The words of Henry J. Kaiser, the great industrialist and father of modern American shipbuilding, so often carried simple truths, inspiration — and marching orders.
“Find a need and fill it,” he once said, an action-oriented phrase uttered by a get-it-done personality.
How is he remembered? As a champion of industries, an early advocate of employee health care, a builder of civic institutions and charitable foundations. As a thinker, a doer.
Fast-forward to the age of modern newspapering, an industry with a rich history of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” righting wrongs, making a difference.
We still practice this great tradition with care, pride and excellence, and we accomplish our work across multiple platforms. Just this year I was honored to serve as a category judge in the Editor & Publisher EPpy awards, a 15-year-old contest that celebrates the best media-affiliated web sites.
Among the many noteworthy entries in my judging category, one in particular captured my admiration: The (Greenspun Media Group) Las Vegas Sun’s “Bottoming Out: Gambling Addiction in Las Vegas.”’ The work was selected as the Best Web Special Feature - Enterprise, less than 1 million monthly visitors. The gutsy multi-media package took on gambling in gambling-enabled Sin City with print and web stories, video, live chat — even an interactive virtual slot machine to illustrate the math, logic and addictive nature of the slots.
Newspapers have brought down corrupt presidents, held government accountable for spending federal money to benefit the people, have shined the light where others may not have thought to look for evil — or even for good.
Now many of us find ourselves somewhere between the old and the new worlds, an exciting time ripe with opportunity to carry out the important work of journalism and to enable communities to come together in a digital world so together they can take action to improve their lives.
Poised somewhere between the historic Woodward & Bernstein era and the new-world tagline “There’s an app for that,” newsmedia companies should rightfully recognize their kid-in-a-candy-store state of being. This is not to ignore or make light of the very real financial challenges many newspapers face. It is a reminder, however, not to stop dead in our tracks and forget the many assets and opportunities at our fingertips.
Identifying audiences and producing compelling content is what we’ve done well in the past — and now the arena where if we don’t carry out these tasks others will.
Just recently my sister-in-law invited me to join CarePages.com, an online community with 1 million unique visitors per month. Its stated goal is to provide sick people free personalized web pages on which they can share their health status with approved friends, and where friends can, in turn, send them messages of love and support. Also on the site is quality health content written by health care providers on a host of topics.
And, of course on the site are national advertisers such as K-9 Advantix and Lactaid, as well as a gift section where you can send flowers or gifts to sick friends, a service powered on CarePages by another smart group of entrepreneurs, hospitalgifts.com.
On a lighter (but still smart) note, an enterprising group of people came up with EntryExpress.net, an event management system designed to serve the thousands of American Kennel Club (AKC)-licensed retriever field trials and hunt tests happening year-round all across the United States.
Water dog amateur handlers and pros can enter field trials online, where Entry Express charges a nominal fee for the service. Entry Express prints the event program, and mails it to club secretaries. It handles the draw, or running order, of the dogs. It posts competition results. Entry Express offers a VIP program for high-volume AKC handlers such as pros who run dogs in competition on behalf of owners. Its clever slogan? “Handle dogs ... not paperwork.”
The site also offers classified ads for puppies, started/trained dogs, stud services and equipment. It’s branched into listing dog training seminars and field trial judge seminars. It features a simple self-serve banner ad program for breeders. And it attracts national advertising.
“Find a need and fill it.” Simple and unambiguous words that speak to the high-minded, noble obligations of newsmedia companies. Yet also to the entrepreneurial, smart and at times playful spirit of the digital age.