClatchy?s Tuesday night reception at the ASNE conference inside the J.W. Marriott hotel in Washington. ?Our advertising revenue performance and cash flow would have been worse had we not done the deal. The Knight Ridder papers actually improved our performance, advertising revenue and cash flow. Both are improved for our having done the deal.?

If the deal had not occurred, ?we still would have suffered ad revenue decline, only worse.?

He noted, however, that the last few months of poor newspaper economics did not help. ?Unfortunately, the timing of the deal corresponded almost precisely with the downturn in advertising,? Pruitt said. ?A lot of people confuse the deal wit the environment.?

Pruitt spoke as guests drank up at the open bar and noshed on egg rolls, tuna ahi and dumplings, all courtesy of McClatchy. During remarks to the crowd, Pruitt joked that McClatchy, which has thrown such a party two years in a row at ASNE, at $50,000 a pop, would decline in 2008. ?Next year, another company can do it,? he said with a smile.
When Gilbert Bailon, editor of Al Dia in Dallas, becomes ASNE president on Friday he will be the first head of the news organization from a Spanish-language daily paper. Bailon, 48, edited The Dallas Morning News for three years before taking over Al Dia, which launched in 2003 by News owner Belo.

Bailon says having a president from a Spanish-language paper shows the impact the non-English press is having. ?It shows that there is continuous change and transformation in our business,? he told E&P. ?ASNE will continue to move in that way because it is not just newspapers, it is also new media.?

He added that ?Spanish-language newspapers are growing in many forms. The fact that the growing population need to be served is a reality.?

All ASNE members attending the conference found more than the usual journalism pamphlets, promotional items and pens in their conference bag upon check-in. Each attendee got a DVD set of Spike Lee?s HBO docmentary ?When the Levees Broke.?

Lee, whose look at Hurricane Katrina?s aftermath received praise and criticism, will speak Friday.

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