Yes, newspapers are an important part of a community but for something that involves so much work with the public, there is an astonishing number of misperceptions about our business.
Before your eyes glaze over, don’t worry, this is not a 10-part series. But with every bit of our work out there for people to pore over, it’s important for readers to have an understanding of what we do.
1. We want to get it right. We do, however, make mistakes.
But we want to rectify our errors and are happy to hear if something is factually wrong.
If a correction is necessary, you can always find it on Page 2 and we strive to get it in as soon as possible.
2. We are only as good as our sources.
We’d love to have a crystal ball telling us about every event in our area. Without one, however, we rely on event organizers to inform us. We need basic details (who, what, where, when, why) with a contact name and phone number.
Even if you’ve held an event every year, please don’t assume we know it’s coming up if you haven’t got in touch. With the dozens of events that occur here every week, some can slip through our sights.
3. We can’t do it all.
We have a small staff. Each day one photographer works a 10-hour shift. He might start at 11 to take a photo of students donating food to the food bank, hit the fire hall for an 11:30 shot of the fire chief for the day, attend an awards luncheon at noon, come back to the office to input a few photos with cutlines, hit a soccer game at 2, take shots for advertising at 3 and 4, return to input more photos, and then go with a reporter to cover a meeting that evening.
And our reporters are no less busy; in fact, with a daily deadline, there’s no one that works here who has the luxury of putting up their feet.
4. Advertising and editorial are not tied.
If you buy an ad, that does not mean you get a story. Most readers probably think this is painfully obvious — how could you trust a newspaper that allowed its news coverage to be swayed by the money trail? — but people will remark, “Oh, we know you won’t report on this because ‘they’ advertise in your paper.”
It’s simply not true.
5. We do not get directives from head office about what to run.
We have an independent-minded group of reporters and editors who live here and cover the news here. We have lively meetings to brainstorm and make decisions about what will run every day. It does not come via a memo from head office.
In 20 years under many owners, I have been directed only twice to run something. One was a column written by Conrad Black’s wife, the other a column by Preston Manning. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but as a rule, it doesn’t.
6. We can take photos of you as long as we are on public property. While standing in your yard, no, but while out on the sidewalk, yes.
7. We are not all lefties in the newsroom any more than we are right-wingers. But as long as we get accused by both sides of promoting one agenda over the other, we will know we are striking a balance.
Tracy Gilchrist is editor of The Daily News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org