NATIONAL RECOGNITION FOR THE LAWRENCE JOURNAL-WORLD; Congressional Record Vol. 151, No. 90
(Extensions of Remarks - June 30, 2005)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1407-E1409]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




          NATIONAL RECOGNITION FOR THE LAWRENCE JOURNAL-WORLD

                                 ______
                                 

                           HON. DENNIS MOORE

                               of kansas

                    in the house of representatives

                        Wednesday, June 29, 2005

  Mr. MOORE of Kansas. Mr. Speaker, last Sunday's edition of the New 
York Times carried a lengthy analysis of the recent service expansions 
into new media delivery outlets

[[Page E1408]]

undertaken by the Lawrence Journal-World, a daily newspaper published 
in my congressional district.
  The Lawrence Journal-World, long owned and managed by the Simons 
family, epitomizes locally based newspaper publishing in America. While 
many Kansas papers in neighboring communities have been purchased and 
reworked by out-of-state media conglomerates, the Journal-World has 
remained independent, feisty, and unique. While I have not always 
agreed with the conclusions advocated by the paper's management in its 
editorial columns, I respect the Simons' family's commitment to the 
strength of the Lawrence community, the advancement of the University 
of Kansas, and the independence of a free and activist press in the 
United States. I commend the New York Times' coverage of the Journal-
World to my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, and I hope it presents a model 
that other newspaper publishers nationwide will seek to follow.

                [From the New York Times, June 26, 2005]

                      The Newspaper of the Future

                        (By Timothy L. O'Brien)

