The US brand. What is the United States of America?

The US brand is under siege. Is anyone else worried about the future of the US?

The US BrandI don’t mean in terms of which candidate you support in the upcoming election. There are sane people on both sides of that debate. I’m talking about the very fabric of what it means to be a citizen of the US brand. An American.

At our root, we claim to be a nation bound by a Constitution that dictates our civil behavior. Since the election of Washington until Lincoln, every election has been followed by a peaceful transition of power. It is what it means to be an American.

The one time that process failed was in 1860 and it resulted in a bloody war that ended in the complete defeat of those that opposed union. The debate for peaceful transition had been decided once and for all with an anything but peaceful five years of blood soaked division. I believe, despite all of the posturing today, that this election will also be a peaceful transition of power from the incumbent to the newly elected leadership.

The US brand has been under siege in the past

I don’t think I am alone in looking back upon the last decade with a bit of distain. Our national genius for compromise has been replaced by vitriol and obstruction. When FDR was first elected, humorist Will Rogers said, “Well, if he gets to the White House and it catches fire and burns to the ground, we will say at least he got something started.” Just like Will, I have become weary of partisan posturing and I want to get SOMETHING done.

The US BrandMy worry is not over the election itself, although the personal attacks are hard to hear. After all, one of these two candidates will be our next President. In many ways, I would love to hear what each candidate will do to help our country if they lose. My sincere hope is that either candidate will try their best when elected. That is the minimum I think we can expect. The rest is just politics.

What REALLY worries me about the US brand? A fear that, as a nation, we might be ungovernable in the future. A large percentage of those that are voting say they do not trust the information published from our government. They do not trust what they read in the news and they do not trust our elective process. I then wonder how they plan on making America Great Again or becoming Stronger Together?The US brand

If you don’t read the news, where are you getting your information? If you don’t believe anything the government says or publishes and don’t believe in the right of the majority to rule— well you don’t believe in our Constitution.

I can’t wait to read comments on this post. In the past, my worst fears have been realized in those comments. Aggressive and hateful bloggers post comments that prove my point. They did not read what I had to say.

Until we address the basic problem, which is IGNORANCE, we have a broken system with broken constituents. Just remember that the root of the word ignorant means to IGNORE.

Politically ignorant generation of sheep

Are we the generation of the politically ignorant?

politically ignorantThe word ignorant gets its root from the word ignore. Someone who is ignorant is someone who ignores. Because we ignore, we are politically ignorant.

I worry about the future of my government because I live with generations of the ignorant. We have almost no sources of news today other than the slimy slanted broadcast news stations and broadcast news centers.

Things have changed and not all change is progress.

When I was a young person, the TV networks took news seriously. The vision of Walter Annenberg attempted to present the top news stories of the day in 30-minute segments every evening.

Some even adopted 60-minute formats and news anchors tried to present the facts. Editorial content was reserved for a few small moments every few weeks when the station’s editorial staff expressly present an opinion piece.

Politically ignorant was not Walter CronkiteThere were inherent reasons why this format worked. Americans, by and large, received or purchased a daily newspaper. These papers subscribed to international bureaus like the AP or UPI and the larger papers had reporters stationed all over the globe, collecting, dissecting and evaluating the validity of the world’s happenings.

The broadcast news bureaus were not designated as profit centers. They were part of the station’s charter to serve the public interest. No one confused or polluted the broadcasts or segments as entertainment. Few were politically ignorant.

When CBS, NBC, and ABC covered the political conventions, the news anchor (like Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley) watched the event and acted as a master of ceremony diverting the live cameras to the stories taking place on the convention floor.

Everyday beat reporters, like the soon to become famous Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, asked hard hitting questions of Mayor Daley or Everett Dirkson.

What do we have today?

Drivel. Politically ignorant drivel.

Panels of talking heads replay scripted spin. The conventions themselves lack the drama of even the Academy Awards. The reason? All the outcomes and decisions are known before the convention itself. The result is ignorance.

Politically ignorantWho needs to make a considered decision when you can tune into any specific political broadcast and see and hear only from proselytizers and pundits that already agree with your pre-determined decisions?

