Jim Pumarlo, Community Newspaper Training

How are you performing? Check in with readers

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The Inlander/March 2012

When is the last time a reader challenged the accuracy of a story? Or complained that a headline was misleading and sensational? Or charged that a major advertiser was given preferential treatment in a story? Or said a video posted on the website was selectively and unfairly edited?

Be aggressive – and responsible – in pursuit of news

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Publishers' Auxiliary/March 2012

Nothing is more important to establishing a community newspaper as the premier source for local information than being the first with the news. Hand in hand, however, is being responsible in your coverage.

Social media allows newspapers to deliver information 24/7. The landscape allows nondaily newspapers to level the playing field with their daily counterparts. At the same time, Twitter and Facebook and other tools demand constant oversight of editors.

Position editorial page at forefront of coverage

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The Inlander/February 2012

A newspaper praises the selection of the new city council president as the best person to lead the community through the year’s challenges. An editorial looks skeptical upon the school district’s choice to close and reconfigure school buildings as detrimental to student and family interests. An editor’s commentary applauds the compromise reached by all stakeholders on the proposal to develop valuable riverfront property in the downtown.

Give equal attention to criminal charges, follow-up coverage

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The Inlander/January 2012

Coverage of cops and courts is among the staples of community news. Though reports are vitally important to readers, the coverage by its nature is almost always done in piecemeal. Attention is typically given to the initial incident and charges, and possibly the first court appearance, yet it may be weeks or months later until a case is fully resolved.

Fairness to the parties and credibility of a news organization demand that each step of a case receives similar prominence.

Don’t simply accept ‘no’ when seeking information

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Publishers' Auxiliary/January 2012

A public safety director is quietly reprimanded after taking a pleasure ride on the city’s water patrol boat while on duty. A superintendent refuses to acknowledge the recommendation to close a school building until formal school board action. A police chief withholds information from a crime scene in deference to the individuals involved.

Solid candidate coverage requires clear, meaningful interviews

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The Inlander/December 2011

Election season is upon us, and individuals are announcing their candidacies.  Some simply show up at the office. Others forward a press release. The more polished candidates may stage a formal event.

No matter the circumstances, newspapers must be prepared to introduce candidates to your staff as well as your readers. Initial impressions of candidates to the electorate mean everything, and newspapers arguably play the most important role in making those connections.

Solid planning by the newsroom is a prerequisite for solid election coverage

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The Inlander/November 2011

U.S. federal elections are a year away. Numerous other political jurisdictions will conduct elections between now and then. Election preparation should be at the forefront of newsrooms.

Election coverage is one of the most demanding and exhaustive tasks that newsrooms undertake. Its various aspects from presenting candidate profiles to handling letters to the editor are scrutinized by candidates and the general electorate alike, underscoring the importance of fair and responsible coverage.

Election coverage warrants special consideration

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Publishers' Auxiliary/November 2011

Presidential politics are in full swing for the November 2012 elections. Though newsrooms may bemoan the seemingly neverending cycle of elections, it’s not too early to prepare – especially for local races.

Each “element” of coverage has its own “to do” list – from introducing the candidates to handling letters to the editor to considering candidate endorsements. Here is one overall list as editors and reporters outline coverage:

Everyday decisions demand attention, too, so guidelines must be in place

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The Inlander/October 2011

Editors routinely hold their breath in anticipation of reader reaction following preparation of “big” news packages – in-depth stories that culminate weeks-long investigations. The content is typically prepared, reviewed and scrutinized again with painstaking care. The reality is that the everyday decisions – and resulting reports – in community newsrooms usually generate the greatest kickback.

Pumarlo.com • Jim Pumarlo • Community Newsroom Success Strategies • 1327 W. Sixth St. • Red Wing, MN • 55066 • (651) 380-4295