Jim Pumarlo, Community Newspaper Training

All reader commentary merits careful review by newspapers

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The Inlander/September 2011

A reader writes that a public official has been seen drunk on the job, posing potential danger to citizens. The case is before the courts, but nothing has been proven.

Another writer zeroes in on a community's transportation service, criticizing the operator's driving habits and making accusations about traffic violations.

Leave remarks of armchair quarterbacks in the stands

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Publishers' Auxiliary/September 2011

Another school year is under way. In most newspapers, that means high school sports are center stage. Nothing sparks community pride and discussion more than the triumphs and tribulations of local athletes.

Don't bemoan your predicament: Localize the news

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The Inlander/August 2011

Spend any time in community newsrooms and two frustrations are likely to surface with some regularity. Staffs are searching for substantive content on a slow news day, and they’re chagrined that the “big” stories are in that day’s statewide press.

Editors need not despair. The answer to their predicament is certainly not novel: Localize your stories. In some instances, reports should be pursued immediately. In other cases, the ideas can be filed away for future stories.

What's your process when civic groups seek publicity?

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The Inlander/July 2011

Civic organizations are the fabric of our communities. The number of groups and their range of contributions mean editors are routinely approached with requests for coverage. The “asks” range from the Lions Club annual brat feed fund-raiser to volunteer of the year recognition to a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Most all are worthy of attention, but not all warrant the presence of a reporter and/or photographer. Let me explain before incurring the collective wrath of service clubs.

Rights and responsibilities of reporting public records

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The Inlander/June 2011

A couple gets a divorce, but it is not recorded in the newspaper until four months later.

Someone appears in court for a domestic assault; the sentence isn't reported in the newspaper until weeks after the fact.

Their publication raises two questions: What constitutes these items as news? Why is there such a delay in the report?

Newspapers should report sensitive issues with consistency and fairness

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Publishers' Auxiliary/June 2011

A resident has failed to comply with the law that requires him to register as a sex offender. The crime occurred seven years ago, and he is married to the county’s director of child protection services.

A bomb threat is called in to a school, and authorities issue a press release; nothing was found. The police chief later asks the newspaper to kill the story because he’s worried about copy cats.

Open the window to your operations for your readers

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The Inlander/May 2011

Newsrooms place a premium on ensuring that government is transparent in its decisions. When elected and appointed officials fall short, a commentary is almost sure to follow.

Keys to better business coverage: Set, implement and explain policy

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The Inlander/April 2011

Stories about employers and employees have a big impact on communities. What happens at the workplace might even overshadow a decision of the local city council. Today’s challenging economy warrants even greater attention to business as an everyday beat.

Yet, many newspapers struggle for consistent coverage of local business.

100 days: Have politicians kept their promises?

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Publishers' Auxiliary/April 2011

The 2010 elections are in the rearview mirror. The newly elected lawmakers have settled into their routines, and newsrooms are focusing on the news of the day. For most editors and reporters, the next cycle of elections is likely not within sight and therefore out of mind.

The question for newsrooms: Should elections take a permanent back seat until the next filing period opens?

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