The beginning of a new year is often a time for personal reflection. It can also be a time for professional reflection and a time to make some changes for the better.
Newsroom leaders this month have been discussing how we do business, and how we ought to do business in the future.
Part of this exercise is routine. We talk each year about the issues we know we’ll need to cover. In 2012, that will include consolidation (will it win approval?), encroachment (will sufficient funding mean it will cease to be an issue?), SPLOST initiatives and K-12 overhauls (think Bibb County).
Beyond the routine and expected, though, we aim for an initiative that requires us to dig deeper, whether an investigative/watchdog project or a public service project, an area of coverage that we believe can make a difference if we spotlight the issue and possible solutions.
Increasingly, we talk about how our routine work as well as our special efforts are affected by the multiple platforms on which we deliver what we produce.
At macon.com, for instance, we need to provide a lot of breaking news and updates, as well as unique content from features to photo galleries, if we want to keep people coming to the site throughout the day. People who frequent news websites want to see fresh content when they drop in.
We also need to be mindful of the growing number of people who use their cell phones and tablets to get news and updates. That number is rapidly increasing, and we want that experience to be excellent for this growing audience.
Each weekday morning reporter Liz Fabian delivers news to radio listeners and TV viewers via our partnership with Fox/ABC and WMAC 940 radio. The Telegraph’s broadcast efforts will take on a new dimension later this year when we partner with Georgia Public Radio as part of a news collaborative with Mercer University (more on that in a future column). We are well into planning for improvement to our digital platforms.
What, then, of our print product -- the newspaper that has served this community for 185 years? Websites work on a 24/7 cycle. If you are a regular web user, and you’ve already read that the hospital CEO is retiring, what do you expect to see on that topic in your newspaper the next day?
As we continue our newsroom discussions, we should be mindful that our opinions, while informed by years of collective newsgathering experience, need also to reflect what we hear from readers. Too often, we talk to the same people -- ourselves or colleagues in the same business -- about what should be in the newspaper, and we forget to ask the reader.
So, today I’m asking you, the readers, to let us hear your ideas. If you work in a business that is evolving because of technology, as is the case in the media industry, or that is dealing with the effects of an economy recovering in fits and starts, as is also the case with the media business, let those factors guide your feedback.
Businesses are not adding many workers; cost containment, if not cost-cutting, is still a reality in many workplaces. Last week’s Middle Georgia economic outlook luncheon vividly drove home that point.
That doesn’t mean businesses get a pass on continually trying to improve what they do. But without extra resources -- whether people or money or research -- businesses have to be strategic, resourceful, creative and innovative.
That is why newsroom managers are spending a lot of time in January talking about what we do, and why we would welcome reader input.
What content changes would make your newspaper reading experience more rewarding? What is your appetite for investigative and watchdog reporting? How about good-news stories, reader submitted photos or other content? Do we have the balance of business, feature and sports content?
How do you define local news? Is it really about geography -- what happens in your city or county -- or is it about broader interests? If you live in Bibb or Houston or Monroe counties, what is your interest in news from neighboring counties or Atlanta?
I look forward to hearing from you. Send me an e-mail or call if you prefer. I’d also like to hear from readers who would agree to provide occasional feedback or serve as a sounding board on issues we confront in the newsroom. This feedback would be solicited and returned via e-mail, which should mean it wouldn’t consume a lot of a reader’s time. If you would be willing to serve in such a role, please e-mail me with your name, phone number and e-mail address. As always, thank you for reading The Telegraph in print, online or on your mobile device.
Sherrie Marshall is The Telegraph’s executive editor. She can be reached at (478) 744-4340 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.