Backlash to TV station’s #DropThePaper campaign

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.

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 Enquirerowner, 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 WCPO.com 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.”

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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