I obtained a copy of this rather extraordinary letter from the Publisher of the Arizona Republic. Click here for the original. There are a couple reasons why I call the letter "extraordinary," the first of which is that it appears to have been written by a high school intern.
The goal of the letter is also extraordinary. It seems like every six months or so the Arizona Republic comes up with a new series of ideas for making Arizona better. Then the readership gets treated to months of pummeling, followed by complaints that the legislature is dominated by cave dwellers. But there's one thing that policy makers and the Republic brass used to agree on...everyone who mattered had at least read the stories. They may not have implemented the ideas, but the ideas were in general circulation.
This letter is part of a direct mail campaign to get reprints of the stories into the hands of opinion leaders. Twenty years ago when newspapers were the only game in town, and the Republic had a circulation of nearly 500,000 in a metro area with a population of under 2 million, the Brass could be sure that the articles would be well read by opinion makers. Now that the circulation is around 400,000 and the population is closer to 4 million--combined with the fact that there are so many other sources of information--the Brass has to MAIL OUT reprints of the articles to ensure that they are read.
When I was in the legislature, a colleague of mine from west Phoenix was getting pounded by the Arizona Daily Star. I asked him if it bothered him and he said simply "my constituents don't' read the Star." Now someone from a west side district can respond "my constituents don't read the Republic." Sure, some of them do, with the drop on subscription density, increase in other sources and increasing distrust of journalists, the statement about west Phoenix constituent's reading habits would be accurate.
Finally, the letter is extraordinary because Zidich and Lovely are admitting that the news division and the editorial page are working in concert. To readers, of course, it's obvious that the news and editorial pages work in concert. That's why the Republic's Jihad against the tuition tax credit included a dozen or so front page articles augmented by a dozen or so editorials. For some reason the rank and file reporters or editorial writers seem to believe the quaint fiction that they are acting independently and that they are separate divisions. While the writers in each division may view the divisions as independent, Lovely and Zidich--as well as the readers--view the divisions as separate tools working on a unified theme. Now, when the Brass want to send out reprints in an effort to advance their agenda by mail, they naturally include both the news and editorial stories.
Again, readers have long understood that the news and editorial divisions are combined to advance the newspaper's agenda. It's the writers of those divisions who don't get it. They still send me email claiming that they are separate--and from their point of view they are. It's the rest of the world that understands how management use the divisions together.
So will anyone read the direct mail packet? Not anyone who matters. In the past, the only reason that policy makers read the Republic was to reinforce their opinions, or see what their constituents were reading. Now that the constituents are no longer reading the paper, the only policy makers who read it are the center left members of the Morrison institute and Democratic Legislative leadership who want to reinforce their views. The Republic has gone from an opinion leader to a medium for confirmation bias and group think among the intelligentsia.
But it's not all bad news, the pages and pages and pages of Wrestlemania coverage have been excellent.