April 6, 2016

Major presidential candidates are breaking with custom and will not be speaking live to the annual conference of the Newspaper Association of America in two weeks.

Hillary Clinton is sending a filmed message. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders are not on the program at all.

The association has held its conference in Washington during presidential election years since 2004. Major candidates have been a staple at those meetings. In 2008, both Clinton and Barack Obama appeared at separate luncheons that drew roughly 1,000 attendees, and John McCain spoke at another session.

The candidates’ absence could be read as an indicator of the diminishing clout of newspapers. I think a more likely explanation is that the April 18-19 conference, now known as MediaXChange, coincides with the New York primary — which did not figure to be so pivotal when those dates were set.

NAA President and CEO David Chavern confirmed that by email:

It is always last minute with candidates (they all had the invitation under consideration), and it just became impossible with the new importance of New York. That being said, we never received any response from Mr. Trump!

Beginning in 2004, the American Society of News Editors and NAA held their conferences in Washington concurrently during presidential years — giving candidates the chance to address both editors and publishers in one speech. Typically, The Associated Press hosted at least one of the lunches.

That is not the case this year. ASNE now has its annual conference in the fall — this year in Philadelphia. AP has a segment on the program but no longer holds its annual meeting to coincide with the conference.

The MediaXChange agenda does include several political sessions and former Obama White House press secretary Jay Carney was added to the roster of speakers today. New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson will be the luncheon speaker the 19th.

Correction: The original version of this story had the wrong city for the ASNE convention.


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Rick Edmonds is media business analyst for the Poynter Institute where he has done research and writing for the last fifteen years. His commentary on…
Rick Edmonds

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