Posted by Charles Rehberg on Dec 18, 2017
North Notes
Spokane North Rotary Club Bulletin
December 18, 2017
Happy Holidays!!
            Happy Holidays: No luncheon meeting until Monday, Jan. 8, when we start at Nectar’s in Kendall Yards at 1331 W. Summit Parkway.  See you then!  If street parking is full, there usually is ample space in the lot north across the street.  That parking is free for 2 hours, but be sure to take a ticket from the machine and put it on the dash.
            Save the date: Director Brad Stark said the first social club meeting of the year is Santa Clara vs. Gonzaga Women, at 2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25 at the McCarthy Center.  Spouses and other guests are welcome.  A pre-tip off gathering with appetizers is planned.
Hold the presses: S-R grows circulation
            Rob Curley has revitalized The Spokesman-Review like old-style re-write and design editors making over the newspaper.
            The affable editor shared his humor and passion for newspaper and electronic editions at the club’s Dec. 18 luncheon meeting.
            Underlining the message is the results since Curley arrived last summer: newspaper circulation has soared from 68,000 to 82,000 –“the largest circulation in the world,” he noted.
            And although Curley is a self-described “techie,” he says the S-R is not about “digital first; it’s audience first.”
            Recent years for newspapers have been a minefield of challenges.  Internet sites have taken a toll on print editions.  Advertising – traditionally 80 percent of newspaper revenue – has plummeted nationwide as retailers like Sears and Macy’s close stores or limit ads to less-profitable inserts.  Classified ads in print also have fallen, as cars, homes and other sections look elsewhere to spend.  Though on-line advertising has risen, nationally and locally, the revenues have never approached the “good old days” of 100-page editions.
            The S-R has been bucking the circulation trend.  The Portland Oregonian delivers print editions to just four days a week in its core area.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is on-line only.  Cuts in pages and job losses everywhere have multiplied.
            Enter the newly packaged S-R.  No doubt having GU’s march to March Madness helped.  But Curley and staff added two full pages of Zag news for each game.  Adding to staff reporter Jim Meehan, veteran reporters John Blanchette and Vince Grippi adds valuable expertise.   Blanchette and Grippi also add to WSU football coverage for the bowl-bound Cougs.
            Curley said he knows how sports galvanize readership and said promising on arrival that “you have never seen sports coverage like we will.”
            Curley himself has been bucking trends for a long time.
            He said he wanted to be a teacher and said he amassed some 136 college hours – “and with no degree I had enough for seven years” of college, he joked.  
            Curley loves his small city Kansas roots, saying “he only eats things that grow.  And if it comes to beef, anything more than ‘medium’ we call jerky.”
            Much of his journalistic path, he said, was helped by the burgeoning on-line editions.  His remarkable years of on-line awards helped him move to LA’s Orange County Register, the Las Vegas Sun (where he shared in a Pulitzer Prize) and the Washington Post, where he befriends owner-publishers Don and Katherine Graham.  But he said he’s not a big-city guy.
            Curley said even during his Kansas-era years, he listed 10 smaller newspaper target jobs, where he wanted family ownership (including Spokane’s Cowles family) and owners who live in their own town.  “Who knows someone to call McClatchy (of the group papers) if you want to complain?  Stacey Cowles (the S-R publisher) has his number in the phone book.”
            So Curley said the S-R was always on his short list, adding, “it’s the first time I had asked for a job.”  He said former sports editor Joe Palmquist, now the managing editor, had called Curley about the possibilities when editor Gary Graham said he was retiring.
            Curley lists “five P’s” of his audience-driven market.  But one is not “politics – that bores me.”
            The drivers include passion of people’s interest, practical issues that make people’s lives better, personal communication, playfulness and pleasures that define things the audience wants.  On that last point, Curley said Donald Graham told him the Washington Post went from number five in D.C. market to the biggest newspaper there not so much about its top-rate news columns.  He saw what thousands on the Metro trains were reading, so Graham added three pages of comic, up from one page, and a better crossword puzzle.
            Curley knows the challenges.  He said circulation nationally has flat-lined “since the 1940s,” while household numbers have soared.
            He regularly invites area residents – and invited everyone in our club – to discuss newspapers and news issues.  Of producing news editions – print and on-line – Curley said simply, “it’s so fun.”
            And with a smile he loved the timely banner of Spokane’s recent snowfall: “Flake News.”
The bulletin producers:
Bulletin editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Photos: Eric Johnson with credit to the Spokesman Review
Program coordinator: Brad Stark