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Are You A Whistleblower?

by Mark on February 18th, 2008

Last Friday I offered information about QuadrantOne wherein an extremely large advertising network had come together through the agreement of four major US newspaper publishers.

I’ve received a very lengthy comment, one that is as long as two of my long posts, accusing one of these publishers of some underhanded practices relating to college newspapers. Thankfully that comment went into moderation and didn’t immediately publish here.

I’m not one who likes to just bulldoze ahead and print accusations, especially when the author calls themselves “anonymous.” I do however, understand the fear behind not wanting to be identified. Sadly though, an anonymous comment of this type leaves me, and would have left our readers, in the position of determining validity. That ought not be our job after a comment of this type.

Had you included a reference, a link to something that would have presented some level of validation it would have been nice, as opposed to;

“If your school is approached by the Gannett/USA Today Collegiate Readership Program, I hope that you will consider this: They want to steal your college newspaper advertisers! They will financially beat your college newspaper down by drastically reducing your ad revenue so that they can either take over your college newspaper if it has potential for profit or simply put it out of business.”

Is that your personal opinion or are you privy to information that the world at large doesn’t have? And what is wrong with this following statement?

“The USA Today Collegiate Readership Program has been cleverly marketed to colleges and universities across the country as a way to enlighten our students and improve the journalism skills of the campus newspaper writers. On Feb. 15, 2008 a joint initiative called Quadrantone was announced by Gannett, The Tribune Newspapers, Hearst Corp and the New York Times. This program creates an unprecedented on line advertising platform that will allow this newly formed oligopoly to offer localized on line advertising on their member online newspaper websites to local advertisers who have relied on the college newspaper to reach students. With Quadrantone, even the on line editorial content can be customized to reach different demographic groups.”

Cleverly marketed? Is that wrong? I believe if I was the person responsible for increasing the advertising revenue I’d be looking for clever (albeit honest) marketers to improve results. Wouldn’t you?

I did some very basic research, simply a short visit to Google, and found this on the overview page for the Readership Program at USA Today;

“The Collegiate Readership Program was developed at Penn State University in 1997. Penn State ’s President, Graham Spanier, created the program as a way to ensure that his students were exposed to the world beyond the bricks and mortar of the campus.”

Gannett didn’t develop it, a well-known University’s President did! Yet, you say;

“Here is the bottom line- This USA Today program is nothing more than a surreptitious way to curry favor with students and administrators under the guise of providing a valuable educational service to our community. Make no mistake about it. The goal of the USA Today readership program is not to enlighten our students and broaden their perspectives as they would have you believe. Their sneaky plan involves bringing USA Today and usually the New York Times on campus along with the local metropolitan newspaper (usually a Gannett publication)- often “free of charge” to the students but paid for by the college administration or student government association. That way the program can count all of their newspapers on campus as paid circulation to justify ad rate increases. The typical metropolitan newspaper is written on an 8th grade reading level. Is that the kind of education and enlightenment that our students can look forward too?”

And, there’s more, much more…

[And, yes, I updated the links which weren’t originally provided]

Tags: , Gannett Newspapers, , USA Today

POSTED IN: Personal Thoughts

12 opinions for Are You A Whistleblower?

  • A. Rooney
    Feb 24, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Wonder How Grahmam Spanier feels about the program now?


    Penn State newspaper hurt by program

    Hall said USA Today’s research shows the readership program has increased the readership of campus newspapers, not hurt the publications.

    Tell that to Gerry Hamilton, general manager of The Daily Collegian at Pennsylvania State University, and you’ll get a different story.

    In 1997 Penn State became the first major university in the nation to have the readership program.

    Hamilton said the program’s presence there has had a negative effect on both the paper’s circulation and budget. He said the placement of the local Centre Daily Times, backed by the Knight-Ridder newspaper corporation, on campus caused major circulation problems for The Collegian, which led to budget losses and more expenses for new efforts to increase circulation.

    “We are now in our third year of operating at a loss, which I can largely attribute to fighting a circulation war since the readership program started on this campus,” he said.

    Until this year, The Collegian has avoided competing for advertisers with the local paper, but that changed when The Centre Daily Times introduced Blue, a new publication aimed directly at the Penn State campus.

    Blue is directly cutting into The Collegian’s ad revenue, Hamilton said.

    “We’ve had advertisers tell us they were cutting back directly,” he said.

    Hamilton said asking the student advertising staff to compete with corporate ad professionals would be like asking the Penn State football team to play in the NFL.

    Hamilton said initially the Penn State administration, led by President Graham Spanier, wanted the program on campus and disregarded the campus paper’s concerns. Hamilton said he now does not think Penn State officials want Blue on campus, but they are caught in a trap, since striking the local paper from the readership bins might cause a firestorm of bad publicity.

    Hamilton said the only way to keep the local paper from going after the ad revenue of the campus paper is not to include the local paper in the readership program.

    “This situation could occur on any college campus where this program exists,” he said.

  • A. Rooney
    Mar 3, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Mark- Care to respond to A. Rooney’s Feb. 24 reply?

  • Mark
    Mar 3, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Actually, no, not now. I am certainly not going to respond to anything I don’t have both sides of and what you (anonymous or A. Rooney?) have offered is only your side.

    There hasn’t been enough contrary info for me to use to form a qualified opinion, one that might approach agreement with you. I also haven’t the ability to dismiss you either, so I’ll do neither.

    Perhaps other, more qualified, unbiased, readers will offer more. We’ll see…

  • A. Rooney
    Mar 8, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Mark- while you are scratching your head, here is something else to chew on.

    Mark said:

    “The Collegiate Readership Program was developed at Penn State University in 1997. Penn State ’s President, Graham Spanier, created the program as a way to ensure that his students were exposed to the world beyond the bricks and mortar of the campus.”

