Jim Pumarlo, Community Newspaper Training

It's election season ... time to review the Boy Scout Law

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The Inlander/January 2010

Election season is upon us. Simply look at the letters that are crossing editors’ desks.

It’s that time of year when editors and the public will become reacquainted with the Boy Scout Law. As an Eagle Scout myself, I still can recite the credo from memory: “A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”

Don't wait! Start planning for your paper’s election endorsements

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The Inlander/December 2009

Quiz a roomful of editors and reporters about their most memorable editorials. Ask them which have generated the greatest reaction.

The noteworthy commentaries invariably delivered messages targeted at specific decision-makers who were in position to advance specific policies.

Improving relations with city hall is a two-way street

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Publishers' Auxiliary/December 2009

A fire chief is suspended without pay after he takes his nephew, and another firefighter off his working shift, for a joy ride on the city’s fire boat. Is this newsworthy?

Three local firms are vying to become airport manager in what has become a contentious process. A committee, on a 4-3 vote, recommends the existing vendor to the city council, even though the proposal exceeds the low bid by $100,000 over the life of the five-year contract. Should citizens know who voted for which vendor?

Prepare now for 2010 elections

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Publishers' Auxiliary/November 2009

U.S. federal elections are a year away. Numerous other jurisdictions will conduct elections between now and then. It’s not too early to begin outlining your election coverage.

Election coverage is one of the most demanding and exhaustive tasks that newsrooms undertake. The process will be smoother for newsrooms – and the coverage more relevant to readers – if you take early steps.

A checklist for evaluating, advocating coverage of sensitive issues

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The Inlander/November 2009

How many editors have faced reporting bad news – or, put another way – making an uncomfortable news decision? Pressed by a reader for the rationale, you’ve replied, “That’s our policy,” or “It doesn’t meet our guidelines.” Yet, in the calm and privacy of your office, you reflect, “We could have done a better job.”

Don’t bemoan your predicament: Localize the news

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Publishers' Auxiliary/October 2009

Survey 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.

When publishing salaries of public officials, do so responsibly

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The Inlander/October 2009

Publish the salaries of government officials and two reactions are almost guaranteed. Some citizens will express outrage at the level of pay for what they perceive as a lack of performance, and some identified employees will charge that the newspaper is invading their privacy.

Monitoring salaries of public officials is at the heart of a newspaper’s watchdog role. At the same time, even though most public officials expect a certain “nakedness,” they deserve responsible treatment of public information.

Are you regularly communicating your policies to your readers?

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The Inlander/September 2009

A reader challenges your policy for reporting on B-squad sports or questions why a particular quote wasn’t included in a story. Your newsroom has a brainstorming session to discuss how its election coverage can be more relevant to readers. A reporter is caught red-faced for printing a press release charging a local official with unethical conduct but fails to contact the accused for a response.

Energize editorial pages with point/counterpoint

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Publishers' Auxiliary/August 2009

Timid editorial pages unfortunately are becoming the norm in far too many community newspapers. Even more disconcerting are those newspapers where editorial pages are largely nonexistent.

Many editors and publishers are so preoccupied with directing their print and online operations that editorial pages take the back seat. A common complaint is that they don’t have time to develop, research and produce thoughtful opinions on important issues facing their communities.

Overcoming the challenges of reporting on school referendums

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The Inlander/August 2009

How many editors have been challenged to present balanced reporting of labor disputes? It’s often a predicament, as usually one side – the union – does all the talking, and the other side – the management – largely remains mum. The dynamics make it terribly difficult to give fair, ongoing coverage in what can be a weeks-long confrontation.

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