       Every Little League player in this town of about 85,000 
     people can be a star. Regardless of how he or she hits or 
     fields, each tyke and teenager is eligible for a personalized 
     electronic trading card--replete with a picture, biography, 
     statistics and an audio clip of the player philosophizing 
     about the game--that can be posted on the Web site of the 
     local newspaper, The Lawrence Journal-World.
       Lawrencians buying tickets for University of Kansas 
     football games can visit the same site, LJWorld.com, and find 
     photographs offering sightlines from each of Memorial 
     Stadium's 50,000 seats. Law aficionados can find transcripts 
     of locally significant court cases posted on the site and 
     participate in live, online chats debating the pros or cons 
     of some cases--sometimes with experts who are involved in the 
     proceedings.
       A related Web site, lawrence.com, is aimed at college 
     readers. It allows visitors to download tunes from the 
     Wakarusa Music Festival, find spirited reviews of local bars 
     and restaurants and plunge into a vast trove of blogs, 
     including the Gay Kansan in China Blogger, who recently had 
     his first ``disgusting'' experience with a woman, to the Born 
     Again Christian Blogger, who offers videotaped huzzahs to the 
     Nascar legend Dale Earnhardt Sr.
       The steward of this online smorgasbord is Dolph C. Simons 
     Jr., a politically conservative, 75-year-old who corresponds 
     via a vintage Royal typewriter and red grease pencil while 
     eschewing e-mail and personal computers. ``I don't think of 
     us as being in the newspaper business,'' said Mr. Simons, the 
     editor and publisher of The Journal-World and the chairman of 
     the World Company, the newspaper's parent. ``Information is 
     our business and we're trying to provide information, in one 
     form or another, however the consumer wants it and wherever 
     the consumer wants it, in the most complete and useful way 
     possible.''
       Owned by the Simons family since 1891, The Journal-World is 
     a small-town paper emphasizing small-town news, but it is 
     hardly restrained by a small-town mentality. Indeed, at a 
     time when newspapers big and small are facing financial and 
     journalistic crossroads, media analysts say The Journal-
     World, with a circulation of just 20,000, offers guidelines 
     for moving forward.
       The Simons family, through the World Company, enjoys an 
     unfettered and often criticized media monopoly in Lawrence. 
     But the family has used that advantage to cross pollinate its 
     properties, ranging from cable to telephone service to 
     newspaper and online publishing, and to take technological 
     and financial risks that other owners might have avoided.
       Mr. Simons and his associates describe their overall goals 
     as a shared belief in quality, a deep attachment to Lawrence 
     as a community and a constant reinvention of their business's 
     relationship with readers, viewers and advertisers.
       ``We believe that journalism has been a monologue for so 
     long and now is the perfect time for it to become a dialogue 
     with our readers,'' said Rob Curley, 34, the World Company's 
     director of new media. ``We want readers to think of this as 
     their paper, not our paper.''
       Lawrence has a long history as an independent, contrarian 
     town. Founded in 1854 by New England abolitionists, it became 
     one of the most violent, bloody battlegrounds in the slavery 
     debate and was burned to the ground by pro-slavery raiders in 
     1861.
       The University of Kansas opened its doors here just after 
     the Civil War; women made up almost half of its first class. 
     Haskell Indian Nations University, a college for Native 
     Americans, opened here in 1884. After Mr. Simons's 
     grandfather arrived in town more than a century ago, he 
     bought the local paper for $50.
       Today, Lawrence is a regional anomaly, anchoring a 
     Democratic county in a solidly Republican state. Its large 
     student population brings spunk to Lawrence, the university 
     adds academic sophistication and sports fanaticism, and the 
     town, dotted with funky restaurants and boutiques, has become 
     a favorite of artists and activists.
       Lawrence is also peppered with tidy, attractive homes and 
     schools that draw middle- and upper-class families headed by 
     professionals who commute to work in Topeka and Kansas City. 
     ``It's a real town with a real soul where people like to get 
     involved,'' said Paul Carttar, a Lawrence native who is 
     executive vice chancellor for external affairs at the 
     University of Kansas. ``People here care about what Lawrence 
     will become.''
       Mr. Simons says his family takes its Lawrence roots 
     seriously. ``My dad told me that if you take care of 
     Lawrence, Lawrence will take care of you,'' he said.
       To that end, Mr. Simons has been an aggressive consolidator 
     of local news and information services while resisting what 
     he described as repeated offers over the years from larger 
