As my term as CNPA president concludes this month, I want to share some thoughts and observations about our association after having seen it more close-up than at any time during my 30-plus years as a member of the board of directors.
While acknowledging the outstanding work of our CNPA staff is a predictable refrain from an outgoing CNPA president, the last year has made me appreciate even more how devoted our staff is to our mission and how effective it is with such limited resources.
Internally, our organization is in the midst of many important improvements largely invisible to our members but that will dramatically improve CNPA and the services it provides.
Our ancient accounting system, which has required time-consuming manual double-entries and the use of elaborate supplemental spreadsheets, is being replaced this month after more than a year of research and planning. When completed, it will be able to handle all the complexities of our various ad-placement programs in addition to the accounting needs of CNPA, CNPA Services Inc., the California Press Foundation and two related entities managed by CNPA.
A new membership database program will be implemented over the next few months that will finally give our staff the ability to monitor all the interactions between our members and CNPA staff and programs. Not only will this enable us to better evaluate and improve upon the services we provide, but it will make it easy to demonstrate to publishers the value of their CNPA membership. Currently, it is a painstaking effort to access information on the use of our legal hotline, attendance at training seminars and our annual Summit, participation in our various advertising programs, entries into our journalism contest, etc. With the new system, we’ll know quickly how our members are using CNPA services and will launch new tools for members to connect with each other and the CNPA staff.
Our advertising services program, which encompasses multiple ways newspaper members can receive additional print, digital and pre-print advertising revenue as a result of CNPA’s efforts and our affiliation with other press associations around the country, is undergoing an important board-led strategic planning review this year. This complex program is a vital source of revenue to CNPA, allowing dues to be kept at modest levels, and we want to ensure that it remains so.
As these internal efforts are underway, our work in the Legislature continues to demand the staff’s vigilance. Over the last year, among many accomplishments, CNPA has defeated four different legislative attempts to reduce requirements for public notice advertising, a proposal that would have made publishers liable for the content of marijuana advertising and numerous efforts to weaken open meeting and public records laws. The staff has also lobbied hard to protect us from onerous laws and regulatory interpretations that affect our business operations, including an ongoing battle over the status of independent distribution contractors.
Our strong presence in the halls of the Capitol is alone worth every penny of our dues, and every member, large and small, should not underestimate the benefits of our having strong legislative advocates working on our behalf.
Finally, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank my fellow board members for the time they invest in guiding CNPA.
Never before have the demands on publishers been greater or resources more constrained while operating their own newspaper enterprises, yet these two dozen executives have repeatedly been willing to carve out the time to support CNPA’s work on behalf of the entire industry. Some have taken on projects or ad hoc committee assignments that have helped ensure the continued stability and effectiveness of our association.
As CNPA turns over the presidential gavel to Ron Hasse, president and publisher of the Southern California News Group, I especially want to encourage our members to step up and volunteer for board service. Whether you are a long-time publisher who has never served or the new owner of a small weekly, your voices and participation is essential to CNPA’s future.
Bill Johnson is president of CNPA and of Embarcadero Media, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly, Mountain View Voice, Pleasanton Weekly and The Almanac in Menlo Park.