Importance of National Representation: NNA Convention Report
By Andrew Johnson, NNA Region 6 Director, past WNA President
The National Newspaper Association (NNA) held its 127th annual convention in Phoenix, Ariz., last week. The itinerary for the three-day event was packed with seminars, a newspaper industry trade show, awards ceremonies and social gatherings. This year’s theme was “Grand Challenges, Grand Opportunities.”
I want to tell you a few things in order to put this year’s convention in perspective. My wife and I have published two small weekly newspapers in Wisconsin for the past 25 years. Four years ago I had the opportunity to serve as Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA) President. During my term, the WNA made a huge transition in focus. In order to serve our members in today’s dynamic and changing world, we had to change from an “operations” focus to a “lobbying for our interests” focus. We realized that if we did not stick up for our industry no one else would. The visible transition took place when we hired Beth Bennett, a long-time government relations expert from the Illinois Press Association, to lead the WNA. Bennett, along with her staff and lobbying allies, has made significant progress in representing the interests of newspapers in Wisconsin. Under her leadership, the association has been able to change posture from a defensive mode into a progressive mode. By the end of my WNA presidency, our association recognized the need to have national representation just like we do at the state level. The efforts we were making in Madison, Wisconsin, would not be enough to protect our member’s interests. Bennett brought to my attention several issues in other state associations. We helped other state associations when we could because we realized that if they would fail, it would severely hurt our interests. The question then became “who will represent us in Washington?” Our industry must have national representation. Eight months ago, I was approached to serve on the NNA board. At first, I said no, because like most small newspaper publishers, I am always really busy and it was difficult to take the time to go to meetings and type articles like this one. However, with the urging of Bennett and other WNA board members, I joined the NNA board as representative for Region 6 which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
It turns out that NNA currently is the only national organization that specifically represents the interests of community newspapers. Over the past few years, new blood has been injected into the leadership of NNA, which started in 1885. Like WNA, this organization has effectively transitioned into a lean, mean, lobbying machine that represents community newspapers all over America. We currently have 2,200 member newspapers. We gained more than 25 new member newspapers this year. If you are not a member yet, I invite your newspaper to join us in fighting for your interests, because the reality is that no one else is going to at the national level. There is no question that our industry has changed. However, it is now coming to light that community newspapers are not only going to survive, but thrive as local information leaders.
I have so much exciting news to share with you about our industry and what is happening. For example, just in the past few weeks, NNA representatives met with the USPS board of Governors to avert a huge postal rate increase for newspapers. Another victory was the passage of a national shield law in a US Senate subcommittee just last week! The best way to keep up on NNA as well as industry news is to read NNA’s monthly newspaper, Pub Aux, which is free to members.
This year’s NNA convention brought some of the newspaper industry’s best and brightest together. I plan on coming to the state conventions in our region over the next year to give industry up-dates. Please feel free to contact me about anything that concerns the community newspaper industry or about NNA membership. The more members we have, the stronger we will be able to promote our interests. I look forward to serving you.
NNA contact information: nnaweb.org or 573-777-4980