How many Americans believe that Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Bill O’Reilly are newsmen?

This lack of discourse makes ignorance comfortable and worse still acceptable. How many of you have heard of the Pulitzer Prize-winning web site called Politifact? It is a web site dedicated to political fact checking. It looks for misinformation on both sides of the aisle.

Today, if you are unhappy with the way government is working (or not working), I say that we get the government we deserve. And we deserve the government we get.

the results of being politically ignorantI am NOT outraged over Donald Trump’s political comments concerning Russians and emails. I AM outraged that his supporters are not providing any political incentives or consequences to stop this unfiltered crap.

Political benefits at what cost? Diplomacy works only through back doors not through bullying tactics. As a nation, we pretend to abhor bulling in our schools but we seem to have no problem rewarding it in the important geopolitical arena.

So what is the end result of political thought that is unchallenged and ignored? History tells us the unbelievable and the inconceivable happens when rational objection and forethought goes out the window.

When it is suggested that we could make ourselves safer and preserve our culture… the silent majority nods in agreement. Let’s put the Jews in camps.

Gannett wants to buy Tribune

The news that Gannett, owners of USA Today, is offering to buy Tribune Publishing should not come off as a surprise. Tribune, which owns the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune among other assets, had been clinging to life in the new digital world.

Sadly, Tribune Publishing should take Gannett’s offer.

You don’t need me to tell you how difficult newspapers have found it staying relevant when instant news comes over our social media apps and fewer people actually have a subscription to a newspaper.

Newsrooms nationwide are smaller, with half the news staff or smaller than they had years ago. Reporters are generally younger because they are cheaper. We’ve seen newspapers shut down, consolidate with another media group or become online only. A newspaper that a colleague of mine once wrote for downsized so much that it rented out most of its building and moved the newsroom into the cafeteria. True story.

It’s the way of today’s world.

Gannett has survived while others have not.

Gannett has been one of the few that have survived, primarily on the back of USA Today. It has firmly established itself a position, as the newspaper that gives you national headlines (just like social media does) that targets those who are away from home. You can’t go to any hotel in America and not find a USA Today.

Tribune, meanwhile, has seen half of its value decline in the last nine months, while Gannett has gained 16% in value over that same time. (It also owns newspapers in Phoenix, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, among many others.) It has also been one of the few media giants to understand how to have a strong online presence. It has a brand.

What makes this offer so compelling is that Tribune stated it has no interest in discussing the offer. I can understand the reluctance. Before the newspaper crash hit, those who worked in the industry thought of Gannett as superficial in terms of reporting news. If it bought your paper, it meant that investigative reporting was a thing of the past. Editors and reporters scoffed at the Gannett model.

Sadly, that’s where we are when it comes to the media today, as I’ve stated before. There are very few places that truly dig into issues, and they tend to come from the e-magazine side or from a giant like The New York Times.

It’s a good and honorable battle Tribune is fighting but Gannett is counting on Tribune making the realization that it can only survive and be relevant if it adopts some of the Gannett strategies and tactics.

As disappointing as it may be to those old ink-stained reporters, Gannett is probably right.

Rescuing Newspapers

Rescuing Newspapers and the Power of Brand

Rescuing newspapers is a choice worth making
Newspapers need to make a choice

By Tom Dougherty

Of all the changes that modern technology has ushered in, nothing is more distressing than the demise of the daily newspaper. Across the globe, newsrooms are clipping the wings of their staff of reporters, closing domestic and foreign bureaus, and relinquishing the seeming insurmountable battle for being the news of record. As a result of the advertising hole in newspapers shrinking to a small fraction of its former glory, even if readership levels remain constant, newspapers are forced to retract. (Read our take on CNN)

I’m not saying that I have the solution for this downward slope towards this event horizon. However, I do know how to find it.

Newspapers Have a Brand Sweet Spot

The purpose of a brand is to protect a product or company from always having to be first, most innovative, or even the best. At its core, brand seeks to so clearly identify its core customer that to purchase anything else is a form of suicide. Sadly, when I think about the demise of local newsprint, it feels more like genocide than suicide. The next great extinction may not be found in Darwin’s work but rather in the esteemed readership of the clearly informed. Unless at least one newspaper invests in fixing the problem, the industry is doomed and, as a result, so are those of us who desire to be informed.

