On the cover of The Newfoundland Herald... more of the same!
Is the orgy of self-promotion over at the NTV, The Herald and OZ FM getting ever more debauched? Or am I the only one who sees this?
It manifests itself most obviously in covers of The Herald, which routinely feature NTV programs and personalities (and sometimes OZ FM as well).
And it is getting worse, no question about that.
It started earlier this year, on May 9, with a Mother’s Day cover featuring Toni Marie Wiseman.
A week later, on May 22, the OZ FM summer road show ladies were on the cover, of an issue that featured a free Winner’s Circle inside.
Then Toni Marie had her baby, and mother and child were featured on the cover of the September 5 edition.
On September 12, Glen Carter of NTV News First Edition graced the cover.
On October 17, the entire NTV News team was on the cover. Again.
Now, I may have missed a few. And the year is not over yet.
This is nothing new. I had to deal with it myself, when I worked as editor of The Herald. However, we also managed to feature CBC programs, including Here & Now, on the cover, and sometimes quietly ignored some of the cover directives that came from higher up (it being easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission).
As an aside, I remember receiving calls from people in NTV publicity, ordering us to write a story, or even arrange a cover, featuring their programs and personalities. There was always tension between us, as I explained that they could request space, but not demand it.
That tension, I fear, has long since dissipated between the two, replaced by an eagerness to please that is healthy for neither The Herald nor NTV. After all, this shameless self-promotion has become a running joke among the populace, and is damaging – rather than enhancing – credibility.
And I am not criticizing the people who actually appear on the cover. They seldom have any choice in the matter – it comes with the job description. However, those who run the Stirling empire know that covers are an important factor in selling magazines at the checkout. And I submit that another – yet another – photo of the NTV news team is not going to have them flying off the stands.
In other words, there is an opportunity cost whenever you feature the same old, same old on the cover, versus something new and exciting.
And speaking of lost opportunities, why must every Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cover focus on an NTV or OZ personality? Surely there are other fertile Newfoundlanders and Labradorians out there, worthy of cover treatment? This is an opportunity to recognize the many great mothers and fathers out there. Instead, it is wasted on same old, same old.
The cross promotion gets so blatant that it borders on ridiculous. Consider the September 12 cover, featuring Glen Carter, which proclaimed that First Edition was “revolutionizing local news coverage.” Um, no. Not at all. That is advertising copy. And the cover should be reserved for editorial copy
Then there was the time, back in September, when Glen Carter was reading a news story about new buses. I don’t know if they were school buses or what, but I did hear Carter say they were equipped with full stereo systems, “so that passengers on the bus can listen to OZ FM.” He said it with a smile, but it was during the actual newscast – and it’s a bad thing when self-promotion creeps into news stories.
Either way, the situation is getting ridiculous. And the biggest, most glaring problem would be those Herald covers. They might not admit it publicly, but Herald staff would likely agree with me. They know there are more interesting cover subjects out there, and their credibility is being slowly squandered with every new NTV and OZ cover.
When I started writing for The Herald in 1980, circulation was above 60,000 copies a week. In the early 80s, the price was doubled, from .50 cents to $1… and sales fell straight through the floor, down to 20,000 copies a week. Thus began a long, slow recovery. When I left in 1988, we were greater than 45,000 a week. Not a bad comeback.
I have no idea if the numbers went up or down after I left. But I do know that circulation now sits at about 13,000 per week – which is a disaster.
Some may blame editorial content for this decline, but that would be simplistic and unfair. I think it has more to do with The Herald being known as a TV guide, in an era when people get their listings onscreen, from the cable service. Printed TV guides are an anachronism, and the magazine needs to diversify.
Easier said than done, I know.
But one thing is for sure: the ad nauseum NTV covers don’t enhance sales or credibility. The more the magazine is perceived as a billboard for NTV, the less seriously it will be taken by local media consumers.
What next? Perhaps The Herald will feature The Herald on the cover?