Recent Writing

A lesson in reporting tragedy

A family’s farm is devastated by a tornado. A reporter is on the scene moments afterward to record the events, including talking with family members.
A student commits suicide and, understandably, it’s a shock to many people. A story documents the community’s response; the family relives the episode, blow by blow.

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Don’t overlook the bigger issue of public records

A reader complains: Why is it necessary to print the dollar amount of all building permits? Wouldn’t it suffice to acknowledge a household remodeling project without a price tag?
The reader didn’t say it, but the editor is certain the following thought was on her mind: “After all, the dollar value is only for snoopy neighbors.”

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Look beyond the immediate news, and stay relevant

Many newspapers do a great job of looking in the rearview mirror, and that used to be adequate for inviting readers into their pages. The old formula doesn’t work anymore if community newspapers are to remain relevant. The changing media landscape, coupled with the demands on readers’ time, require that newsrooms pay just as much attention looking ahead and around as to looking back.

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 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 and welcomes comments and questions at