Daily Press coverage
First off, let me admit this is a long-winded blog about the theory of the news covered in the Daily Press. So, if you're someone who doesn't like long narratives, let me get to what I hope to achieve right off the bat.
One, explain why we do what we do. Two, more importantly, suggestions from you on how we can get better. Three, to encourage people to feel free to give comments and story suggestions.
With that, let's begin.
A person told me the other day something to the effect of "It's not my business to tell you how to run your business."
I completely disagreed. This is your community newspaper. It's yours. Your stories, your town, your politics, your lives. The Daily Press is simply trying to chronicle the community's living history.
Some people believe we do a good to decent job with that. Others do not, and I encourage constructive criticism.
It is my hope with this blog to explain where the paper is currently at, why we do what we do. It is also my hope that in explaining the paper's philosophies to get feedback on where people agree and disagree in the philosophy, as well as where people believe we succeed and fail in trying to reach that philosophy. Ultimately, my hope is to learn how to improve the paper, and to make it more your newspaper.
To put this in perspective, let me take you some of the (paraphrased) comments I've received about the newspaper during just the past two weeks.
"There is so much local coverage. Good job." "There is never any local coverage in the paper." "All I ever read is negative stories. How come you guys don't do more features?" "You never cover any real news." "I would like to see more national coverage." "There is too much wire (state of national coverage) in the paper." "I can't stand reading about Steamboat in the paper." "How come there is not more about Steamboat in the paper." "Why don't you write about what is going on Washington."
And I could go on, but my observation comes down to this - people want us to be all things to, well, them. This is good in theory. In reality, we cannot achieve this in the paper, though we are planning to use the Web to help (but that is another diatribe).
So why do we cover what cover?
Local news: The comments I've heard about local news coverage is by far the most wide ranging - from how much we cover in the paper is a good or a bad thing, or that we cover too much local or never cover anything local.
The philosophy behind our local news coverage is to be hyper-local. Whether we achieve it or not is up to you the readers. It is my belief that you can read about the Iraq war anywhere. You are only going to read about the Moffat County High School football game or coverage of local politics in the Daily Press. If there is a local tie to a national issue, we try to address it that way, but the focus again is on Northwest Colorado.
So, how do we choose our stories?
Of course, we focus on the basics of news coverage: city and city council, county commissioners, education, etc. However, it is my belief that there are thousands of stories out there, and of course, we cannot get to them all. Hell, we clearly do not know of them all. Outside of being at a meeting, most of our story ideas come from conversations and reader suggestions. Actually, a lot of our best stories come from reader suggestions, and I encourage anyone who has an idea to let us know. I can't promise that we will be able to run it, but I can promise that we listen and consider it.
Crime coverage is an area we get complaints from all sides, from not enough coverage to that is all we write about. To understand the philosophy on this subject, it comes from my background in newspapers. The first paper I worked at did a ton of crime coverage. It left the people in town with an ill feeling, that everyone around was a criminal. In fact, the paper was commonly referred to as the Daily Crimes. At my first editor job, we also did quite a bit of crime coverage, but not nearly as much, as at my first paper. Between the two papers, I learned you could fill a ton of news coverage if you wanted to because there is, one, reader interest, and two, various elements that could always be reported. Here, I've tried to balance the news with what represents the community at large, which leads to the question is our community a bunch of criminals or is our community being attacked by criminals? I don't think so (but I could be wrong). Here, we focus in on bigger criminal cases and trends. And we don't place most crime stories on the front page (they mostly are reported on page 2 and 3), as we would like to reserve Page 1 for residents who are getting news for a worthy cause, or for news of interest, whatever that may be. That said, bigger criminal cases tend to go upfront. That doesn't mean these alleged crimes aren't reported in the paper. That is where the blotter on page 5 comes into play. All arrests and calls law enforcement went on are listed there. Now, I know if we put more crime stories in the paper, people will read them. I know that if we put more crime stories on the front page, we would sell out faster. But it leads me back to the question, is that our community? Perhaps it is, but I don't think so. I admit, this stance is a conscious decision. Perhaps it is the wrong one. This is one of the questions I would like the readership to tell me if they would like to see more crime coverage or not? Perhaps you agree with the stance, but disagree with the cases we choose. Please, let me know.
So, how does Steamboat and Hayden play into coverage in the Daily Press? The Steamboat Pilot & Today and the Hayden Valley Press are the Daily Press' sister papers. It is my belief that Northwest Colorado is like one big city and community, but just with really long roads to different sections of town. Although some residents of Steamboat Springs and Craig have an adversarial relationship and in some ways the 40 miles that separates the two towns might as well be 40,000 miles, it does not detract that the two towns are connected. A large portion of Steamboat's workforce comes from Craig and many go to the 'Boat for various activities. We are getting more and more Steamboat residents shopping in Craig. In this case, I believe regional coverage is community coverage.
State coverage: Although we try to focus on being hyper-local, we do run some wire. For the most part, the stories ran are the ones we believe impact Northwest Colorado. But to be honest, there are times it's because we don't have enough copy to fill the paper on a given day, and for those days, I apologize.
National coverage: Rarely run, but mostly on issues that may touch home.
Good news vs. bad news: I personally don't believe in good news or bad news. News is news, and if someone views it as good or bad, that is his or her decision. I do strive to give the news coverage a balance in features vs. hard news; however, this tends to go in trends, where we will have a lot of hard news, with few features, and then vice versa. It is something I'm still working on.
Issues that may be a topic of conversation, but you haven't read about: There are word of mouth items that run around town. I hope you do not assume that the paper is not looking into them. A lot of times we do look into stories but can find anything to ground an article in other than speculation or rumor. I also hope you do not assume that the paper is looking into it. The paper is the watchdog of the government and the people are the watchdog of the paper. I wish I knew everything and everything and everyone. Day by day, I realize that we don't. A call or an email from a reader never hurts, either as a reminder or new angle about a story we may be working on, or story we may not know about.
So that is a brief (or longwinded) synopsis of the thought process behind my view of the running of the Daily Press news coverage. Do we do it perfectly? No. Do stories get by us sometimes? Yes.
But I can tell you that we have a staff at the Daily Press working very hard to bring you news. I believe that we have a good newspaper, and we will only get better because we refuse to only be good. And I believe that we're trying to serve the readership in the best way possible, though I want to hear your comments on how to do this better.
Going back to the comments I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, I wish I could say I was the kind of person who could ignore criticism, especially when it is contradicting. Professionally, I think it would be unwise to do so, and personally, the integrity of this newspaper, and the coverage we provide to this community is so important to me that I want to ensure we are doing the best for the community.
In short, I have to know how we can get better. I have to know if the philosophy of the news coverage falls in line with what the community wants out of its newspaper. I have to know the stories we are missing so we can do the community the service it deserves.
Please email me email@example.com or call 970-824-7031, ext. 204, or stop by the Daily Press office to give me your thoughts.
Jerry Raehal Daily Press editor