    Gannett didn’t develop it, a well-known University’s President did.”- end of quote

    Here’s a news flash from 1989!-

    1st September 1989
    From Issue Number: 1253

    Apple Computer Inc and newspaper publisher Gannett Co Inc are launching the first daily electronic college news service for college newspapers - the USA Today/Apple College Information Network, which will enable college journalists to receive tailored student news daily, interact with Gannett editors, contribute stories and learn how to use desktop publishing software: the Network will include the Gannett graphics, as seen in USA Today and other Gannett dailies, which are produced on Apple’s Macintosh; participating college newspapers will connect on-line to the news network using Macintosh computers, modems and special College Information Network software and will pay for the news network by trading the service for advertising space.

  • Mark
    Mar 8, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Mark didn’t say anything. What Mark did was quote something. I’d appreciate it if you would back off on what appears to be some level of attack towards me personally.

    Can you not distinguish that I quoted “this on the overview page for the Readership Program at USA Today”

    Seems to me that you’ve made a statement that requires proof of wrongdoing - that statement was “They want to steal your college newspaper advertisers!” Where is your attribution for that comment? Why don’t you offer “us” full disclosure and stop this A. Rooney/Anonymous stuff? Who are you and what is your relationship to all of this. Is Gerry Hamilton your personal friend?

  • A. Rooney
    Mar 10, 2008 at 4:26 pm


    I submitted a piece a couple of days ago as repsonse to your Mar. 8 piece but it was never posted. Should I send it again.

  • Mark
    Mar 10, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    I suppose you ought to. I thought I had it in moderation but it isn’t there…

    If it’s quite long like the first one up top or the original from 2/17 do you think you can break it down a bit?

  • A. Rooney
    Mar 11, 2008 at 7:39 am

    To respond to your question regarding sources and attribution, I need ample space to address but I will keep as brief as I can:

    USA Today and other Newspaper conglomerate Collegiate Readership Programs have flatly denied in print articles that they want to steal college newspaper readers.

    “Gannett dismissed any suggestion that it planned to conquer student journalism.

    “There is no grand Gannett strategy,” said Tara Connell, a spokeswoman at its headquarters in McLean, Va. “Gannett is not looking to buy college newspapers. We look at all sorts of things.” – Nytimes.com 2/18/08.

    Oh really? Read this article from The Rocky Mountain Collegian on Mar. 7.

    Gannett spokeswoman Tara Connell says the company doesn’t rule out buying another student newspaper. “Would we do it again if the circumstances were right? Sure,” says Ms. Connell- Wall Street Journal Aug. 9, 2006

    and this article from the N.Y. Times

    Following is an excerpt from the University of Alabama Crimson and White college newspaper

    Free newspaper program here for semester, maybe longer

    “Barbara Hall, the USA Today representative who coordinated the UA (university of Alabama) program, said USA Today is trying to create a “learning environment on the University campus through the reading of newspapers.”

    “If they’re only interested in increasing student readership, why doesn’t [USA Today] just give away the papers for free?” Isom (from the Crimson and White) asked.

    “Asked that question, Hall said she did not know, except that newspapers cost money to produce and distribute. She said, however, that USA Today is more for businessmen and that the paper “is not going after the college market anytime in the near future.” End of quote (Crimson White Online- 2/13 /04)

    Remember- only paid circulation is recognized by the Audit Bureau of Circulation- the oversight organization that verifies circulation numbers that newspapers use to increase their ad rates. That Mrs. Hall, is why you can’t give away your newspapers, but of course you knew that already didn’t you? Just another example of the double talk that Gannett is known for.

    Here is the best part- How is the success of the 4-week “pilot program” for the USA Today Readership program on the campus determined? I have witnessed this up close and in person- Attractive smiling USA Today Collegiate Representatives stand if front of the USA Today Readership racks and hand out questionnaires with one hand and give away nice “prizes” with the other hand. Talk about baiting the respondent! The USA Today reps then turn in their results to the SGA and the college administrators- and no one questions the obvious bias!! Is it just me or does this sound like the election results when Saddam Hussein got 99% of the popular vote?

    By the way- it is generally accepted that the The USA Today Collegiate Readership Program and other large newspaper corporations who try to get their newspapers on campus create a media fragmentation that diminishes the advertiser’s effective reach and his ad response rate. . Whereas before, the advertiser could reach the college students with just the college newspaper, now he must consider the loss of readership of the college paper and advertise in the metro and national papers too just to reach the same number of his readers.

    The USA Today and New York Times readership program and the new Quadrantone online ad platform- (google it) announced by Gannett, The Tribune, New York Times and Hearst papers will be the death knell of college newspapers unless the students and administrators wake up and dare to challenge the modern day Citizen Kane!


    A. Rooney

  • Mark
    Mar 11, 2008 at 9:26 am

    I’ve taken the liberty to edit the links above to avoid the formatting problems those long URLs created.

    Does anyone else want to comment on this?

  • QuadrantOne Doubles Its Size
    Mar 20, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    […] an announcement that likely will not make A. Rooney happy, [I’m still researching A. Rooney’s last comment about this topic], QuadrantOne has more than doubled its […]

  • anonymous
    Mar 20, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    How Graham Spanier feels about the program now…. a video celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Readership Program.
    Watch it at: http://x02.ur.psu.edu/video/in_motion/snrp.html

  • Mark
    Mar 20, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Interesting… I don’t understand why you folks have to do this under “anonymous.” What the heck is with that? I won’t publish it unless it becomes required by other circumstances, but the source of this last comment makes the “conversation” on this topic that much more interesting!!!

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