By Greg Michael
This spring, the Newspaper Association of America met in
Chicago. The meeting is a must for small town publishers. Gannett has the most attendees. It’s one of the last few perks for being “king” of a paper and a town, even if it’s a jerk water county seat in West Virgina.
Every year it’s another big city. There are more than 1,300 daily newspapers in the U.S., so the gathering of publishers is a big deal for most of them.
About 500 show up at the fun cities like San Francisco, New York,
Washington DC and Chicago. The host city always tries to put on a great party. The “royals” are a mix of older gents, and some ladies, a trophy wife here and there, frumpy upper middle class elitists and nearly all tend to wear suits even on weekends! Yes, this is 2006. They look a lot like the nerd on the new Apple commercials. They wear jackets and ties, even when on planes. They gathered to hear updates from keynote speakers on how people still trust the newspaper. And how weird and unprofessional the blog journalists are, but how the market is changing. And they have to invest some of their 20 percent profit margins on online projects. More laughs! They’ve been hearing that about the Web for the past decade!
At every NAA convention, these men attend nightly parties in the host city’s most famous spots. This year’s opening event was at the magnificent Field Museum, just a short walk from the Magnificent Mile of elegant retailers. On the huge, six-story main entrance the stars are dinosaur skeletons. The main attraction is the tyrannosaurs rex named Sue. Pose for pictures with the Chicago Tribune execs! There were also banners promoting the King Tut exhibit. Jokes about the boy king at the New York Times? Many attendees had some good laughs. They laughed hard at the dinosaur irony, some knowing that their granddads were making the same jokes about 80 years ago.
This meeting was a few months ago, and the Chicago Tribune problems with the
Chandlers didn’t even come up. What did, was the demise of Knight-Ridder, gobbled up by that McClatchy clan from Sacramento. Pats on the back; congratulations were in order for the new media giants, not much detail on why Knight-Ridder investors wanted to get out of the dead-tree industry, lock, stock and barrel of ink, when they could have sold off their star papers, one by one to local ego maniacs with millions of dollars to through away.
It’s was such fun to be king.