From the NINA archives: President Ford’s 1976 visit

A contingent from the Northern Illinois Editorial Association greets President Gerald Ford on March 12, 1976, in Chicago. Photo provided by Ruby Grubb (center, holding purse).

For NINA long-timers, here’s a fun document from 1976, detailing President Gerald Ford’s campaign visit to northern Illinois, including a news conference with NINA, which was then known as the Northern Illinois Editorial Association. Check out pages 19-23 for the list of news conference attendees, including one — Roger Ruthhart — who’s still on the NINA board today.

See the whole day’s itinerary: presidentford_1976NINA


Notes from webinar: State of the News Media 2012

Here’s a quick notebook dump from today’s Poynter webinar: “State of the News Media 2012.” Lots of good conversation starters here …

A discussion of key points in the new Pew Research Center report.
You can find the entire report at

Presenter: Tom Rosentiel, who designed the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.


People are more likely to read longer stories on a tablet than on a desktop or laptop. And it’s a different advertising experience – much more like print. Flipping pages. Static ads you don’t necessarily click on.

68% of all online ads go to 5 companies: google, amazon, etc. And their share is increasing. FB to have >20 % of digital display ads by 2015

Paywalls (digital subscriptions) gaining traction. Why? One big factor is the success of NYTimes. 400,000 new online subscribers who are not print subscribers.

In five years, many papers will offer print home-delivery editions only on Sundays, or maybe 1-2 other days a week (Newspapers don’t make their revenue evenly through the week – sometimes half is from Sundays).

e.g. – Sunday plus food section day might equal 70 percent of print revenue. Kill other days. Tom: “Now you’re starting to talk about a model that might be workable.”

“But you can reach a tipping point where you make the product seem so diminished that people say, ‘you know, I don’t really need this.’”

Weekday circ. Continues to fall (-4 percent). Sundays more stable (-1 percent). But with online audiences added in, newspapers’ audiences are very stable.

TV news viewership grew last year – first increase in a decade for national news; first growth in 5 years for local TV news.

Trend – uneasiness about privacy (especially older audiences). People are more aware that gmail is reading their email, for example.

People are NOT getting their primary news from Facebook or Twitter. It’s supplemental. Fewer than 10 percent of digital news consumers say they very often follow news recommendations from FB or Twitter on a digital device. It’s news they would have gotten anyway.

Twitter users tend to be young, male and highly educated.

FB is mostly a family and friends network. Rarely people you don’t know.

Not a lot of overlap between FB and Twitter users. A little.


Use of online (up 17%), network TV, local TV, radio, cable TV all up last year. Magazines flat. NPs down 4.5% – but more than offset by the online increase – much of which is newspapers.

Network TV partially attributable to major breaking news – Arab spring, Tuscon shootings, tsunami. Last time there was an uptick like this was after 9/11.

Tom: “News creates its own demand.” – When the news is hot, more people tune in, particularly to TV. Sense of peril. People consume more news. Newspapers and magazines are somewhat less elastic.

Fox News saw second straight year of decline – 3 percent prime time, 2 percent daytime


It’s not an audience crisis for traditional, legacy media. It’s a revenue crisis.

Most online revenue gains are going to aggregators – not original content producers.

Newspaper ad revenue still down

Online ads up 23 percent in 2011.

85-90 percent of newspapers’ revenue is from print, even though close to half the audience is online.

So … for every print dollar we’re losing, we’re gaining 10 cents online. (dollars to dimes)

Choice: Either increase revenue or reduce costs. About 50 percent of a newspaper’s costs are printing and delivery.

Cable TV subscriptions built into 10-year contracts with providers.

Newsrooms are shrinking as companies try to stay in the black. Folks are stretched thinner – not only with coverage, but social media. Smaller newsrooms and people moving faster.

Magazine launches are up.

TV staffs growing – especially large markets. But many more “one-man bands.” Small market newsrooms are not growing.

