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Ga. man calls for boycott of ProJo

A Georgia man outraged by the Providence Journal's decision to stop its longtime sponsorship of the Rhode Island Statewide Spelling Bee has created a Web site calling for a boycott of Rhode Island's statewide daily. By so doing, he hopes to cost the paper $10,000 -- about twice the amount of the annual sponsorship.

Billy Kramer, who lives in Atlanta and publishes a Web site about high school sports in Georgia, learned of the ProJo's sponsorship withdrawal when he read an April 4 story in USA Today. "You have to focus on the core business," Barbara Nauman, the Journal's senior director of promotions, told the paper. "I would have to say it's not sponsoring spelling bees."

Journal staffers were among those troubled when the ProJo pulled its sponsorship of the RI spelling bee last December, dealing what was thought to be a fatal blow to the competition. The bee was resurrected when the Valley Breeze, a weekly paper in northern Rhode Island, and some other new sponsors stepped forward.

Like Kramer, a number of ProJo staffers see fostering support for reading and goodwill toward newspapers as a no-brainer in a challenging time for the industry (and perhaps also since Belo CEO Robert Decherd, the head of the Journal's parent company, earned a reported $5.3 million in 2006). Kramer says he became even more irritated when Nauman and ProJo publisher Howard Sutton didn't return his calls.

His boycott Web site reads in part:

The secret is out and it's all Barbara Nauman's fault.

What secret you ask?

****The local newspaper monopoly is only interested in making money from the community, not supporting the community****

Kramer writes that he read Nauman's USA Today quote a dozen times, adding:

The Journal's core business isn't sponsoring spelling bees?

No kidding.

But the local newspaper does have a responsibility to support the community that subscribes, reads, and patrons their sponsors.

Apparently, writing stories about drugs, arson and murder are the "core business", but investing in the community is just a plain waste of money.

Kramer goes on to ask 100 Journal subscribers to cancel their subscriptions, noting that 45 cancellations would cost the newspaper $10,000, about twice the tab of sponsoring the spelling bee. He asks online-only readers to "call some of the advertisers and tell them you will not visit their business."

Providence Newspaper Guild President John Hill continues to believe that the ProJo's withdrawal of its sponsorship for the spelling bee is a mistake, but he says, "I don't know that a boycott is the way to go" if Kramer wants to change the situation. "I know this is going to sound corny," Hill says, "but people ought to write letters."

Kramer's Web site does not seem to have made a perceptible impact thus far, although there was a bump in traffic, he says, after he called the ProJo newsroom to tell people there about it.

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