And in this conundrum is the rub. If newspapers are an important part of the self-description of being one of the informed, how can that void go unfilled? How will we get our news in the next 10 years? What will happen to our self-identification as being on of those that knows? (Read some of the foibles in brand creation here)

Many on the inside believe that the problem with rescuing newspapers is the deft of advertisers. After all, we all knew that the real cost of putting together a daily paper was never covered by the newsstand price. The advertising section paid it for.

This is a part of the puzzle that will be harder to fix. Online resources for the real-estate section, automotive section and classified ads have been replaced by an online access that is more efficient. Don’t expect those ad sections to ever recover. Markets move inevitably toward economy and there is nothing we can or should do about that. But there is hope.

The Current Model of News is Not Working

Listen to the meta chatter going on all around us. More and more viewers find the major news networks anything but newsworthy. For the most part, they are talking heads chattering on with bias and agendas. They are spin-doctors masquerading as experts who blow everything out of proportion, incite vitriol, and repeat the same tired refrains until they all look like automatons.

To rescue newspapers editorial decisions need to get off the treadmill People increasingly complain about the quality of the news they get and yet more and more rely on web news portals and cable news networks for their fill of timely nuggets. While these blurbs keep us well informed on our sports addiction and Hollywood gossip, we all know that it is a poor substitute for hard hitting and revealing news. Despite this duality of a lack of meaningful news and a retracting of local newspapers, readership is still declining.

Remember the old story of the fat, cigar smoking railroad executive from the 1920s with his feet up on the desk and his gaze resting on a wall of awards and certificates? Then suddenly, a young twenty-something busts through his door in excitement and says to his boss as he point out the window at a passing bi-plane — “Boss, we need to get into that airplane business!” The boss replies, in a self-assured way…”Kid” he says, “get out of here…we are a railroad.”

Why are Newspapers Failing?

I think the term newspaper is about as meaningful today as a checking account. It needs a new definition. Something that says the reader is knowledgeable and different. Informed and not opinionated. Engaged and not obsessive. Well rounded and not a demagogue. These self-identifications are the silversmith’s hallmark of a brand. They cause a magnetic property that attracts everyone who covets that moniker. Of course, it means that the truth of the statement must be made explicit. Should the new newspaper be about entertainment? I think in a small way, but I would let the research help me with that. Conventional wisdom, by the editors that are as near underwater as an air breathing creature can be, will tell you about the most widely read sections of the paper. But that readership roadmap might not be so important to the new generation of loyalists that a new brand of paper must excite to survive. All I am saying is that someone must take a fresh look at this category because the conventional wisdom of experience is failing them. If a newspaper is to survive, thrive, and grow in importance, the managerial staff must be willing to challenge everything. The answer may or may not be an online subscription. What I am suggesting is that there are a lot of tried and true ideas that need to be abandoned.

Fixing the Flight of Advertisers

Rescuing newspapers ball and chainThe shrinking news hole is another important hurdle but I think fixing the first— finding the highest emotional intensity of the informed — will help fix that problem as well.

Ask yourself what businesses covet an educated and informed market? How many advertisers would like to gain direct access to those consumers? I think the answer is not to expand the advertising hole but to think instead of section sponsorship. Link the advertisers directly with the aspirations of the reader. There are no brands that I know of that do not want the blush of a brand association that reflects on importance, integrity and truthfulness. To have that association, newspapers can charge more for that sponsorship and give it excusive prominence. Local restaurants and services would pay handsomely for that access. Not in terms of full sponsorship but to appear in those sections as well.

To my thinking, this is an old model that needs refreshing. When you look at old newspapers or even watch vintage TV, long copy ads and commercial sponsorship seems a little naïve. But that is precisely its power.

Newspapers cannot be allowed to die because our civilization needs a questioning and unbiased arbiter in a free press. We need to rescue newspapers. Will any newspaper take us up on the challenge and ask us to apply our skills of research, persuasion, highest emotional intensity identification and market share growth? Stay tuned. But, I am hopeful.