Wall Street is seeing more value in local TV stations than in newspapers.

Community news sites: Seed grants are running out. Most notably: Chicago News Cooperative ceased to exist. Newspaper people had started sites with their buyout money.

Unlike newspapers, no single revenue stream is large enough to sustain an online operation.

J schools are becoming a larger part of local digital news cooperatives

Expect more local online partnerships with TV, newspapers, radio.

People are NOT running away from traditional news values of neutrality, robust sourcing, etc. In fact, the appeal of those things is growing. This is not what Wired Magazine said was going to happen.

YouTube – moving into original news content. Within a few years it will be a major producer of programming, like a TV network. The hyperlocal experiment. The problem was, anything that is hyperlocal also means it’s got a very limited audience. Too expensive to cobble up enough content to generate ads. Patch’s approach was to put national ads with local news. So far, not much success. Most sites not yet at a break-even point. “There are real doubts about Patch. One young, inexperienced person trying to cover a whole community. … How much value does that have?”

“No scalable model exists yet.”

Terrestrial radio increase: People are in their cars longer. Commute times have extended. But this may change, because more and more cars are being built with internet capability.

On your phone or tablet, where there’s no physical keyboard, people are clicking on the app of a real news organization, not an aggregator. This is different from the way people consume news on a desktop.

The public square is smaller and shallower than it used to be. Our shared knowledge is not as deep as it used to be. But there’s still the question, “Is there anything I need to know?”

Cooperatives are forming. AP is part of one. The idea is, charge aggregators a licensing fee for making use of our original material in any way.

The appeal of news to companies that make most of their profits elsewhere. News is an added value for companies like Bloomberg or Reuters (they make their money with financial data).





Call for nominations: Illinois Journalist of the Year

NIU seeks nominations for the 2012 Illinois Journalist of the Year. You can nominate someone online HERE.

The award is presented annually by the Department of Communication of Northern Illinois University to a person who has made a significant contribution to the mass media or, through them, to the public they serve, either as a result of a single accomplishment during the past year, or through a sustained effort over a longer period of time.

Any journalist employed by an Illinois mass medium, or an Illinois resident associated with a national medium serving the people of Illinois, is eligible to receive the award.

A panel of judges consisting of the chair of the Department of Communication, members of its faculty, and student presidents of appropriate journalism organizations at NIU will consider all nominations and choose the award winner.

Nomination deadline is March 29, 2012. The award will be presented at NIU’s 2012 Journalism Banquet in April.  A scholarship also will be presented in the recipient’s name to a deserving journalism student.


Past winners:

Mike Royko, 1972, Chicago Daily News
Clayton Kirkpatrick, 1973, Chicago Tribune
Walter Jacobson, 1974, WBBM-TV, Chicago
Ralph Otwell, 1975, Chicago Sun-Times
Karl Monroe, 1976, Collinsville Herald
Lois Wille, 1977, Chicago Daily News
Roger Hedges, 1978, Gannett News Service
Pamela Zekman, 1979, Chicago Sun-Times
Bill Kurtis, 1980, WBBM-TV, Chicago
John Whiteside, 1981, Joliet Herald-News
Anne Cusack, 1982, Chicago Tribune
John H. Johnson, 1983, Johnson Publishing
Gary Watson, 1984, Rockford Register Star
Marx Gibson, 1985, Kankakee Daily Journal
William O’Connell, 1986, Peoria Journal Star
John Callaway, 1987, WTTW, Chicago
Carol Marin, 1988, WMAQ-TV, Chicago
Dan Miller, 1989, Crain Communications
Reynold Hertel, 1990, Joliet Herald-News
Clarence Page, 1991, Chicago Tribune
Colleen Dishon, 1992, Chicago Tribune
Paul Hogan, 1993, WMAQ-TV, Chicago
John Hultman, 1994, WBBM-AM, Chicago
Bob Greene, 1995, Chicago Tribune
Jack Higgins, 1996, Chicago Sun-Times
William Shaw, 1997, The Telegraph, Dixon
Phil Ponce, 1998, Chicago Tonight, Channel 11
Linda Grist Cunningham, 1999, Rockford Register Star
Doug Ray, 2000, Daily Herald
Ken Armstrong and Steve Mills, 2001, Chicago Tribune
John Drury, 2002, WLS-TV, Chicago
Chuck Goudie, 2003, WLS-TV, Chicago
Tim Novak and Steve Warmbir, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times
Jonathan K. Whitney, 2005, Carroll County Review
John Foreman, 2006, The News Gazette, Champaign
Olga Gize Carlisle, 2007, The Journal Standard, Freeport
Scott Strazzante, 2008, Chicago Tribune
Bob Frisk, 2009, Daily Herald
Jodi S. Cohen, 2010, Chicago Tribune
Ben Joravsky, 2011, Chicago Reader

