Les Simpson: With friends like Editor & Publisher, who needs enemies?
Not that I want to start my tenure as president by picking a fight, but what the heck.
Someone has to fight for newspapers!
One of the tenets of SNPA's goals is to champion the industry. (You'll be hearing more about our strategic plan in the near future).
Among other things, in my mind, this includes challenging some of the misinformation and barrage of unfounded criticism that's lobbed about us and against us every day.
And we all know there's plenty of it.
That brings me to our "friends" at Editor & Publisher magazine, an organization that has covered newspapers for more than a century.
Last week, E&P sent many in our industry an e-mail with a link to a column. The subject line read: "E&P Exclusive: Newspapers Should Be Transparent About Their Financial Challenges." You can click here to read it.
It made some claims that the industry isn't being fully truthful about our finances with a few suggestions on how to do it better by someone who left newspapers a decade ago.
I crafted a reply – which you can read here – with the help of a few SNPA board colleagues. My thought was "Wouldn't 'Editor and Publisher' (emphasis added) like to hear the viewpoint of ... say ... a publisher?"
Boy, was I wrong. Oh, they offered to edit my submission for print and told me I could post my reply in the online comment section – we all know the value and validity given to comment sections – but they refused to provide similar billing for a counter opinion, even from the president of an organization that represents and works with many of their customers. The edited print reply wouldn't be published until November.
I have no problem with E&P publishing their "Exclusive." It's the author's opinion, albeit misguided.
But to downplay an opposing view from someone who works at a newspaper and plays a small role in representing our industry is mind-numbing.
To be fully transparent, here are excerpts of the correspondence I had with E&P Managing Editor Nu Yang:
Yang: "Thanks for the email, Les. I've edited your response to be included in our comments section in print, but you are more than welcome to post your entire response online by leaving a comment on the article."
Simpson: "Thanks, but I'm requesting a column, not something in the comments section. I'm not sure why you won't give equal treatment to an opposing opinion. If I had wanted it to run as a comment, I would have published it there already."
Yang: "I understand, Les. We welcome all opinions and discussion, but Tim is a regular contributor to our magazine, so he has that space every month. We just don't have the space to run your response as an additional column, so that's why I suggested we post it in our comments section instead. If you prefer that we don't run it, we won't."
Simpson (with maybe a little too much added punctuation by the author): "You don't have the space?!? It's the Internet! You have all the space in the world."
Yang: "Your response was a comment to one of our columns, so we chose to treat it as one. As you can see in several other responses to Tim's column, there are other opposing viewpoints published. You are free to leave your response online to Tim's article, but we can't run it as a column by itself. If you have any other questions, please let me know."
When I e-mailed Yang's boss, E&P Editor Jeff Fleming, he had already talked with Yang and supported her opinion.
I asked Fleming if we could talk on the phone about the issue. His response? Crickets. Zilch. Nada.
This isn't about ego. Trust me, this industry has humbled us long ago, me included.
It is about fighting for what we do and countering – not facilitating – the peanut gallery's unfounded criticism, comments and suggestions.
Too bad we can't depend on E&P to help us.
Les Simpson is SNPA president and publisher of the Amarillo Globe-News. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org