If it seems like we’re sometimes a little late with news coverage or with photo collages of special events, well, it seems like that to us too. If it seems like there are some things missing you’d like to see restored, we would not disagree. If it seems like we are not getting to as many events and meetings lately, your powers of observation are keen.
It’s not deliberate, and I don’t mean to keep harping on the same note until it becomes tiresome. We are operating with a depleted full-time staff, and trying to rectify that so we can restore some of the things you miss. Meanwhile, our prolific freelancers and other contributors are doing a terrific job of keeping us supplied with great material for the newspaper and our special publications. They care about doing quality work, and it shows.
We also rely on a lot of help and community energy — including yours — to fill up the paper. Periodically I like to remind readers, advertisers and contributors that they can be part of providing the content we need every week. Here’s a refresher course on how you can assist:
- Tell us stuff. Don’t assume we know everything that’s going on. We keep an eye on the community, but we also rely heavily on people letting us know what’s happening. Don’t be shy — we’re looking for ways to say “yes” to submissions that would be of interest and value to our readers. We won’t always respond positively or immediately, but we appreciate the effort. Emails and phone calls usually work, but sometimes I get behind so please be patient.
- Get information to us as far in advance of your intended publication dates as possible, so we have time to incorporate it into our planning. It’s frustrating to receive information on a Monday or, worse, on a Tuesday and not be able to guarantee it will make it into the newspaper.
- Make the information as complete as possible, with contact numbers for additional information if needed.
- It’s OK to send photographs, preferably attached as PDFs, with a high enough resolution to reproduce well in the newspaper. Smaller versions of photos usually don’t work for us.
- We like press releases, but we don’t print them verbatim. They are edited, sometimes quite a bit, to be efficient with our available space — which is at a premium.
- Deadlines matter! Our lives revolve around them. For us to get everything to the printer on Tuesday afternoon, we start our planning and collecting materials for the next week (and beyond) on Wednesday after the paper comes out. We can sometimes be flexible with ads and content on Monday, but no guarantees. By Tuesday, we have almost no flexibility left.
Often these days we can’t fit all the material we have into the paper, which requires us to “triage” what we have — resulting in some of those delayed appearances that I mentioned above. You could reasonably ask, why did we devote so much space to one thing and not another? There are a lot of reasons — objective, subjective, but mainly practical — that go into how those things are decided. News, arts, enterprise feature stories, sports, opinion and community information all have their place, and we try to allot it in the most effective way.
Some people still are confused about distinguishing between editorial content and advertising. Editorial content we print for free. Advertising content is paid for. Although similar information may end up in both places (we write about The Merc’s plays, and they advertise them), there is no quid pro quo. We don’t print your news just because you advertise, and we don’t discriminate against your news if you don’t advertise. They are separate decisions.
The opinion page is just that. This particular space represents my views. Sometimes I speak on behalf of the paper, sometimes I just ramble about the topic that’s top of mind this week. Letters to the Editor are reviewed for appropriateness and sometimes edited as necessary. Most (but not all) local letters make it into the paper — we may have concerns about their provenance, accuracy or community relevance. My Turn columns are locally authored, and we encourage them. Other columns on the page come from a variety of sources including longtime contributor Solveig Torvik.
Reach me at email@example.com; email firstname.lastname@example.org about ad space; email email@example.com for help with classified ads. Stay in touch.