Board minutes, 3-16-12

Minutes of the NINA Board meeting

Friday, March 16, 2012

Northern Star office, Campus Life Building, NIU-DeKalb


Board members present (12):

Jason Schaumburg (president), Larry Lough (1st VP), Dirk Johnson (executive secretary), Kathy Gresey (2nd VP), Jim Slonoff (treasurer), Jim Killam (communications coordinator), John Etheredge, Sharon Boehlefeld, Roger Ruthhart, Lonny Cain, Randy Swikle, John Puterbaugh


Members absent (6):

Wally Haas (past president), Penny Wiegert, Mark Colosimo, Nick Swedberg, Jeff Wisser, Jason Akst.


Three board seats are open.


Schaumburg called the meeting to order at 10:20 a.m.


Minutes of the Jan. 27 meeting were approved.


Treasurer’s Report:

Slonoff reported that the savings account balance is the usual $5.94, and the checking balance is $10,403.62. That is prior to payments outgoing today, to the Northern Star ($598.35) for various reimbursements dating to the Fall Conference; and Fall Conference speaker Kevin Wendt ($492) for travel expenses. Dues payments also have been coming in daily.


Executive Secretary’s Report:

No report.


President’s Report:

Schaumburg reported on the joint task force meeting held prior to the full board meeting. Task force members have been gathering feedback from member and nonmember news organizations in northern Illinois. Common refrains:

–          Training in new skill sets is needed as newspapers evolve.

–          Training is needed, but sending people to workshops is too time-consuming, especially for small staffs. On-site training, or training within a very short distance, might be a solution. Online training is another possibility, though some respondents think it’s too impersonal.

–          Sometimes, the smaller weekly newspapers have felt that training offered by NINA is not relevant to them.

Schaumburg suggested the task force break down NINA’s roles to the following categories: training, contest, networking and journalism education (specifically high schools). Lough added that advocacy – for instance, coming to the aid of news organizations having access issues – could be an additional focus.


The task force’s next step will be a daylong brainstorming session. Date TBA.


Program Committee Report:

The Spring Conference is scheduled Friday, May 11, at NIU-DeKalb. Lough said the committee will assemble a program dealing with election coverage – possibly in a town hall format where journalists can share ideas. Topics may include covering election with a small staff, and using social media in election coverage.


Education Committee Report:

Gresey said the postmark deadline for scholarship applications from high school seniors was Thursday. Etheredge said he has received seven so far, but expects many more to arrive in the next several days. Judging will take place the morning of April 5 at Waubonsee Community College. Swikle suggested that the board use the Illinois Journalism Education Association to help market the contest in future years.


Membership Committee Report:

No report (Hass absent). Killam said dues notices were mailed in February and checks are being received on a steady basis.


Resource Committee/Communications Coordinator Report:

Killam said the new NINA website is almost ready for launch, and should be live within the next week or two. It will feature a blog format, and the ability for users to subscribe for email updates.


Also, he mentioned that he plans to work on developing workshops for individual newsrooms – writing, design and other topics. These could be offered at a discount to NINA members.


