Jim Pumarlo, Community Newspaper Training

Bad News and Good Judgment, Chapter 7: Covering business

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Read it all here or download a pdf.
“You won’t read that in the newspaper,” the person says. “After all, it’s about one of the paper’s biggest advertisers.”
Nothing draws the attention of publishers more quickly than customers who threaten to take their business elsewhere if something gets into print. Stakes are especially high if customers are major advertisers or prominent individuals.

Press rights: citizens' everyday eyes and ears

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Distributed as a guest editorial by the Minnesota Newspaper Association in observance of Sunshine Week, March 11-17, 2007

Convene a discussion about press rights, and most people likely conjure up scenarios of editors and reporters at loggerheads with government officials over access to top-secret data. No doubt, that can be the case. On the national stage, we witness the Washington press corps pursuing information surrounding U.S. military initiatives in Iraq.

Candidate endorsements still provide benefits to newspapers

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The Inlander/Jan. 8, 2007

Quiz a roomful of editors and reporters on their most memorable editorials. The noteworthy ones invariably deliver messages targeted toward specific decision-makers who are in position to debate and craft public policy.

Don't close the books on the 2006 elections

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The American Editor - American Society of Newspaper Editors/March 2007

Mention election coverage in the aftermath of the midterm contests, and most newsrooms will likely turn a collective deaf ear. Yet this is the perfect time ñ before the files are formally closed - for editors and reporters to evaluate how they performed in 2006 and to identify steps for improved coverage in 2008.

As a start, convene a brainstorming session to review and reflect on some of the basic aspects of election coverage. For example:

Rules of Endorsement

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Editor & Publisher Shoptalk (on-line edition)/December 2006

Coverage of the coming 2008 elections is already building. But it's vital to consider, at the same time, that editorial endorsements in local elections are becoming increasingly scarce among community newspapers. Newspapers like to tout their role as government watchdogs, so endorsing local candidates should be routine -- and free of pressure from "local interests."

Ethical situations should be part of your training

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Publishers Auxiliary/August 2006

Readers want assurances that stories are accurate, fair and not tainted by ethical lapses. A single error in judgment - Jayson Blair's fabrications at the New York Times, for example — damages the believability of that newspaper and all the press in general.

Elements of outstanding election coverage

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Publishers Auxiliary/May 2006

Election coverage is demanding and filled with potential pitfalls, especially in community newspapers where resources always are stretched to the limits and where editors face a battery of ongoing decisions and questions.

Candidates regularly seek attention for their campaigns. It begins with the day they announce their intentions, and will continue with requests to publish press releases and photos.

Report feats, flaws of high school athletes

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Worthington High School forfeited its football opener this fall as school officials feared whether an inexperienced squad would be in physical jeopardy against its opponent. The team was shorthanded after "a large number of players" were suspended for drinking.

The Worthington Daily Globe reported the story, minus player identities. The challenge in verifying student suspensions underscores one of the most illogical laws governing the privacy of Minnesotans.

Press rights are public's rights

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Distributed as a guest editorial by the Minnesota Newspaper Association in observance of Sunshine Week, March 12-18, 2006

Should the Minneapolis School Board have to disclose the terms of its separation agreement with Supt. Thandiwe Peebles, who resigned under criticism? Is it proper for the Kandiyohi County Board to select a new county administrator outside of a public meeting? Should residents be excluded from Cannon Falls Township Board meetings where officials discussed property-related issues surrounding a land-use dispute?

The challenges of everyday decisions

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Publishers Auxiliary/November 2005

Editors routinely hold their breath in anticipation of reader reaction following in-depth stories that culminate weeks-long investigations. The packages are typically prepared, reviewed and scrutinized again with painstaking care. The reality is that the everyday decisions ó and resulting reports ó in small-town 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