We See England, We See France...

Hey, Frank Librio, pull up your pants

So, guess what! He doesn't mention the Dallas Observer. Nowhere on the list of official government-approved newspapers is the Observer, even though our sales staff can make a closely reasoned argument, supported by hard numbers, that we are the single most cost-effective supplemental print ad buy in the city.

Of course, I called Librio later. I asked him why we weren't on the list of government-approved newspapers. At first he tried to tell me it was because we didn't have a government-approved audience.

"The Observer is a very selected and targeted audience," he said. "Most of our messages won't fit."

Aha! Interesting! Because the story I get here is that our demographics are very diverse, skewing young and urban but with a significant slide up the age and income scale.

So I asked him: "What is our audience?"

"I'd have to look at my backup, which I don't have right now," he said. "We did a bunch of research and made major studies, and I can't remember what your demographics are and that kind of thing."

Hmm. Can't remember? Really? I asked him if he or anyone else on his staff had ever even called us. You know, like to ask us any of these questions as part of the "research and major studies" they carried out.

"Honestly, we may have overlooked the Observer," he said, "and that was probably inadvertent."

So now in the space of about two minutes we have gone from the misplaced backup from the research and major studies to the fact that they never even called us, but it was "inadvertent." This part is very difficult for me to swallow.

Back when Librio was Mayor Laura Miller's chief of staff, I remember speaking to one of his recently departed interns. She told me in fairly breathless tones that it had been her most urgent and crucial task every Wednesday to rush down to the second basement parking level of City Hall and wait for the week's new edition of the Observer to be delivered so that she could rush back upstairs and shove several copies into Mr. Librio's trembling hands so that he could slip into the city council meeting and make sure they all got their copies so they could see whose pants were down that week.

But then a while later he forgets we even exist? Yeah. I'm sure.

I told Librio I thought he had devised a politically correct list of newspapers that could be trusted not to catch any downed pants. And at that, he bristled:

"My staff conducted the research independently," Librio said, "and politics did not play into the list of primary recommended media, period, with no uncertainty."

So, how about that research? For example, the research Librio provided to the council showed Quick with an audited circulation of 150,000. That caught my eye, because I knew our audited circulation at the Observer is usually around 100,000, and the story I had always heard was that our circulation was better than Quick's.

I called Alison Draper, Quick's publisher. I have known and respected Draper since she was our publisher, before Belo hired her away from us because they decided they needed somebody who knew how to sell newspapers.

Draper was adamant. She said Quick's audited circulation is 95,000—that's less than ours—and she said neither she nor anyone else at her paper would ever tell anybody anything different.

"There's no 150,000 being thrown out around here," she said. "We take it very seriously, as you can imagine. And I am telling you, there is not a piece of printed material in this entire building nor any information that's in the public domain or in the client material that states anything outside of 95,000 for Quick."

I called Librio back. He gave me the name of a sales rep who he said had told his people the circulation was 150,000. I called Draper back. She said that sales rep doesn't work for her.

Please let me be clear: I'm not getting on Draper's case. She's being a straight shooter. My beef is entirely with Librio, who has stitched together a bunch of phony-baloney "research" as camouflage for a political hit list of local media to be rewarded or frozen out of the tax-money goodies at City Hall, based on how many pants they have or have not caught down at City Hall.

And you know how simple it would be to remove all doubt and prove me absolutely wrong? Easy! Take all of the advertising decisions at City Hall out of Librio's hands and turn them over to an ad agency, to people who might actually know what they're doing and whose motives would be to spend the money effectively instead of using tax money to carry out political vendettas.

Like that will ever happen.

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