Media Watch

Staying in the Game

A few weeks back, we noticed that the Gannett-owned Arizona Republic was apparently trying to raise its profile in The Naked Pueblo by piggybacking on a campaign to help the New Beginnings for Women and Children shelter in Tucson.

For what it's worth, it would appear that Mike Chihak and Co. at Gannett's Tucson Citizen don't seem to be taking it lying down.

The latest evidence that the Citizen intends to make a fight of it is the recent decision to elevate a couple of talented souls, Anne T. Denogean and C.T. Revere, to columnist duties.

I'll admit to a touch of bias. C.T. and I crossed paths for a time at the Arizona Daily Star. He was working day cops when I joined up, and he'd occasionally drop in on the downtown bureau to catch up on some of the interoffice chatter. He was a pretty intense type back then, but the energy was usually pretty well focused.

Somehow, I'd managed to wander around Fortress TNI for several years without ever meeting Denogean, but over time, I found her byline to be one that I sought out in pawing through the competition.

Creating a couple of new voices is a long overdue move for the Citizen, which for a long time looked primarily to Corky Simpson, Steve Rivera and Mark Kimble to be their main "public voices."

Good folks, all, but after a while, you need something more--which hooks into the Citizen's attempt to raise the profiles of other staffers through rack card promotions that have referred to features writer Polly Higgins and UA sports beat writer John Moredich.

The campaign is a two-fer built on a couple of tried-and-true newspaper marketing pitches. One, which the Republic is using in MegaPhoenix, is, "When you don't read us, you're missing lots of good stuff, such as this."

The other is an intriguing idea that more newspapers should draw on--calling attention to key staffers. That's a tough one to carry off, because many reporters feel that being in the spotlight makes it harder to get the job done. However, it's a move newspapers probably should take more to heart as competition from other--more personal--media sources grows. It's not deliberate, but the aura of mystery that surrounds most reporters (all you see is a byline, so most of the time, all you can know for certain is the reporter's gender) contributes in a way to folks feeling a little less trust for the processed-tree-carcass product.

Radio gives its audience voices, and television adds faces to the action; over the years, our audiences have found that more reassuring than a simple byline.

Playing up the names that make a newspaper sing, laugh, cry and argue isn't a big risk, as long as the reporters buy in. Hopefully, it will give the Citizen something of an uptick in the market.