Top Five Columns

Jim Pumarlo wrote a weekly column as editor at the Red Wing (Minn.) Republican Eagle. His column was recognized in the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest as a consistent winner in the category for “best explanation of news operations or ethics.” He received the Minnesota News Council’s first “Accountability Award” in 2000.

“How can you not win? Jim Pumarlo’s columns provide readers with information vital to understanding the policies, ethics, standards and content of this newspaper. It’s well-written, informative and enlightening – especially so for readers interested in the ‘behind the scenes’ thinking that editors do every day. It’s a good column. It might be something my newspaper ‘creates’ in the future.”
— Judge’s comments Minnesota Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest, 2000-01 Best Explanation of Newspaper Operations or Newspaper Ethics, first place

“More papers should adopt this policy. You’re not afraid to admit an error in judgment – something that goes a long way toward building readers’ trust.”
— Judge’s comments Minnesota Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest, 1997-98 Best Explanation of Newspaper Operations or Newspaper Ethics, first place

Separation of news, ads

An advertiser contacts the Republican Eagle to ask for news coverage of what is strictly a promotional event. Another business may threaten to pull advertising in a disagreement about editorial policy. In each case, the issue is decided on merit without regard to pressure.

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Schools must give details of ‘bad’ news, too

A 14-year-old places first in a school competition. It’s a good bet we’ll get a call from the teacher, principal and child’s family encouraging us to publicize the event.
Another 14-year-old is expelled for bringing a look-alike weapon to school and threatening students. In this instance, we’ll be fortunate if any information is volunteered beyond the youth’s grade level.

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Lighten up, readers; review was positive

Staff writer Mike Fielding enjoyed Red Wing High School’s spring musical, “Pirates of Penzance.” Just ask him. Better yet, read what he wrote about the play in the May 11 edition of the R-E: “While it is an agreeable entree into operetta and the roots of the modern musical, ‘Pirates’ also is a fine example of what high school theater could be – but so often fails to be.”

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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