NIU is hosting 13 high schools for the IHSA Journalism Sectional competition on Saturday, April 21. Killam will be recruiting judges soon – as will other sectional sites in suburban Chicago.


Old Business:

50th anniversary: Johnson, Killam and Akst met recently to come up with ideas. Their list includes:

– Branding on newsletters and on the new website

– Fall Conference: a bigger, more prestigious event than usual. NIU’s Altgeld auditorium is booked for the evening of Oct. 18

– Membership drive tied to this theme

– Contest – new or revised category with a large cash prize. Targeted to individuals or small teams – not entire newspapers. Maybe something like “NINA Journalist of the Year.” Centered on public service, and NINA’s mission: advancing the quality, integrity and credibility of journalism in northern Illinois.

– As a potential second new contest: high school journalism educator of the year (maybe name this award after someone), with nominees to come from colleagues, students, administrators, parents, NINA members.

– Newspaper artifacts. Talk with NIU archives about setting up a display at the Fall Conference and then possibly creating a permanent display somewhere on campus.Typewriters and old printing artifacts. Early computers. Etc. Items could be collected from all NINA papers.

– Possible Fall Conference speaker(s): Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon (who could speak about her dad and the newspaper biz). Possibly a roundtable with some people with long history in this region – like the Small family or the Shaw family or the Paddock family.

– Invite a wider range of people. Former NINA presidents and board members; NIU faculty, especially from communication/journalism and business school; retired professors who had interaction with NINA through the years; high school advisers; NIU president; NIU LA&S dean; NIU media relations people  (many of these folks are invited every year, but this year we could make an extra effort to get them here)

– NIU does have some funding available to help with this event. We do not intend to increase the cost for attendees.


New Business:



Next Meeting:

10 a.m. Friday, June 22, 2012, at the Northern Star office.


Adjourn: 11:25 a.m.


Minutes submitted by Jim Killam, communications coordinator, 3-19-12.

Charting our course for the next 50 years

By Jason Schaumburg | NINA President

Welcome to the 50th anniversary of the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association. I have the tremendous honor of serving as president of NINA during this landmark year. We started Dec. 1, 1962, as the Northern Illinois Editorial Association. In 1974, the name changed to the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association.

While we will spend time this year looking back and celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary, we also must spend time looking forward. So much has changed in journalism and newspapers in the past 50 years; circulation gains and losses; new tools for journalists; advancements in printing. I could use 50 column inches and come up with 50 changes.

Perhaps the biggest change has been our transition from newspaper companies to information companies — something NINA 1st Vice President Larry Lough has been preaching for the better part of a decade — and the birth of new, online-only information companies.

No longer is ink on paper the only way we disseminate news and advertising to readers. Increasing numbers of people consume the news on their smartphones or tablet devices. Paywalls, monetizing the web and increasing page views have become the focus of the business side of what we do.

Much like our industry, NINA is at a crossroads. Sure, we’ve been around for 50 years. But will we be around for another 50 years? And what changes does NINA need to make to stay relevant for another 50 years? We will spend this year trying to answer that question.

A task force has been formed to tackle the issue. I am leading a discussion focused on our mission; who are we and what do we want to be? Joining me are Ottawa Times Managing Editor Lonny Cain, Suburban Life Publications Publisher Mark Colosimo and Northern Star Adviser Jim Killam.

Also as part of the task force: Lough, the executive editor of Sauk Valley Media, will lead a discussion looking at the makeup of NINA and how our structure can better reflect our membership and our mission. He will be joined by The Observer Features Editor Sharon Boehlefeld, Kane County Chronicle Editor Kathy Gresey and Rock Island Argus Managing Editor Roger Ruthhart.

Of course, these groups won’t work in a vacuum. We would like to hear from the membership about what you think the future should look like for NINA. After all, this organization belongs to the members.

