An American TV station’s social media campaign that encourages people to abandon the local newspaper has been met with outrage by newspaper journalists.
Local Cincinnati station WCPO last week launched its #DropThePaper campaign which is designed to encourage people to subscribe to its Insider program.
Insider members gain access to digital subscription content and WCPO’s apps, discounts at local businesses and events, a Washington Post digital subscription and more for $10 for the first year.
However the campaign garnered backlash online with people including reporters from local newspaper Cincinnati Enquirer taking to social media to criticise the campaign.
I’ve never gotten into the BS rivalry that exists b/t some local papers & TV. Then I saw the #dropthepaper campaign. I take that personally.
— Amber Hunt (@ReporterAmber) March 23, 2016
Interested to see where that Cincinnati TV station is going to steal their news from if their #dropthepaper campaign is successful
— Ryan Ginn (@RyanGinnBSB) March 23, 2016
— Connie Schultz (@ConnieSchultz) March 23, 2016
This has to be the crassest campaign I have ever seen in news media. Sorry for my ex-colleagues who now work there https://t.co/VWzlFLgfD2
— Cheryl Vari (@cherylvari) March 22, 2016
Attacking news organizations for their format rather than the quality of their work is lazy and dangerous for the profession #dropthepaper
— Lydia Coutré (@LydiaCoutre) March 23, 2016
— Mark Collette (@chronMC) March 23, 2016
Ironically, WCPO-owner Scipps previously held newspaper assets until it was split last year into a separate company that has since been acquired by Cincinnati Enquirer–owner, Gannett.
Rick Green, regional president of Gannett Ohio and president and publisher of the Enquirer, told NiemanLab that he had encouraged staff to stay above the spat and that print was just one vehicle in the paper’s “24/7 news machine”.
“Our job first and foremost is to deliver high quality journalism that nobody else in town — and I will underscore that, nobody else in town — can pursue and deliver on a consistent basis,” he said.
“WCPO is a great little competitor, and I’m cognisant of them and I respect them, but I’m also proud that I’ve got the biggest and arguably the best staff in the greater Cincinnati region.”
Editor of Mike Canan responded to the backlash later in the week with an article that boasted the size of its newsroom and the six topics where WCPO Insider consistently produces high quality content.
“Most TV stations in a market of this size might have five to seven staff members focused primarily on the website. We have 35,” Mr Canan wrote.
“All told, our full-time news team is as large as any other in Cincinnati.”
#dropthepaper isnt about TV vs newspapers. It is about competing for customers who want strong journalism. The battleground is digital.
— Mike Canan (@Mike_Canan) March 25, 2016
— Chip Mahaney (@ChipMahaney) March 26, 2016
— Raju Narisetti (@raju) March 24, 2016
Dave Peterson, WCPO general manager for digital, said he understood the outrage and reaction of people to the campaign “but many of them aren’t part of our target audience”.
“They’re print journalists from other markets, and I don’t know what’s going on at each of their specific markets,” he told NiemanLab
“We are trying to speak to the local market. We are trying to present ourselves as a competitor, as an alternative. I know that the newspaper does see us as a competitor, and I know that newsmakers in town might see it that way, but the public here doesn’t see it that way.”
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