Amid changes, The Telegraph remains intensely local and focused on serving Middle Georgia

Jennifer Burk, a 12-year resident of Macon and veteran of The Telegraph, is the newsroom leader.
Jennifer Burk, a 12-year resident of Macon and veteran of The Telegraph, is the newsroom leader.

This week, I’ve read some things on Facebook with which I don’t agree.

No surprise there.

But the things I’m talking about here have to do with The Telegraph.

As you may know, I’m the editor of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, and I’m helping out at The Telegraph following news of Sherrie Marshall’s retirement.

Sherrie was The Telegraph’s executive editor for 17 years. She’s my mentor and my friend. No question her departure is a loss for The Telegraph. And we’ve recently said goodbye to some other respected editors, and this hurts, too.

But I disagree that these losses signal the “destruction” of The Telegraph, as I read Tuesday morning on Facebook, just as I disagree that McClatchy, The Telegraph’s parent company, doesn’t care about “true journalism” or “local relationships” or “local news.”

At The Telegraph and the Ledger-Enquirer and throughout McClatchy, we care deeply about producing journalism that is essential to our local communities.

For example, Wayne Crenshaw’s story about Dr. Vernard Hodges, who grew up dirt poor in Fort Valley and flunked ninth grade before becoming a millionaire, mesmerized readers and attracted an online audience of more than 80,000.

Earlier this month, Stanley Dunlap broke the news that Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms was being investigated by the state amid accusations that he influenced the awarding of a quarter-million-dollar contract to a company.

And when Kroger announced it was closing its Pio Nono Avenue store, growth reporter Linda Morris asked developers whether the store would be torn down, repurposed or just left vacant — an intensely local question apparently shared by thousands of readers.

We know you want more journalism like this, and we want to bring it to you. So we’re making some changes aimed at giving our journalists in Macon more time to focus on — you got it — journalism in Macon.

This starts with the realization that our reporters and visual journalists are our most valuable resources. We have a talented, veteran team in Macon featuring familiar faces such as Joe Kovac, Liz Fabian and Beau Cabell.

The newsroom leader in Macon will be Jennifer Burk, a 12-year resident of Macon and veteran of The Telegraph, not counting a summer internship as a University of Georgia student.

As a reporter, she’s covered higher education, Bibb County government and Houston County, and has led reporters as an editor before moving to digital production and audience engagement.

Burk, 34, knows what matters to readers in the Macon area, how to cover those stories, and how to reach and engage a digital audience.

It’s no secret that The Telegraph is in the McClatchy family of newspapers, and some people say this makes us less local.

That’s simply not true. The support we get from our parent company allows us to worry less about technical and production issues and more about bringing you great local content.

Nobody knows better what stories we should be covering than our staff in Macon, and they have the autonomy to do that.

Earlier this week, The Telegraph joined other newsrooms in McClatchy’s East Region to begin streamlining and sharing tasks associated with audience engagement, print production and video production, all of which will free up local staff to focus on local content.

Also, Kevin Hall, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter from McClatchy’s Washington Bureau, will be working with the Telegraph and other newsrooms in its region to identify and pursue investigative projects.

Another thing people are saying is that nobody’s reading The Telegraph. Again, that’s not true.

More people than ever are reading us. In an average month, 1.4 million people – and 284,000 in Middle Georgia – read 6.5 million pages of content on The Telegraph’s website, macon.com.

We are changing the way we deliver the news to you, because you’re changing the way you get and consume your news, which changes the way we make the money we need to stay in business and keep giving you the news.

Anyway, I disagree with some of the things I read on Facebook.

But I hear you. You want us to be essential to our local community, and we can certainly do a better job on a daily basis of making that happen.

You know that. We know that. We’re taking steps to do it.

Got ideas, questions or suggestions about how The Telegraph can be more essential to Macon and the other communities it serves? Reach out to Dimon Kendrick-Holmes at dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com or Jennifer Burk at jburk@macon.com.