     companies wanting to buy him out. He has also been an early 
     adopter of new technologies. The World Company began laying 
     cable in 1968 and offered cable programming to residents in 
     1971, paying for the expansion with profits from The Journal-
     World--long before most larger media companies would embrace 
     cable.
       Today, about 80 percent of homes in Lawrence have cable 
     connections. The Journal World began publishing on the 
     Internet in 1995, the same year that Sunflower, the broadband 
     subsidiary of the World Company, first offered cable modems 
     to customers. In 1999, the newspaper and its television 
     station began sharing talent, using reporters to write for 
     The Journal-World and appear on the company's news stations.
       ``We're not afraid to jump outside of the box, and that's 
     because of who our owners are,'' said Patrick Knorr, 32, 
     Sunflower's general manager, who also oversees strategic 
     planning for the World Company. ``They're determined not to 
     lose because they were asleep at the switch.''
       Mr. Knorr said that World, which employs a total of about 
     600 people, did not try to offer new content to broadband 
     subscribers until it had solid relationships with its 
     customers and a robust pipeline through which it could pump 
     media offerings.
       ``Content is absolutely critical and king,'' Mr. Knorr 
     said. ``But consumers have more power than ever over who gets 
     crowned.''
       On a sweltering midsummer morning in 2001, Mr. Simons 
     convened most of his media staff in the basement of a 
     handsomely restored former post office at the comer of New 
     Hampshire and Seventh Streets. The building was World's new 
     ``converged news center,'' where the company's television, 
     newspaper and online staffs would all be housed.
       Mr. Simons told his editors and reporters that they were 
     going to do more than merely work shoulder to shoulder; they 
     were going to share reporting assignments, tasks and scoops--
     whether they liked it or not.
       Many did not like it at all, and some World reporters say 
     they sometimes still feel taken advantage of--when they are 
     asked to squeeze multiple print, television and online duties 
     into the course of a single day. Print reporters and their 
     editors have, at times, been reluctant to share scoops or 
     ideas with their television counterparts, and vice versa. But 
     many reporters also said that, over time, they have adapted.
       ``You can really teeter on the edge of, `I'm not enjoying 
     this and it's not fair,' to, `This is one of the coolest 
     things I've ever done,'' said Deanna Richards, a television 
     reporter who works in World's converged newsroom. The company 
     currently has 81 news employees, an unusually large number 
     for an operation of its size.
       In 1993, Mr. Simons recruited Bill Snead, an award-winning 
     photographer from The Washington Post, to oversee the 
     Journal-World newsroom. Now a senior editor, Mr. Snead, 67, 
     has written, photographed and shot video for feature 
     assignments on topics such as farm strife, cheerleaders and 
     cowboys. He said that while he had never shot video before 
     arriving at The Journal-World, he had no trouble adapting.
       ``Technology is our servant; it's our valet; it gets our 
     stuff out there--but it's still about the content,'' he said, 
     adding that his company's online and cable properties have 
     helped to forge a closer relationship with readers. ``If you 
     show people respect and don't treat them like a novelty, 
     you'll have free rein. That's what we're doing here.''
       For as ambitious and creative as the Journal-World team is, 
     the newspaper still offers a menu of stories that is 
     relentlessly, sometimes numbingly, local. Weather, local 
     trials, local sports and other local comings and goings 
     dominate. Some critics say that controversial topics, like 
     divisive land-use debates, are soft-pedaled in the paper's 
     pages.
       ``They control the dialogue on local news,'' said Charles 
     Goff III, 46, a political activist and artist in Lawrence. 
     ``Every viewpoint goes through their filter and is tied to 
     the Chamber of Commerce and the moneyed elite.''
       Mr. Goff conceded, however, that he was unaware of the 
     depth of offerings on the Web site of The Journal-World. He 
     also said that while he felt that the paper's editorial 
     and opinion pages were staunchly and unsparingly 
     conservative, he thought that the news pages usually 
     offered more balanced viewpoints.
       Mr. Simons and his news staff vehemently deny that 
     controversial topics are sidestepped.
       And while some residents bemoan The Journal-World's local 
     navel-gazing, those overseeing the publication are 
     unapologetic and enthusiastic examiners of all things 
     Lawrence. ``When the space shuttle blew up, we didn't have it 
     on our home page; when the war in Iraq started, we didn't 
     have it on our home page,'' Mr. Curley said. ``It's focusing 
     entirely on local stories that we think made our Web traffic 
     go crazy.''

