Are you telling your own stories? I circulated a column celebrating community newspapers earlier this year in recognition of Sunshine Week. Its publication prompted a few comments. One reader, who hailed from a Minneapolis suburb, read the column in his local paper....
I fondly characterize newsrooms as organized chaos. That definition has aptly described operations for the past 18 months with the impact of COVID-19. The story has demanded constant attention, and there are likely fewer reporters to handle the task due to the economic toll of the pandemic.
The hyper partisanship in today’s political landscape was on full display with passage of the American Rescue Plan. It passed on a straight party-line vote.
It’s customary to rate the president’s performance after the first hundred days in office. The stark contrast in personalities and policies of Donald Trump and Joe Biden provides plenty of observations and commentary. National issues range from the pandemic and the economy to immigration and racial unrest.
Last summer’s Grassroots Editor still sits in my stack of journalism publications. The edition announced the Golden Quill winners in annual competition sponsored by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.
My days of sitting behind an editor’s desk have passed, but I’ll never lose my newspaper blood. I regularly enjoy my first cup of coffee while scanning newspaper websites. It’s a great way to keep current on what’s happening in communities.
A reader questions your policy for reporting suicides. A retailer challenges your staff to produce timely and relevant business news. A reporter is confronted for printing a press release charging a candidate with unfair campaign practices without contacting the accused for a response. A family member gets emotional over publication of an accident photo.
How many newsrooms have received complaints about coverage of local public affairs – specifically meetings? It might be the city council, school board, county board or one of the numerous other government bodies under your microscope.
From an elected official: “You didn’t give the full story. Where was my quote?”
Mention election coverage in the aftermath of this year’s tumultuous presidential contest, and many newsrooms will likely turn a collective deaf ear. For most editors and reporters, the next cycle of elections is the farthest thing from their minds.
Not so quick.
Nothing is more satisfying than looking at your product – whether it’s the print or digital edition – and smiling in approval, “We’ve got it covered. We’re connecting with our readers.”
Developing relationships with subscribers and advertisers is imperative to success in today’s fractured media landscape. The stakes are even higher as many newspapers navigate the economic impact of the pandemic.
Who is Jim Pumarlo?
Community newspapers, at their best, are stewards of their communities. The news columns are a blend of stories that people like to read and stories they should read. The advertising columns promote and grow local commerce. And the editorial pages are a marketplace of ideas.
Jim Pumarlo understands that energized newspapers are at the foundation of energized communities. His message is straightforward: Community newspapers – whether delivering information in the print or on the Web – must focus on local news if they are to remain relevant to their readers and advertisers.
You’re welcome to reprint these columns with the appropriate tagline:
Jim Pumarlo writes, speaks and provides training on community newsroom success strategies. He is author of “Bad News and Good Judgment: A Guide to Reporting on Sensitive Issues in Small-Town Newspapers,” “Votes and Quotes: A Guide to Outstanding Election Coverage” and “Journalism Primer: A Guide to Community News Coverage.” He can be reached at www.pumarlo.com and welcomes comments and questions at email@example.com.