What if while you paid your restaurant bill, you could learn what happened in the world while you ate?
I have to say, this is an idea I never previously considered.
According to an article I recently read on ABC News, Old Ebbitt Grill will soon include a “news receipt” with every diner’s check. Titled, “The Latest News,” Associated Press will provide the updates.
Here’s what’s going on: As the internet is becoming the preferred method of reading news, print media must constantly search for new and innovative ways to keep their readers invested. Leland Schwartz, co-founder of Print Signal Corp., the start-up company behind the news updates, is quoted in ABC‘s article:
…we saw restaurant printers as a potential new worldwide printing press…We’re great believers in the power of paper, despite the fact that we’re in the middle of iPhone heaven. So the idea behind it is to see if news updates would work in certain venues, particularly upscale restaurants.”
Schwartz’s co-founder is Frank Mankiewicz, a journalist who once served as NPR president and also as press secretary to Robert Kennedy. Schwartz and Mankiewicz hope the news receipts will encourage discussion and conversation amongst diners as well.
Why choose Old Ebbitt Grill as a testing site? Old Ebbitt is not only the highest grossing restaurant in D.C., but it is also consistently on the list of top ten highest grossing restaurants in the country. The extremely high volume of customers that Old Ebbitt serves makes it the perfect spot to launch Schwartz and Mankiewicz’s news innovation.
Here is where the story starts to get interesting. We’ve got Mankiewicz, who is clearly a big name in American journalism. He’s 88 years old and still going strong, as far as I can tell.
And then, we’ve got Leland Schwartz. Who is this guy? After some research, I found out that Schwartz was once the president and publisher of States News Service, a wire news service focused on D.C. news. During the nineties, Schwartz innovated a daily newspaper for the US Airways shuttle between Boston, D.C. and New York that gave passengers hourly news updates. He named the newspaper, “The Latest News.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, States News Service struggled financially towards the end of the century, unable to keep up with the internet as an up-to-date news source. Faced with an uncertain future for States News Service, Schwartz was in a tough spot. In 2004, he was convicted of tax evasion, owing $278,106 in taxes for States News Service to the government. He spent 60 days in prison, 80 days confined to his home and 300 hours in community service. This was also the end for States News Service, which no longer operates today. I found a quote from Schwartz in a December 2004 article from The Washington Post:
I stopped filing to the District when the economy ravaged the news service and burned it to a crisp…It was a breathless scramble just to keep the lights on and it’s been like watching an old friend die…”
Schwartz and Mankiewicz are certainly an interesting pair. I wasn’t able to find out how their paths first crossed.
I will say that I do like their idea and I do think that it has potential. Given their histories, Schwartz and Mankiewicz are clearly committed to keeping printed news alive. They are thinking outside the box, a measure I see crucial to extending the life of print journalism. I’ll be interested to see how their idea fares in the upcoming months.