[[Page E1409]]

       Mr. Simons recruited Mr. Curley to the World Company three 
     years ago, when The Journal-World's Web site snared about 
     500,000 page views a month. Mr. Curley says the number is now 
     about seven million. The company said its online operation 
     was losing about $15,000 a month when Mr. Curley arrived; it 
     expects the online business to become profitable this year.
       Ralph Gage, World's chief operating officer, is a no-
     nonsense taskmaster whom Mr. Simons deputized to make sure 
     the company's trains ran on time. Online revenue comprises 
     only about 1.5 percent of World's total revenue, he said, 
     while the bulk comes from broadband, at 53 percent, and the 
     newspaper operation, at 37 percent.
       But Mr. Gage says the company expects newspaper revenue to 
     slacken over time, with online ventures eventually being a 
     much more significant source of sales. For that reason, World 
     has been willing to use its broadband funds to underwrite its 
     online ventures until the online profits become more 
     meaningful, probably by the end of the decade.
       According to a recent survey by Nielsen/NetRatings, 
     newspaper Web sites nationwide had a 12 percent increase in 
     unique visitors from May 2004 to May 2005, with a significant 
     portion of readers aged 35 to 44 switching from a newspaper 
     to the same paper's Web edition for their daily read.
       ``Newspaper circulation has been tanking since the 60's and 
     now we're finally growing our audience online, so when I hear 
     people complain about having to give their content away for 
     free on the Internet I think they just don't get it,'' Mr. 
     Curley said. ``I'm a capitalist, and I respect people who 
     want to make a ton of money, but, dude, I'm a journalist and 
     I want to build cool things.''
       Of course, building cool things simply for the sake of 
     building cool things suffered a notable national flameout 
     during the dot-com bust. But through the newspaper Web site 
     and lawrence.com, Lawrence comes alive in a fashion rare for 
     a town of its size. (Lawrence.com is also published as a 
     print weekly.)
       The town, once home to the poet Langston Hughes and the 
     novelist William S. Burroughs, has a rich literary tradition. 
     Journalists at World are assembling a lushly embroidered Web 
     site devoted to Mr. Burroughs that includes rare letters, 
     photographs and other archival material.
       During a local election, a list of questions reporters had 
     asked of all candidates as part of a voter's guide were 
     posted online. That allowed voters to answer the same 
     questions themselves. Then they could use an online tool to 
     find the candidates whose answers most closely matched their 
     own--an example of civic journalism on steroids.
       The paper also routinely files local freedom-of-information 
     requests and uploads piles of public records to its Web site. 
     In 2003, World installed about 30 wireless hot spots around 
     Lawrence. That same year, it began sending daily content to 
     cellphones. For example, subscribers can have real-time 
     scores and statistics from the University of Kansas's 
     football and basketball games delivered on demand.
       The company has begun offering daily ``podcasts'' of news 
     and other information to Apple iPod owners or anyone else 
     carrying an MP3 player. It plans to offer a service that 
     automatically loads information onto a docked MP3 player in 
     the early-morning hours before students head to school.
       About a third of the 18 employees in the online operation 
     are interns, and their presence allows Mr. Curley to have 
     data, video, photos and other material collected and uploaded 
     at little cost, a process he grinningly refers to as 
     ``internology.''
       ``People come here from thousands of miles away expecting 
     to see something very high tech and expensive, but a lot of 
     what we do we do on the cheap,'' Mr. Curley said. ``So it 
     just amazes me when people say they can't do what we do 
     because they don't have the resources.''
       Still, it is financial resources, not content, that is 
     behind the handwringing in newspaper circles everywhere.
       While print advertising stagnates or slips, it is not yet 
     being replaced in a meaningful way by online advertising 
     revenue--especially at companies that lack a source of bridge 
     financing like World's broadband operation. Although 
     journalists may cringe to hear it, the near-term battle for 
     corporate survival is likely to be waged and won primarily by 
     inventive business and advertising teams at media companies.
       The World Company's advertising staff said that its sales 
     force had embraced convergence enthusiastically and that 
     offering customers multiple advertising platforms--on TV, on 
     the Internet and in print--has become a strong pitch.
       But the company is still finding it difficult to persuade 
     readers to interact with online display ads. And, while 
     willing to adapt to news advertising demands, the company 
     refuses to turn its Web site into an advertising billboard, 
     believing that the clutter would undermine the quality and 
     integrity of its journalism.
       ``I think as we've converged the content we're going to 
     converge the advertising,'' said Dan Simons, president of the 
     company's broadband operations and a son of the chairman. ``I 
     think you'll have to adapt to how buyers want to convey their 
     messages so we're not just sellers of space and time. We have 
     to be both advertisers and public relations advisers so we 
     can help companies create their messages.''
       As effervescent as the new media are in Lawrence, analysts 
     balk at making grand extrapolations from World's efforts.
       ``It's a market dominated by one company so you have to be 
     very careful when holding them up as a paragon,'' said Howard 
     Finberg, director of interactive learning at the Poynter 
     Institute, which operates a Web site devoted to journalism. 
     ``Are they creative? Without a doubt, but I'm cautious about 
     it being seen as a single solution or a model.''
       Others are more laudatory but equally cautious about 
     Lawrence's online innovations. ``Nobody else is close to 
     doing what they've done,'' said David Card, a new-media 
     analyst at Jupiter Research. ``But you also wouldn't 
     necessarily be able to duplicate what they're doing in towns 
     like San Francisco or New York.''
       Dolph Simons, who writes a cantankerous Saturday column 
     that draws barbs from Lawrence's liberals, is a gentle, self-
     effacing man who still serves Thanksgiving turkey to his 
     newsroom employees. He says he considers himself a ``little 
     fish in a big pond'' and is reluctant to be seen as a know-
     it-all by colleagues and competitors in the news business.
       Even so, his opinion about the future of the news business 
     is clear.
       ``I'm terribly concerned about readership in the country 
     and I think we all have to learn new things as fast as we 
     can. Otherwise other people are going to beat us to it,'' he 
     said. ``We need to be driving with our brights, because if 
     we're driving with our dims somebody's going to come in from 
     the side of the road and knock us off.''

                          ____________________