If you have an idea — large or small — please email it to me or simply add a comment below. If you have an opinion on how NINA can better serve our journalists, speak up. Now is your chance to help shape the future of our organization.

NINA’s mission is to advance the quality, integrity and credibility of journalism and journalism education in northern Illinois. Spending our 50th anniversary studying how to carry out that mission is essential to our sustainability.

Jason Schaumburg is editor of the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb. If you would like to weigh in on the future of NINA, please email Jason at Or, simply leave a comment below.

Mistakes were made: What we’re seeing in future journalists

By Jason AkstI get many opportunities to glimpse what college journalism students think about, so I like to think one of my “other duties as assigned” is to be a Catcher-in-the-Rye kind of kind of guy.

It’s one thing to teach news writing, but quite another to alert tomorrow’s journalists about cliffs they could fall off … especially when the terrain keeps changing. Recently, our NINA colleague Jim Killam asked me to chat with the Northern Star staff about mistakes I notice beginning journalists making.

Here’s a snapshot of significant thinking/attitudinal errors I have noticed in the last few years.

In video we trust

Students are profoundly visually oriented. What concerns me is that we forget that imagery is compressed and edited. Imagery is frozen moments of time, but video is especially beguiling in seeming to present the whole story …

Until, too late, we realize we only saw a part of the story, and the part we saw might be horribly misleading. Remember Shirley Sherrod?


Overwhelmingly, most of the social media usage I see is … social. We as educators and professionals need to do more to make journalism and social media intersect in interesting ways. That’s one of my main professional goals for this year.

 Two ears, One mouth: get a clue

Human anatomy favors journalists. The reason we have two ears and one mouth is not so we can hear in stereo (though that’s cool too). It’s because we should listen twice as much as we speak.

Beginning journalists sometimes don’t realize the awesome power of the uncomfortable silence: many people will do nearly anything to avoid it (like answering questions or supplying information). A substantial hurdle to overcome these days, what with all the texting.

Unwillingness/inability to read

A couple years ago I asked students what they read for fun over the summer. There was nervous chatter because many couldn’t think of anything.

“Just tell him ‘Harry Potter’,” somebody said. I chuckled too, and said, “OK, but I’ve read every book, so I’d want to know which one you’re talking about.”

Crickets. It’s a safe bet that if they aren’t reading for fun, they aren’t reading unless they have to.

Face value

Don’t take anything for it. Despite their media/technological sophistication, students seem alarmingly ready to accept information at face value, without analyzing it (or its source) for what’s missing, what’s incomplete, what’s over-generalized, and so forth.

Government, schmovernment

Students are disinterested in day-to-day, routine government (city councils, school boards, etc.), even though they know governmental reportage is critical to journalism. I require students to cover a meeting of public government because I know few of them have ever been to one. It’s an assignment several of them skip, knowing they will get a zero.

Anti-journalism pop culture

Each semester, I task students to watch for journalists portrayed in movies, TV shows and books. With the noteworthy exception of the Stieg Larsson novels (“The Girl Who …”), journalists are scum. It’s fictional portrayal, but what I want students to realize is that when the same fiction is manifested so thoroughly via so many channels, people aren’t going to be thrilled that there’s a journalist in the room.

Avoiding news consumption

I give weekly news awareness quizzes, carefully explaining that part of getting hired and being a journalist is knowing what’s in the news and who newsmakers are, but I’m very careful to choose BIG news questions that students should have seen/heard/read in many places. “If you’re going to be a doctor,” I say, “very early on, people are just going to expect that you know anatomy. If you’re going to be a journalist, people are just going to expect that you know what’s happening.”

They nod understandingly … and then fail miserably on news awareness questions.

Single-source reliance

What’s on the internet must be true. That’s ridiculous, of course, but it’s amazing the extent to which students submit work based on a single source, and often that single source is a website.

Jason Akst, a NINA board member, teaches journalism and public relations at Northern Illinois University. Contact him at