Recently, our staff met to go over what we could do better with our coverage at the Old Felta Schoolhouse in Healdsburg.
One of our goals moving forward is to be more transparent and with that in mind, this column came into existence.
Once a month, one of our staff will share some highlights of what’s happening behind the stories we publish. This could include the challenges of a certain topic, the nuts and bolts of putting a newspaper together or maybe just a humorous anecdote from the office. Our hope is to shed light on what makes this newspaper tick and give you, our readers, a better understanding of what makes community journalism work.
We feel this level of transparency is important. For one, it helps show that we are your neighbors, too, and that we genuinely care about the topics we cover. This isn’t to say our opinions will be laid bare so readers can see our bias. On the contrary, I believe this column will help show how we keep our personal feelings in check and illuminate what it means to have integrity in today’s journalism.
This level of transparency is also critically important as we hold our local officials accountable for their actions. You have a right to know what your government is up to, even if they would rather you didn’t, and it’s up to us to bring that sunshine into the public arena. Being able to trust our reporting means that we can no longer keep our process behind closed doors, we have to be as up front as we expect others to be.
We had several other points at the meeting in the one-room school.
One common challenge we face in today’s age of instant information is how do we compete with an entire internet full of people who are at the right place at the right time? How do we shift our focus to a more digital paper when the print publication takes days to build?
We’re a small staff, but we hope our focus hits the right points. In order to expand our coverage, we invite all of our readers to share what stories they have. Some may need to be assigned to a reporter to make sure our facts are straight and all sides are taken into account. Others may be able to be shared as a contributing piece written by a community member.
We are also interested on your thoughts as to our writing style. Providing the right amount of context for each story helps keep locals fully informed. While this is important, we also realize that most readers only pick a select few stories to read all the way through. We put the most crucial information at the start of the story as a result and while our feelings aren’t hurt if you don’t make it to that last sentence, long-form journalism takes time to complete and we want to do that only when there is enough interest. Otherwise, it may be better to wrap things up quickly and move to the next topic, which could help broaden what we are able to cover.
There may be something you’d like to see featured in this column, too. Have you ever wondered how reporters generate their questions? We can share our process as much as we can. Maybe you’re wondering more about the classic era of “beat reporters” and what happened to all those guys. I can also personally share how much coffee it takes to come up with clever headlines each week. The answer is measured in gallons.
Submit ideas for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org and check in on our social media platforms moving ahead to see a few lighter times of us at work. It may not be as fun as a kitten playing a piano, but we like to think we have our moments.