From the Editor: Breakdown of newspaper content – AberdeenNews.com




We at the newspaper sometimes take for granted our readers’ understanding of how we do our work, and what the differences are in the kinds of work we do.

For our local readers, the ones who call or write or email, the confusion is often very basic.

So many readers seem to get angry about an opinion on the Viewpoints page, and equate that with the kind of reporting we do in the news pages. Or, they mistake an advertisement for news.

Here is a bit of a glossary/explanation to understanding what you are reading.

Stories: News stories, sports stories, feature stories: They are pretty obvious when you see them. They are the ones on the front page, or in the Sports section, or on 605 Life or Faith or Out & About.

You recognize the bylines, too: Local reporters with email addresses, folks you can call and talk to.

Our reporters run their beats, or are assigned stories by their editors, or get calls from the public. Or sometimes they just notice something that might make a nice story.

These stories should be free of bias, and we work at every stage to be sure the stories are fair and accurate. Some readers think just covering an issue, such as immigration or government ethics, to be “taking a side.” In fact, our mission is to tell stories that affect our community.

Opinions: Yes, they are in the newspaper, but should be appropriately marked.

They are things like “Our Voice” (opinions by the American News Editorial Board — not always unanimous), “Public Voice” (your letters), “Columns” and “Guest Columns” (everyone from Cal Thomas to Gerald Krueger, again, the opinion of the writer only).

Most of these items are found on Viewpoints, but you can find sports columnists in Sports, or features columnists such as Dear Annie or Donna Marmorstein on other pages, designated by their photos and descriptive labels.

None of these opinions represent the company or the news content of the paper.

Advertising: There are figurative and literal walls between advertising and editorial at the American News. That doesn’t mean we don’t work together; if editorial has a special project, we do alert advertising so they could find sponsorship, for instance.

But advertising — or lack thereof — does not affect our news coverage.

The newsroom tries to keep separate from all of that, judging stories and coverage on the merits of the news and what we think reader interest will be.

That is a hard one to juggle. So many times I will get a call that will start, “… we advertise in the American News and Farm Forum and …”.

I always thank those folks for advertising, because it certainly is appreciated. But that fact doesn’t affect our coverage.

What has changed in newspapers, and certainly my mind, is that advertising can be used as a gauge for reader interest. If folks want to advertise in a particular section, for instance, that tells us they see value in that news, and that readership. Their customers reading those pages are our customers, too.

How can a reader tell advertising and sponsorships from news? I hope that the display advertising on all of these pages is clear. When these elements are not clear, they should be marked “paid advertising.”

USA Today and Associated Press: These are two services of several we pay for to get news we aren’t able to report ourselves in the paper. We have varying degrees of control over this content.

USA Today comes to us pre-packaged with national, international, business, lifestyle news and opinions. We hope it is clearly labeled.

The American News has no control over the editorial content on those pages, and we publish as many of them as we have room and are contracted for.

The old AP wire comes to us online, now, and includes editable state, national, entertainment and sports stories. We can pick and choose what to run, with a focus on reader interest. Those stories can be edited to fit a page, or to mention a local connection.

Marketing: If we believe people are reading our newspaper (we do), and that our products are a value to our advertisers (they are), then we would be fools not to market our own content in our pages.

That full-page picture of a dog reading the paper? That submarine in a blue sea? Those are meant to promote our products, or our needs at the Aberdeen News Co.

They also provide a service to the printing of our paper. Simply put, those ads fill in the gaps where there is more space than what our news and design staff can produce in a day.

As always, I am happy to answer your questions.

Follow @jjperry_AAN on Twitter, emailjperry@aberdeennews.com or call 605-622-2300.



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