Editor’s mailbag is overflowing
As the editor of a local community newspaper, it’s common to field lots of questions throughout the week from various people regarding different aspects of the newspaper.
First of all, I’d like to say that it is encouraging to see that our readers care enough to offer comments, suggestions and yes, even some complaints about what we do with the newspaper. It actually excites me when I find out that someone has called or written a letter about our practices, even if it something that can be perceived as a negative. It tells me people are reading the newspaper and take ownership in what we do on a weekly basis. They have certain expectations of what they want to see in the newspaper.
With that being said, I also want to stress that it’s impossible for us to be everything to everybody. We have such a small staff that it’s hard for us to cover every event going on in the large area that we cover, which includes all of Dodge County and western Olmsted County. I wish I could utilize a couple more reporters to cover all the great activities that happen in our communities, but at the end of the day, we are a small operation trying to do big things and sometimes we fall short.
I’d like to go back over the past few weeks and share some questions or concerns that arose with our operation and some answers as to why we did things a certain way. It may not exactly be the answer you were hoping for, but I hope you will respect our position as to why something was done a certain way.
Here’s a sampling from the editor’s mailbag:
• Why isn’t my favorite sport being covered every week in the paper?
We have a brand new sports editor who is still in the process of learning how to juggle all the different sports going on at our schools. What complicates the situation for us is that we are now expected since the closing of the newspapers in Byron and Dodge Center last December to cover sporting events at four school districts: K-M, Triton, Byron and Hayfield. It’s not an easy task, and we are doing our best to get as much sports as possible in each edition. Sometimes it may be space constraints while other times it may be that we just don’t have enough manpower to make it all happen. We encourage parents to help us out by sending photos and information so that we can get them in the newspaper as space permits.
• Why didn’t I get my newspaper this week?
This is the dreaded question every publisher fears getting each week. While there are times when something has gone amiss on our end by our own doing, many times it ends up being out of our control. Our newspapers are delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Newspapers are considered Periodical Class Mail with no guarantee delivery within a specified time by the postal service. Once we deliver the papers to the post office (on Wednesday afternoon), it’s really beyond our control as to when they end up in your hands. From my experience, there are some strange routing and sorting techniques used by the postal service that frequently cause papers to be delivered later than they should be.
• Why was a high school coach and his troubles with the law exposed in the paper recently?
This falls into the category of news. A high school coach is a role model for young people, and when a high profile person like that breaks the law, it’s going to get covered in the newspaper and chances are with other forms of media. We don’t relish the opportunity to cover things like this, but it’s our duty and obligation to report the news, good or bad. If you break the law, most likely your name will at the very least appear in the newspaper on the public safety page. If you’re in a position of authority or high profile, you will likely end up on the front page or other news pages.
• Why are stories jumped to other pages in the paper?
Good question. We try to minimize the number of stories that we jump from page to page. Generally, our front page and main news pages throughout the newspaper have stories with continuations to other pages. In the case of the front page, we jump stories so that we have provide a greater selection of stories from all areas of our coverage area. This is more important now more than ever before since we are covering a wider area than what had been done in the past. We usually run five stories on the front page and try to provide visuals with photos and graphics to make them more appealing to look at and want to read. The worst thing that we sometimes set ourselves up for is getting the jump wrong, which makes readers go on a scavenger hunt through the paper to find the rest of the story. However, I’m happy to report that doesn’t happen very often. It’s hard balance for us to accomplish when everybody in every community is fighting for coverage in the paper.
• How do I get coverage in the paper?
We encourage people to reach out to us through in person contact at our office, email, regular mail, phone call or reach out to us through social media. We are a local newspaper that packs its pages with local news. We want to know what’s going on in the communities we cover. We may not always be able to be there, but we can still get something in the paper with your help. Contact us, please!
As you can see the editor’s mailbag has been overflowing lately, and that’s a good thing. It’s gratifying to see so many people care about their local newspaper. It’s one reason why I hope newspapers never go away.
Another call is coming in. Time to go in hot pursuit of helping yet another reader understand their community newspaper.