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We're the "super" social media



Published: Sun, March 30, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)


Once a year it seems to happen, a Valley group gathers various media folk for a how-to on this industry.

More times than not, I count on seeing WKBN’s Gerry Ricciutti, sans the fedora, at the gatherings. And there we were again Friday for a huddle of the Mahoning/Shenango Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Other media friends joined us, but Gerry’s always fun in that he gives a good poke, and takes one as well, and it makes for fun gatherings.

Anyway, this gathering came at a unique time for our two industries, and my company specifically.

The Vindy has made news in the last couple of weeks with a plan to sell our vintage Vindicator building to our neighbors at the Youngstown Business Incubator. It’s a very logical business move for us in that we’re not the bulky business we once were. We’re less bulky by two measures:

Technology has made publishing a much less labor-intensive process. Computers produce pages, stories, advertisements and photos at a rate unfathomable to Vindicator presidents of the past. We have fewer bodies due to that, and thus, vacant floor space.

And competing advertising options have grown at a rate equally unfathomable. A business in the 1970s (and even into the 1980s) used to rely on one newspaper and three television stations and some radio options to promote itself. Now, that business has hundreds of ways to reach their customers. Traditional media — the old newspaper and the classic major TV stations — have a smaller share of the local advertising market due to these options, and thus, smaller operations.

If I had to guess the shift in local advertising dollars from traditional media to all these other options, all combined, I would say it easily gets into the high seven-figure range in the Valley.

The reality of that is: less local journalism, reporting and faces for us as citizens to know, share and promote.

The salt in this wound are the smart, digital-minded folks in the world who seem to gloat on the demise of traditional media. I don’t want to stereotype, but they tend to skew younger and hipper and enrich the world in bitcoins.

There’s often an attitude of “life is better as we blaze new paths past these media dinosaurs.”

It exists locally, too. You can’t go an hour on Twitter and Facebook without finding some undercutting of local media, and advising folks to just find the news on “this site” or “that page.”

To many who grew up in a world without good local journalism in their hands, Facebook and Twitter seem to fix everything.

So with a gathering of engaged fundraisers, I wanted to reverse the program and ask them a question.

Before I get to my question, note for a second what fundraising professionals do:

When you are at today’s Mahoning Valley Pizza Cook-Off or next month’s Memorable Meals event, that fun was conceived by a fundraising professional.

When you partake in some of the 300 or so charitable golf outings in the Valley — same person. When your kid earns a scholarship to a local college paid for by an organization — ditto.

Even the cool, trendy, techy TEDx Youngstown event that will become a cool new standard for our city has that kind of person.

You can spot them at any of the above events: They are usually the one not smiling when everyone else is. They likely just fixed something that went wrong or are learning of something about to go wrong.

They are panicking about a late speaker or if the rain will hold off. They worry that the CEO looks good, as well as the 5-year-old special-needs child. They make sure volunteers are in the right place and all guests are in the left place.

In short, they sweat for a year over something they hope generates our laughter and donations over four or so hours.

Valley fun and charity enjoyed by all walks of life — kids, boomers, twentysomethings and more — is often on the backs of about 150 or so talented organizers.

So my question to them was driven by the constant drumbeat from some that life will be fine when traditional media finally dies off like stagecoaches. After all, there’s Twitter and Facebook and websites and Pinterest and smartphones and ... all these sites where all of us can generate our news and publish to our friends.

Pointing to our row of six traditional-media folks, I asked the 40 or so professionals:

“Do any of your events succeed without us? With your own websites and social-media friends and followers and databases, can all the events you do achieve what they do regardless of traditional media?”

The answer was pretty overwhelming as best I could tell.

No.

Social media survives on the backs of traditional media — the super social media.

But the future confronting our community based on the current investment trend is one with smaller, benign traditional media.

I like the trend in local food growing, buying and eating. It’s wholesome, healthy and homegrown.

I envision a day when we’ll realize the same about our local media.

Hopefully it’s while we still have guys rolling up on scenes in a fedora.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.


Comments

1NoBS(2006 comments)posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago

The news media has to improve itself before it's accepted as "wholesome, healthy and homegrown." From the national level on down, people have given up on expecting impartiality and objectivity from the news. On the national level, everyone knows that CNN slants its news to the left, and FOX slants its news to the right. There are times when it's hard to recognize they're covering the same event, because they're so far apart on what they're saying about it. Newspapers have similar reputations. Want conservative views? Pick up the Wall Street Journal. Liberal views? Try the New York Times.

