For the next nine weeks the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute will showcase innovative ideas that were shared at the 2014 Walter B. Potter Sr. Conference for community newspapers. If you like ideas such as these, we encourage you to attend the 2016 Potter Conference, which will be held April 14 and 15 at RJI in Columbia, Missouri. 

Walter B. Potter Sr. ConferencesIf it’s election season, it means The Republic-Monitor in Perryville, Missouri, and the Journal Star in Peoria, Illinois, are holding meet-and-greets with local political candidates. The events are an opportunity to introduce candidates to the paper’s staff and inform them about editorial policies and advertising opportunities.

“The forums do have a very positive impact on ad revenue because we introduced all candidates to their ad reps at the forum and presented information about how registered voters are newspaper subscribers,” says Republic-Monitor Publisher Beth Chism.

Holding meet-and-greets early in the campaign season is key because it allows candidates to include advertising costs in their budgets, says Chism.

For city council candidates like Beth Akeson of Peoria, the candidate reception held by the Journal Star reinforced the importance of newspaper advertising.

“I had limited funds and I wasn’t anticipating doing much, if any, newspaper advertising,” says Akeson. “It convinced me to spend the money to do that. [In] listening to them describe the [newspaper’s] reach, they did a really good job.”

The Journal Star got the idea to hold a meet-and-greet while attending the 2014 Walter B. Potter Sr. Conference and listening to The Republic-Monitor’s idea.

A candidate meet-and-greet can be an opportunity to let politicians know that the newspaper is there to inform voters and dispel misconceptions about the news media’s coverage, says Peoria council candidate Katherine Coyle.

“Let’s face it, political parties and candidates by nature are suspicious of media,” says Coyle. “To be able to have the media say, ‘Hey, we’re actually the good guys. We’re here to inform voters and help you get your message out.’ I think that just helps people understand the media’s valuable role. … The media’s not purely in existence to hurt candidates so they can get a big headline,” says Coyle.

Since the event was a success for the Journal Star, its assignment editor, Chris Kaergard, hopes to replicate it with leaders from nonprofits and social service groups. He’ll share information about how the newspaper covers area events, where to send event details and when to send invites to reporters.

He says events like this help maintain a good relationship for the news outlet, its sources and its customers.

“If we don’t tell people those things, they don’t know. It hurts them and it hurts us,” he says.

Learn how to create a meet-and-greet in your community

More ideas like this will be presented at the next Walter B. Potter Sr. Conference April 14 and 15 at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute in Columbia, Missouri.

Jennifer Nelson  
Senior Information Specialist


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