If there’s one thing I have learned working for daily newspapers for 30-plus years, it is this: Readers won’t stand for a product that does not meet their needs, and they are quite vocal about these needs. (Maybe that’s two things.)
As news people, we need to listen to those readers. They are the ones who will or won’t buy our product, depending on what we offer.
When I stepped up as editor on Friday the 13th of July, I began thinking immediately about how the paper could change to meet the needs and wants of our readers.
Understand, first, that the editor and reporters have no control over prices, circulation or advertising. The corporation that owns the paper makes those decisions. But editors do control news-editorial content. And reporters decide, to a large degree, what to cover.
So, on the news-editorial side, we’ve begun with what’s easiest to accomplish immediately, and we’ll be moving on from there.
The editorial page. We have broadened the viewpoints expressed. If you notice only cosmetics, you will see our columnists now evidence more varied hues — and they’re not all men. Look closer and you will see they come at issues from many angles.
We also seek local people of expertise to write columns. Schools Superintendent Cindy Goodman has agreed to be the first with a column this coming Saturday, before the start of school. We also would like to hear from local historians, and experts on health and economic development who can make us fluent in what we need to know to live and work in Richmond County.
The news pages. We’re broadening beats to include some things we have not covered. One example is the Richmond County Extension and its 4-H programs, which serve hundreds. And yet, where are they reflected in the paper other than in the weekly Extension column? So prepare to see more — and to tell us what other coverage we might beef up.
We also wish to encourage businesspeople to send us news of employee awards and honors, recognitions and new hires. These activities should be reflected in the local paper.
We also encourage reader submissions. If your church has a revival, for example, snap a photo and send us a jpeg with a caption and a return phone number so we can follow up. Family reunion? Ditto. A small-town paper should feel as if it’s reporting on extended family.
Lifestyles. We have moved humor columnist Joe Weaver to our Saturday Lifestyles page. He fits better there. We also have moved the weekly Extension column there. Ditto.
We’re aiming for more local feature centerpieces — stories about interesting people in the county. We’re open to suggestions here, too. The first one to show up on the Lifestyles page now added to the Saturday A-section was a feature I wrote on the Cameronian Quartet who, if you can believe it, never had been written about in the Daily Journal beyond a calendar listing.
So, we’re trying.
I’ve had a couple of very constructive conversations with people who, when asked to tell me specifically what they did and did not like about the paper, offered suggestions that will lead to changes not mentioned here.
So tell us what you want to see. The lines are open.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]