I got a voice mail message from a reader who identified herself only as “McLeod” and asked for an editor to call her back. Problem is, the phone connection wasn’t very good, and I couldn’t correctly decipher the phone number to call back. If you are Ms. McLeod with a Cokie Roberts question — please drop me a note with your phone number at email@example.com. Sorry for the technology mishap.
In the next few weeks, we’ll be working on updating our print edition’s weather page. Designer Mike Sullivan has done a great job so far on a preliminary prototype to improve our graphics and make information as useful as possible. To help us with a facelift for the page, we want to hear from you.
I recognize that some readers prefer to get weather information elsewhere. This post is directed to the people who like to spend some time with the printed weather page and have favorite features on the current page, or ideas for weather content they’d like to see. Some questions that would be helpful to us: Do you spend much time looking at the list of temperatures/forecasts for other cities? Is a seven-day local forecast useful, or, given the mercurial nature of Kansas weather, would a five-day forecast be most helpful? Are air-quality indexes useful?
If you have any feedback to offer, post a comment here on the blog or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your time.
Interesting draft report out today from the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy — the preliminary findings of the commission’s work since last June to gather opinion and fact about the information communities and citizens need to function, and how well those needs are being met.
Through May 8, the commission, in partnership with PBS, is seeking public comment on the draft report and taking questions for the commission’s co-chair.
The most common question I get these days is about what the future holds for all news media, including print newspapers. The commission’s report builds from a broad definition of “news” and should be an interesting read both for those who greatly fear the death of traditional news outlets and those who are eagerly anticipating such a moment.
In the coming days you’ll see some changes in the newspaper that I want to explain to you, as well as give you background on some changes we’ve made in the past couple of weeks.
Beginning this week, the Monday and Tuesday newspapers will have a new configuration, with an A and B section.
Section A will have local and national news, features, opinion and obituaries both days. Section B will have sports news, comics and classified advertising. On Tuesdays, it will include the business pages.
These changes will allow us to run fewer press units on those days.
Media companies of many types, including newspapers, are faced with the most difficult economic climate we’ve ever encountered. Decisions such as these section changes help us reduce expenses, just as many other businesses are finding necessary.
In addition, we are discontinuing the Neighbors page that was published on Tuesdays.
Also, several readers have asked why we stopped publishing the news summary on Page 2A.
We’ve heard consistent feedback from readers that they didn’t use the news summary and would prefer that we use that space for other news stories. It’s good to hear that some readers found it useful, but it seems clear that the majority of readers prefer more stories to the summary.
You may also have noticed that we’ve reduced our Travel page space and shifted the focus of that space to travel tips and information. In place of a longer feature story that previously anchored the page, we’ve continued Arthur Frommer’s column and added Christopher Elliott’s Travel Troubleshooter column. We’ve also added Rick Steves’ European travel column at www.kansas.com/travel.
We’re also very happy to have Richard Crowson’ s cartoons back in The Eagle. You’ll find them on Sunday Opinion pages.
You may have seen Opinion Page Editor Phillip Brownlee’s note last week that Doonesbury and Mallard Fillmore are no longer in the paper because we’re publishing a single Opinion page, except for Sunday. Several readers have asked us to pick up Doonesbury on the regular comics pages.
We’re open to considering this, but want to hear your feedback. In the past, readers complained about Doonesbury being on the comics pages because of its political content.
I know some of these changes have removed features you will miss, but I hope we’ve also added some that you will enjoy. We appreciate your understanding as we make changes necessary to adapt to difficult economic times.
If you have comments or suggestions, give us a call at 268-6222.
I hope you saw my note Monday in the WichiTalk section that effective Monday, Sept. 29, we’ll publish WichiTalk in a broadsheet format, rather than the current tabloid format. You’ll find the WichiTalk stories and features – the same local columnists, puzzles and comics – in a new place in the paper, inside the Local & State section Mondays through Thursdays.
As part of that change, we will no longer be publishing TV listings in the daily paper. We publish those listings on Sundays in our TV guide, and we’ll continue to do so. We’ll also offer a daily TV-highlights package to help steer you to the best of TV offerings.
Another change you’ll see next week is one I’m very excited about – we’ll be extending our popular Business Today coverage to a new section on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Previously, business coverage on those days ran inside Local & State. Now you’ll find Business Today with its own section front page (and in color) on those days. We’ll continue to publish our expanded Business Today section on Thursdays.
Business Today has been a successful venture that helps us offer readers much greater depth and breadth of local business news in a timely way. We’ve been delighted with the enthusiastic response from the business community, and we’re happy to raise the profile of business news even more in The Wichita Eagle and on Kansas.com.
It was nice to start the week with this note from a reader about Beccy Tanner’s story on USS Grunion. Thanks, Tim, we love hearing from happy readers:
“The Eagle has some great writers/story tellers on staff. I just want to say how much I enjoy reading articles like the Grunion story…what a string of coincidences, and I have been moved to tears by Roy Wenzl more than once. Your paper must count itself blessed to have the depth of talent that is consistently displayed in its pages.”
