Thursday, October 14, 2010

Whither Associated Press

Every weekday at 3 p.m. the brain trust of the Post Register’s newsroom gathers around a desk and collectively decides what stories will appear on the next day’s front page.

The process usually involves a dart board and/or dice. Nah, just kidding.

In truth, we consider a number of factors when deciding what to put out front. First, there’s always a local story and photo package planned in advance. Barring any breaking news, that becomes the centerpiece of the front page. There’s usually a second local story and photo package planned for our West section front.

Almost always we have two or three more local stories in consideration for the front page and a similar number for the West section front. An editor also prepares a review of the day’s selection of stories from the Associated Press.

We are sometimes criticized for our selection, particularly when there has been a significant national or world story that doesn’t make the front page. Here’s how we approach the decision.

Remember that our presses start every morning at 12:30 for a newspaper that will be delivered to your home at around 7 a.m. The first papers off the press head to Salmon and Challis and the last ones are delivered to Idaho Falls. Since there’s a time lag, we often won’t put a breaking national or world story on A1 because that news will likely have changed by morning.

We also assume that if there’s a big story that has been all over TV, radio and the Internet during the day, most of our readers will be very much aware of it. Local newspapers are better than any other media at in-depth local news and providing context and perspective on national and world news. Other media are better at national and world breaking news -- an obvious example being the Chile mine rescue. The savvy news consumer will selectively use all media.

So, sometimes a big story gets inside play in the Post Register if we don’t think we have any significant to add to the story. That’s when we’ll get a few calls from people asking what we were thinking.

Some stories are so big that we put them on the front page anyway -- national elections, for example. As sources for news beyond eastern Idaho become increasingly ubiquitous, we are printing less information about what’s happening outside our coverage area.

Indeed, we have frequent discussions about whether there will come a time when we will no longer print any national and world news provided by the Associated Press. At least one daily newspaper, the 14,000-circulation Chronicle in Centralia, Washington -- has taken this step.

No, this isn’t an announcement. Not yet, anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Roger, you are onto something here. You're an insightful guy about what's going on. I've read your posts on journalism. Very good. There is integrity in your process and story selection. Much better than Alan Mutter, who sends me a Feedburner reminder every few days. He's not bad either but you offer solutions.