Toby Carrig

As I begin the second year of my term as Third Vice President, I believe it’s important to focus on the membership numbers among small papers.

With the dues deadline approaching, fall is the best time to undertake a membership drive, and it’s a time-consuming task for a Third Vice President to work on in the first few months on the job. The last 12 months included assisting with the new under-20,000 circulation categories for the contest, helping launch the Great Plains regional contest, and examining the restrictions high school athletic associations have been placing on newspapers because of photo resales through Web sites. Also, more than 25 papers took part in newspaper exchanges at various times through the year – including the national convention and after the publication of football preview sections.

I believe there is greater value to small papers now in APSE, with the additional circulation category in the contest. Our judging panel also provided feedback to the 60-plus papers that entered the under-40,000 daily division on those aspects of their entries that left impressions – positive or not-so-positive – on us.

Nevertheless, in part because of the economy, the number of members in the under-40,000 circulation category fell 17.4 percent, from 184 to 152, last year. The decrease in membership among papers in the 40,000 to 100,000 range was 17.6 percent.

It is something for APSE to be alarmed about, because at this time, smaller newspapers represent perhaps the healthiest segment of the industry

I have had my theories over the years about what we could do better to serve small papers that may not be able to travel to national or regional events, what programs might allow small-paper editors to get more out of the organization.

On the regional level, particularly, we may need to do more. Attendance at the Great Plains regional in Kansas City dwindled over the last three years as large and small papers in the far ends of the region found it difficult to schedule the trip.

The first regional contest there – open to APSE and non-APSE papers – drew high-quality entries from many papers that were nationally recognized but not enough entries from the smallest papers to offer a division targeted for papers at under-15,000 circulations.

I believe, with our relationship with an educational institution like Indiana University, with a commitment to identifying and supporting region chairs, and with the organization’s eye on utilizing technology to improve communication, we are in a position to consider more ideas than we might have been capable of implementing in the past. The Northeast region’s plan to have a Webcast of its May 2010 meeting is one of those solutions.

To me, the focus of a membership drive – both retaining the small papers that are in the organization and trying to add new members – is not as much about APSE listing the benefits, but sports editors telling us how they want the organization to assist them.

Toby Carrig is Third Vice President of APSE, representing the interests of the organization’s smallest newspapers.