It was always my favorite act at the circus, the clown car. No matter how small it was, they just kept coming: one goofy looking clown after another. It seemed endless and funny. Just like the constant chatter these days about how to 'fix' the American news media. Except for the funny part.
Take Sen. John Kerry. Please. Imagine, holding hearings about how to save, fix and or bail out the U.S. newspaper business. The only problem was that he didn't actually invite anyone with an idea.
There was hand wringing. There was self interested chest pounding. But the whole exercise, one more clown car occupant after another, came up with.....? Are you really looking for a plan to 'save' the U.S. newspaper industry? Here it is.
1) Charge more. But people won't pay it you say? Why not? See the following......
2) Sue people who steal your stuff and give it away for free. In other words, no matter what Eric Schmidt of Google (who by the way yelled 'Shotgun!' when the clown car came around) says--sue him, make him pay. Him and everyone else who 'gleans' the content you're paying good money to create. The 'free enterprise' system doesn't actually mean it's 'free'.
3) Promote yourself. Convince people you're as important as you think you are. Okay that might be too hard. After all, you ARE important. But, promote what makes you different, what people can trust about you, what they can get from you that they can't get from anyone else. When was the last time you saw or heard an advertisement for a newspaper? When was the first time? Good Lord people, get in the game!!
4) Become relevant to the people you're trying to sell your stuff to, so that they'll pay what you're charging and believe your promotion. Hey NYT--don't cut the Book Review section, it's the only reason I buy the Sunday Times. Oh, and Escapes. Oh, and Travel. Oh, and Styles. Oh, and Science. Get the picture? Oh yeah, those too, pictures.
Was it too bad the Rocky Mountain News went under? Sure. Did the people of the Rocky Mountains care? Obviously not. Why not? Because the Rocky Mountain News didn't make them care.
That's the plan, now do it.
Turning now to television news. Easier fix. This Senator Kerry CAN do something about. I have three letters for you Senator--F C C. Ever since the Republicans pulled its teeth, it has been gumming up the television business. Likely not to the degree that the banking industry needs new 'guidelines', but TV needs a touch of 'old school'.
First and foremost it's time to remind all broadcasters that they work with a federally granted license. This means of course that in order to maintain that license you need to do certain things. Used to be a long list. Not anymore. I think all you need to do these days is be able to spell TV. So it's time to stiffen up that ol' license renewal form. Reinstitute performance guidelines. Public affairs programming. News. Family hour. And come on people, where are those license challenges of old?
Example--some outfit called Mission Broadcasting just killed the news department at WYOU in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. No more newscast. The claim is that WYOU should be called WIOU because it's having a tough time economically. Too bad. But you shouldn't be able to cut the news and keep your license.
'But my revenues are down,' says the crying GM. So figure it out, be innovative, be a better business person. Get smarter. Killing the news just makes you dumb.
How do they get all those clowns in that car?