On the local level, there's rarely the competition that exists at the national level. Usually, there's one newspaper in all but the larger cities. The lack of competition leads to complacency, and eventually the bias of the "powers that be" in the newspaper hierarchy come out.

If the news media wants to repair its reputation, it needs to look at itself from an outsider's point of view. It needs to work to regain the trust of ALL the people it serves.

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2UticaShale(854 comments)posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Thank you Mr. Franco for finally revealing to all of us the liberal blood flowing thru your veins. And I am not saying this as a BIG poke at you, rather, now we can see where you are coming from. As a Capitalist, it took me years to figure out the community organizing forces pulling at us in Youngstown as we witnessed the marching in of the new Socialist movement.
Urban farms to fill the void of food deserts. Farmers markets as the distribution points for those City inhabitants who wish to break the shackles of the evil corporate world. And now traditional media that will be smaller, leaner, our thing , in our new organized community.
Strange though, you live in Poland and I loved the short lived Poland Farmers market, that died instantly when Poland Village's obsolete bloated gov ernment jumped in to show us how it's done. The volunteers got tired of working for free and dictated to. Just like YNDC, had to contract out the building of it's urban farms to Capitalist Landscapers, when the City inhabitants reverted back to the norm, of running from work. Reality, 1000 acres were just auctioned off last November in the Valley and the Corporate famers paid the highest price for the acreage without even the mineral rights, just to feed the Bottom Dollars in all the food deserts.
Romantic explanation of the Great Vindicator, morphing when the truth is basic competition. Social media, An &Or Gates, Bottom dollar? No, it is just pure American Capitalism and free enterprise.

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3Roger_Thornhill(626 comments)posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't really understand what you are saying Utica.

Anyway, one of the most important functions Vindy has done is to focus on the govt corruption that infects the valley. Hope they can keep doing it for years to come.

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4dontbeafool(1097 comments)posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Christie was cleared by an internal investigation! That's as good as if Hillary came out and said she investigated herself, and she is clear of any wrong doing. But PLEASE, since the Vindy censors all of its news, just stay off of the site completely. Just stick to Fox News 24/7.

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5kurtw(938 comments)posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I read the Vindicator every day and I will most likely keep doing so for some time to come (unless God has other ideas and makes me Drop Dead) regardless of what happens to their old building and what price it sells for- which, really, should be nobody's business except the buyer and seller (Kernaloftruth's pompous and inane comment notwithstanding). I DON't read the Vindicator for international news or what Obama is up to (I have Fox News for that, thank you). I DO read the Vindicator for local news- especially the Human Interest features and photography- for instance Sundays front page story: "Goals for Life" about the young man from Poland with Bi-polar disease and how his family is coping with that- and my question for anyone who would say- If Print Newspapers like the Vindicator (and the Publishers who produce them) go under- so what? We have Social Media- Facebook, Twitter, all that digital Bullsh-t to replace them- Would a story like that- and all the other wonderful feature stories in that paper- have been produced by amateur, would-be reporters using Smart Phones?

I don't think so. As Todd stated, the paper has to downsize (as it's doing)- like the City itself- but I don't see it disappearing because it fills a distinct need- to report what is happening in this area in a way that illuminates, entertains, and connects people in a community in a way that only a community newspaper can. Also, it's a stable Institution- around since 1869- How many of the Twitterer's and Facebooker's are going to be around in 150 years?

P.S. The only thing that bothers me about them is that new building sucks! It's set up just like a prison- reminds me of the County Jail- no windows and you couldn't get in without a pass if your life depended on it. At least when the Editorial Offices were in the old building you could walk in and talk to the Editors. I remember years ago (when Ann Prezlomski was City Editor) I walked in and showed them a picture I took of a Flying Saucer! Well,no, actually it was just a high tension wire, but, I told them, see, "If you squint and look at it from an angle- doesn't it look just like a flying saucer?"

Well, I heard one of the editors (sitting just behind Mrs. P.) say: "A penny a dozen!" And so I walked out a little deflated, but I had a lasting memory to take with me. Proves the advantage of accessibility and not just a building set up like a prison.

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