We’re indeed fortunate in our newsroom to have a staff of talented writers, many who are long-time (if not lifelong) Kansans. As I told Tim, I think that connection to the community and region shows in the stories they write.
One potentially delicate issue to deal with around election time is the barrage of spam that friends and family members send on various campaign issues. I get a ton of them at work, but I figure that’s part of the job. It’s more of an annoyance, though, when I have to wade through them in my personal email at home.
So far, I’ve dealt with this by just deleting them. I’ve known of some family members or friends who have written back to spammers and (not always politely) told them to quit spamming. I find the sociology of political spam kind of fascinating – sending sometimes extreme views via email to friends or family whose views you are not familiar with. Do spammers wonder if they’re offending the recipient? Do they care? Or do they hope the email changes the recipient’s view?
I’ve never been able to figure out the purpose of political spam. Or any spam, for that matter. I rarely, if ever, forward any of the thousands of emails – jokes, photos, scams, urban legends, news-that’s-not-really-true, cartoons, etc. – that clog the world’s servers. I never feel the urge to “send it on” to 20 friends or relatives. It seems like a better idea, if you’re going to take the time to attach so many names to an email, to just send a note instead and ask, “How are you?” To opt instead for some substantive social interaction.
I’ve always believed political views are very personal, and I can’t imagine sending email like buckshot to dozens of friends or family members whose beliefs I don’t know. Judging by the inbox, though, not everyone shares that feeling. Do most of you mind getting those emails? If it bothers you, how do you handle it?
I had a phone call this week from a reader named Shirley, saying she loved the “true or false” piece we published Sunday on campaign claims. She hopes we plan to do more of this. We do. One key focus we’ll have this election season is trying to be as useful as possible in helping voters gather information they need to make decisions in the vast number of offices up for election.
One place we hope you stay in tune with is our election news page on Kansas.com. I’ll ask Jean Hays, deputy editor/news, to talk to you in this blog about plans for coverage through November. And if you have ideas for articles or features you want, let Jean know (email@example.com) or our assistant metro editor who is handling state and local election news, Marcia Werts (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’ll do our best to find the information you want.
I love election season. For all of its flaws, it’s still democracy in action. And a presidential election carries with it the added excitement of history in the making.
It’s also the season for a daily stream of emails I get accusing the newspaper of bias for or against the writer’s favored candidate. Many are emotional and accusatory, built on the absolute certain knowledge that the news staff is laboring to execute an intricate conspiracy.
I take each one seriously. Sometimes, I quickly see how a writer came to his or her conclusion. A word we used may be a little loaded in meaning, or we left out a pertinent fact. Most of the time, these are errors of oversight or failure to anticipate how an article or headline would be perceived by readers. Sometimes, the writer or editor truly has bought too hard into one candidate’s argument, and we have to talk about how to provide better balance. And sometimes, the plain fact is that with so many offices up for election, some races are in danger of slipping through the cracks and not getting enough coverage unless we’re vigilant.
The hardest complaints to resolve, though, are the ones that are based on an unspecific perception the reader has about the intent of the writer. One article last week drew seething responses – and threats to cancel the paper – from two readers. One believed the article was grossly biased toward a liberal viewpoint. The other was equally passionate that The Eagle is “a conservative rage” and this story was another example of our right-wing bias.
The concept of bias is complex – both in its reality (no one can truly have zero beliefs and biases) and in the reader’s passionate perception that bias exists. Often, we see what we want to see or expect to see. It can be hard, when we’re pushed for specifics, to put our finger on the source of the slant we think we see.
One of my naive hopes each election season is for civility in our debate. I love debating ideas and viewpoints with friends and listening to them explain their beliefs. And I continue to be saddened and frustrated by the growing refusal of so many people to debate ideas without attacking people. I’ve had very enlightening discussions with people I respect greatly – I sometimes disagree completely with their view on a subject, but I don’t feel a compulsion to attack them personally, nor do I lose respect because our ideas might conflict.
We have a complicated assignment until November. We have to take seriously our responsibility for squelching biases, or the perception of them. At the same time, many readers today have a hair-trigger for proclaiming bias, and we’re not helped when whole political organizations establish a strategy of urging people to claim bias as a way to get letters to the editor published. (The MoveOn organization sent an email blast linking to instructions on how to do this for an orchestrated attack on Sarah Palin. A reader sent me the email, complete with a Web form for sending letters to the editor and a suggestion that the best way to get letters published is to pick an article and allege your viewpoint was excluded.)
For good and for bad, happy election season to all.
Here’s some follow-up information for a couple of people who asked for more details about the press run last Friday night (see item below on the breaking news about Joe Biden).
Production manager Cindy Trenary tells me that the pressroom held the press as late as possible waiting for the updated pages, then decided they should start up the press without the stories or they would risk causing late deliveries for readers.
The press ran for only 5 minutes before the new pages arrived with news of Joe Biden’s selection as Barack Obama’s VP candidate. Our total Friday night press run is about 95,000 papers, and about 3,500 were printed in that 5-minute timefram.
The press prints about 1,000 copies a minute running at regular speed, but runs slower at initial startup and also during slowdown before stopping.
So we didn’t make every copy of the Saturday paper with the news, but we came pretty darn close.