Two prominent old-school Washington, D.C. newsmen are carrying out a social experiment in the nation’s capital. They have arranged it so every patron of D.C.’s famous Old Ebbitt Grill (a popular meeting spot for political insiders, journalists and celebrities, just steps from the White House) will receive a separate “news receipt” listing the latest AP headlines in addition to their real check. It’s called “The Latest News” and the idea is to help foster conversation (table conversation, if you will) about news that broke during diners’ meals. It’s also meant to demonstrate/promote the vitality of paper. The thinking is that something tangible and shared will stir up sentiment in a way that everybody staring separately at their smartphones does not. The mini paper’s first advertiser is Domtar, one of the largest paper manufacturers in the world.
The founders of “The Latest News” are former NPR president Frank Mankiewicz, 88, whose resume also lists gigs as campaign director for McGovern and press secretary to RFK, and Leland Schwartz, editor/publisher/owner of the now defunct wire service States News Service (SNS) which for nearly 30 years delivered DC news nationwide. In the 1990s, SNS published “The Latest News” as a daily that was updated hourly for passengers on the US Airways shuttle between Boston, New York and DC. But as the Internet blossomed the company struggled. SNS was accused of lifting news items from the AP and not paying writers (WritersWeekly magazine repeatedly warned its readers about SNS). Schwartz also failed to pay $278,106 in taxes. After pleading guilty to three counts, he was sentenced to 60 days in prison on each count, 80 days of home confinement and 300 hours of community service. They plan to pay AP this time around.