The Tri-County News has been a multi-community newspaper since it was born 65 years ago. Before that, it was the Tri-County Messenger; also a multi-community newspaper. This past week, I was distressed by what was happening with some of my publisher friends. One woman in Wisconsin was attacked for including so much bad news in the paper. Could she help it that there were five tornadoes, and a gruesome murder all within a few days?
The Tri-County News has been a multi-community newspaper since it was born 65 years ago. Before that, it was the Tri-County Messenger; also a multi-community newspaper.
This past week, I was distressed by what was happening with some of my publisher friends. One woman in Wisconsin was attacked for including so much bad news in the paper. Could she help it that there were five tornadoes, and a gruesome murder all within a few days?
Another friend was dealing with a community-wide search for a lost child, a search that ended badly. She too was attacked by a few, even while being commended by law enforcement for her calm and accurate handling of the matter.
There are some weeks when there just seem to be more stories about bad things happening than good. The human brain focuses more on bad things. My calculation is that it’s about a 10:1 ratio; it takes about 10 good news items to equal one bad one. (Don’t quote me on that; it’s just my sense of it!)
Over the summer, I’ve heard a few little glimmers of discontent with the coverage the Tri-County News has given over the past 15 months or so to “other” communities. The News has always covered more than one particular town. And, just like the bad-news:good-news ratio, the human brain registers the ratio of stories about us:them a little differently from reality.
We all have worked very hard to include everything that is sent to us that affects our larger community. We are invited to more events, we are sent more news stories and photos, and we have taken interest in a broader geographical region and to a greater extent than we have in our past.
I often think in terms of analogies. One way to look at the News is like a happy family, with four children. Along come two more children, orphans, and some things may seem out of balance. The older children may feel neglected, like they’re not receiving the same amount of attention now that the new ones have arrived. It can take a little while to regain the equilibrium of that happy family, but quickly a new “normal” is established and it seems to everyone that it’s always been that way.
In one instance, I was utterly flabbergasted to be accused of choosing to omit Kimball news items to make room for
Watkins or Eden Valley news. Let me tell you right here that that is blatantly false.
The News has expanded considerably to include all. We have more advertisers and more legal notices, which pay the bills and allow us to run more school, news and feature stories … and photos.
We experienced a sudden growth of about 60 percent last spring, just over 14 months ago. We’ve adapted, you’ve adapted, and we’re all on track.
This does not mean, of course, that we’re not going to continue to evolve. As publisher, I’m always learning new things, and implementing them as they fit. As a business, and especially a news business, flexibility and adaptability is essential, particulary in these days of such fluctuation in the business. For example, very few would have believed 10 years ago that 70 percent of news consumers would get their news from their smartphone! (Yes, you can find the News there too.)
This spring and summer, the News participated in both the Kimball Area Business Expo and the Eden Valley Business Expo. We asked readers to take a four-page survey, at both locations. The results were valuable to us, telling us what you like to read, what you want more (or less) of, and how you read the News. It was valuable enough to give away a couple of Kindle Fire tablets.
We will continue to use that readership survey information throughout the coming months. We also welcome your suggestions, comments, and feedback.
Our goal is to constantly improve our news product, both in print and online. We count on you, our readers, to let us know how we’re doing and, especially, to tell us if we’re headed the wrong way.
We hope that you’ll make your comments constructive, and that you think carefully before accusing us of having lost our sense of balance.
We do make mistakes, and so do you who contribute items to the News. We own up to them, and do what we can, if we can, to correct them. With the sheer volume of notices, stories, photos, and advertisements it’s inevitable that a mistake or typographical error will sneak through, despite all our efforts.
We don’t make the news, we report it. Some weeks there will be more going on in one school or one community, and the next week it’s different. One week there are pages and pages of sports, and the next, next to nothing. That’s community life, and the cycle of the news. We have 52 weeks of pages to fill each year, that’s well over a thousand.
Each week it feels like we have thousands of jigsaw puzzle pieces, from multiple sets. Each piece is carefully prepared, and then I find a way to squeeze it into pages. There are a few odd pieces that are leftover from previous weeks. Sometimes an “old” piece sneaks in. The hope is to have each page be cohesive, with similar pieces. (It’s a good thing I love jigsaw puzzles, too.) Every week is an exciting, fresh surprise.
We love all our communities, no matter how you define “community.” And we love our weekly mission.
This is our livelihood, and we take it both seriously and personally. Very much so. We know that you do too, which is why we continue to work so hard.