By Jim Pumarlo
Nothing is more satisfying to an editor than reviewing a day’s edition – whether in print or digital format – and quietly proclaiming, “We connected with our readers.” A newspaper’s relationship with its readers is at the heart of National Newspaper Week.
Newspapers, at their best, are stewards of our communities. News columns are a blend of stories that people like to read and stories they should read. Advertising promotes and grows local commerce. Editorial pages are a marketplace of ideas. Energized newspapers are at the foundation of energized communities.
Connecting with readers also means delivering the chicken dinner – and steak, too. No matter how big the newspaper, we must not forget the little things. No matter how small an operation, newsrooms must strive to present the special projects, too.
There’s no better barometer of connecting with readers than walking into a house and seeing the “refrigerator” posts.
A report of a high school sporting event. The calendar of activities at the senior center. A photo from the school musical. A notice of a hearing on proposed sidewalk assessments. New hours for the landfill. A feature on a neighborhood book club. A letter to the editor that struck a sensitive chord. A school board announcement of higher student athletic fees. A store’s grand opening.
Newspapers must not abandon their other responsibilities either. We keep readers abreast of decisions of local governing bodies. We are vigilant in fighting for the First Amendment rights and tracking down information at the foundation of an informed citizenry. We provide in-depth reports and analysis of issues vital to our readers.
Make no mistake, competition for readers’ attention is at an all-time high. That only raises editors’ resolve. I’m a firm believer that community newspapers can still claim a stronghold in today’s fractured media landscape by sticking to the basics.
We have a distinct advantage as the clearinghouse for all local news – the good and the bad, the routine and the sensitive. Our words and photos represent a living history of our home towns. We deliver information using the full range of print and digital platforms.
Most important, we have a relationship with our readers. We live, work and play with the very individuals who represent the names, faces and places in our everyday coverage. We welcome your comments and take your suggestions to heart. In the end, reader comments are the most honest evaluation of our work. A newspaper void of reader interaction is a newspaper of little value.
Jim Pumarlo is a former editor of Red Wing Republican Eagle who serves on the Minnesota News Media Institute Board of Directors.