Tags: Staff Editorial
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December 30, 2013 | 02:20 PMI hope I wasn’t too flip last week when I announced that the Regional News was going to $1.50 on newsstands.
I used a cute photo of a child crying on Santa’s lap as an introduction.
Ho. Ho. Ho. Ha. Ha. Ha.
But the first response I received in my email was something less than enthusiastic.
That reader — or maybe former reader — said we weren’t worth it.
Not enough news.
He could get the same information elsewhere.
In essence, he was saying too much for not enough.
When I first read it I felt defensive. I wanted to protect the paper and the people who work here. I think we do have a good paper. Last year we were rated the best paper of our size in the state by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. I don’t think anyone matches us for local news. And we won the community betterment from the local chamber of commerce.
But, as is the case with most emotional first impressions, being defensive would have been the wrong reaction.
Not only would I have been flip, I would have been smug too.
And even adding a puppy dog to our baby with Santa picture wouldn’t have been enough to convince at least one reader that we’re worth another quarter.
We have to earn his and your trust in 2014. We have to work for your extra 25 cents every week.
As I said in my announcements, the increase to $1.50, and an increase earlier this year in our subscription rates, is a case of simple economics. Raising the price is one of the things we need to do to keep our books balanced. We hope the extra quarter is something you can afford because your accumulated quarters mean a lot to us.
But our needs alone don’t warrant anything. Value is want you want.
It occurred to me while writing this that starting a price increase the first week of the new year isn’t the wisest thing to do. It is the time of year when we have the least advertising, so the fewest number of pages. We’re also short on news as government bodies and individuals aren’t doing newsworthy things during holiday periods. I promise, we’ll make up for it as the year goes on.
I’d like to think we’re worth another 25 cents. I’ll be waiting at a newsstand this week to see if others feel the same way.
But I probably won’t see my email critic there. He said he’s purchased the last Regional News he’ll ever buy.
So, as a new year starts, I’m asking him and every other reader to tell us what you need from your local paper.
One thing I think we need to do is be more aware of changes in our landscape — what new businesses do we have, what is being built or torn down? We need to tell you about what you see when you drive around town and wonder about. That’s as much news as what happens at city council and, frankly, the Geneva Shore Report does a better job of keeping up on the subject than we do. I hope that insult spurs us all on to do a better job.
I need to do more coverage of Lake Geneva schools. Those who work at the schools do the best job they can at providing us information, but there’s more to be done. The Lake Geneva school district was one of the beats I took on when I became editor, but I haven’t done a very good job of it. My cohorts, especially managing editor Rob Ireland and reporter Chris Schultz have taken more duties off of my plate, and I’m no longer interim sports editor. I’m out of excuses and our readers deserve better coverage.
Within the last few years we’ve added our Community Scrapbook page featuring names and faces of local people. It’s proved to be popular. I think we touched a cord there and it shows by the responses I get to it. We should remember that and expand upon it.
I need to make our community and commentary pages more inviting. I know it has a group of followers, but I also know it’s a section that’s largely neglected on our web hits. Last year we brought in more local columnists and I plan to add more. But I also want to expand our scope of commentary to include state, national and world issues. There’s a wealth of blogs and opinions out there. Our main mission is local, but we can also help provide thoughts on broader issues covering both sides of a given topic.
We need to find new ways to get information out, more story forms and more telling photos. There are many ways to tell a story — Q&As, graphics, first-person and catching up on ongoing news stories and people who were once in the news but have moved on.
We can do a better job of filling out stories by using more sources and avenues of information.
We can also use the web better to provide complimentary information. We can provide information about topics that we don’t have room for in the paper. At the same time we ought to be able to interest people in the paper by what we put online.
Newspapers are going to survive by leveraging different platforms and we and every other paper needs to do a better job at it.
We’ve talked for a long time about having better photos to compliment stories. We’ll do it in 2014.
And, internally, we need to be better organized, anticipate stories, keep track of events. I’m going to buy a few calendars. And on my own calendar, I’ll jot down: “Save the baby pictures for your wallet. The readers want substance.”
Forget flip and banish smug.
We can’t rest on our laurels. We need to roll up our sleeves again in 2014 and earn or re-earn your loyalty.
They say it’s best to put resolutions in writing. So here they are. I’ll review them periodically. In the meantime, I hope you trust us with an extra quarter. We’ll do our best to make it worth your while.
Please send me your ideas. I can be reached at 262-248-4444 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also love visitors. Our office is where it’s always been at 315 Broad St. in Lake Geneva. Coffee is usually brewing.
I can’t promise we can or should do everything everyone tells us to do. But we can’t do our own thing and ignore what people want either. We’d like to think we’re worth as much as a convenience store candy bar, but we have to prove it.
Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.