Changes coming to A-D's print edition
Editor Steve Miller explains updates
Smart choices: That's what we're hoping to make here at the Appeal-Democrat.
With a new publisher and a new editor, and lots of items on their priority lists, it seems like a good time to update our customers.
Like any other for-profit business trudging along on its way out of the Great Recession, the newspaper industry as a whole, including the Appeal-Democrat, has to constantly reassess what it's doing so we can continue moving forward. It seems to us that there's an encouraging undercurrent in the news business — one where we're looking more at building, than cutting.
We certainly think that more than ever there's a place for community news and advertising organizations. Our relevance comes from helping readers keep track of what's happening in our community and from helping them figure out how to get the most out of living here, how to get along, what to watch out for, what to enjoy, and where to spend their dollars locally.
Over the coming months, we'll be making some adjustments to our business, including some refinements in our Web delivery. But for right now, we've got some print challenges and upcoming changes that we'd like to keep you informed of.
1. Local Content
We plan on increasing local reporting. We've already started, but we hope to go further.
As we network into the community, the one thing we hear repeatedly is that residents want to read more local, whether it's hard news, features about their neighbors and kids, sports, or business.
We're looking at ways we can dedicate a greater ratio of our work hours to reporting and writing news and feature stories that reflect our communities. We're making headway, we think, and readers should start noticing more front page news and more local feature page and opinion page content.
We've also reorganized our news beats — those areas of responsibility that reporters take to monitor and report on. Look for more information on those assignments in future editions.
It's also a matter of emphasis. We'll eventually start featuring more local news in the front of the A section, instead of jumping it all back to a subsequent section.
2. Accent Pages
We want to make better use of our "accent pages" — those special features sections concerning how you spend your money, arts and entertainment, business, life and living, etc.
Again, as we progress through the next few months, they'll be populated with more local content. And we'll be spreading them out through the week and adding some pizzazz, we hope.
Starting next week, readers will find a "Your Money" page on Tuesdays. We'll try to offer something local weekly that helps local residents get the most out of their resources.
We're planning more changes after the first of March. A "Life and Living" page will take root in the Wednesday edition, and will rotate themes weekly — food the first week of every month, health the second, senior living the third, and a variety of themes for the fourth (and fifth) week.
An expanded arts and entertainment section will be featured on Thursdays, highlighting local events and people; the Faith section will move to Fridays; Education will be featured in Saturday editions; Sundays will continue to feature a Marketplace and agriculture section.
We'll also give some position and extra space in the Sunday paper to community news — the stuff that readers submit to us about their weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, special events and more.
3. Economizing: Pages and Features
Additionally, we have to look at cost savings in a couple areas.
While we're increasing the space we're dedicating to local coverage, we're going to look at cutting back some of the pages we use for mostly wire news — reports from the Associated Press and other news services from around the country and world.
We're sure there's still a place for a robust wire report for local readers in their local paper, but readers are telling us that the amount of space dedicated to non-local news could be cut back while adding more local content that they can't get anywhere else.
We'll also be likely to look at more options in how we layout the paper — sometimes, you'll see two sections, rather than four sections, and by moving accent pages throughout the week, we might realize some paper savings along the way.
We plan to cut back on our syndicated entertainment features — cartoons and puzzles, while adding that increased local entertainment coverage we mentioned earlier.
Syndication fees have increased over the years and the Appeal-Democrat publishes more than twice the number of features as most other newspapers its size (more, even, than most larger papers).
Change is often uncomfortable; and it's going to be hard to make everyone happy (especially when you start talking about dropping some cartoon strips). We'll be experimenting for some time, looking for the best combinations of reader-pleasing content and manageable expense.
We're looking for input. An informal survey is available to find out which cartoon strips and features readers most want to retain [click here to take survey]. Watch for notices, too, on top of the left column on A2. We'll continue to keep you informed of our progress and look forward to hearing what you think as we navigate our way through making some smart choices.