Tuesday, March 24, 2009  
   Volume 79 - Issue 12 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week

“Our goal is to be the benchmark municipal ski area in North Amerca, and that’s what I spend every day trying to achieve.”

- Dave Morrison  
- on the Pass Powderkeg   

 

A Fragile Lens- Nathen GallagherIt looks as though 2009 will be a tough year in the local newspaper business.
Council has voted to tender out municipal advertising. This will see the Pass Herald forced to bid against its competition in the community, the Pass Promoter.
I won’t mince words. One of these two papers is going to be seriously hurt by this decision, though it remains to be seen which one. Even the winning paper, forced to provide a price below its already relatively low rate, will be damaged in these tight economic times.
I’ve been known to have an opinion or two in this column about council’s decisions. This time, instead of just criticizing, let me tell you what I would do in this situation if I were a councillor.
First, I would look at some basic facts. The municipality is in a tough budget position, that’s a fact. There are likely other areas that could be cut, but let’s look at municipal advertising and how it could be reduced in these tough times.
I would look at the two individual newspapers with an eye to the ads, not to the content and not to whether or not one paper criticizes council more than another.
I would take note of the fact that the same public hearing ads given to both papers are printed at different sizes, meaning different prices.
I would look at the fact that those ads are emailed in finished form to the newspapers, meaning that one paper expands their size, making them cost more.
If I were a councillor, I would look at the fact that people making applications that lead to public hearings pay, to the best of my knowledge, $600 for the related advertising. Right now this is enough to cover a portion of those ads, which currently run two times in each paper for a total of four times. It is not enough to cover the entire price, especially since the ad sizes are expanded in one paper.
First, I would make a motion to raise the amount that the applicant pays for their advertising, from $600 to $800.
 
Second, I would ask if the two local newspapers would agree to print these ads at the size they are sent, without expanding them.
Third, I would ask the two newspapers to agree to print these public hearing ads two times each for a total of $400 in each paper, exactly half the amount paid by the applicant.
This would be, at least for one of the papers, a very small reduction in overall profit. And more importantly, it would mean that the taxpayer would pay absolutely nothing for public hearing ads prompted by applications.
This would save somewhere in the range of $10,000 to $15,000. It would not save quite as much as cutting one paper out (which would save likely somewhere in the $20,000 to $25,000 range), but it would not destroy the community’s two-newspaper system, and it would be in line with council’s other budget discussions.
For example, council is currently discussing the possibility of an across-the-board reduction for most outside organizations, such as the Bellevue Underground Mine and the Coleman Museum. They are not considering making the teo groups bid against each other to see who can provide history at a lower municipal contribution.
Similarly, creating a system that would reduce advertising costs across the board would make more sense to me than killing one of the newspapers, if I were a councillor.
In fact, council has already reduced some of those costs –– they will no longer advertise utility bill due dates (the due dates are, after all, printed on your utility bill), and will use the utility bills to advertise spring cleanup, instead of putting it in the papers. This means that the amount to be saved by tendering out the advertising is already even less than estimated.
If I were a councillor, these are the things I would think about, and these are the compromises I would try to reach, because compromise is often a better route than forcing people into conflict.
But perhaps our current councillors do not agree –– perhaps that’s why I’m not a councillor.
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   Volume 79 - Issue 12 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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