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You're right that we're much more focused on local news than days gone by when the front page was dominated by harder-edged wire news. Some of the local news is at times softer than a story out of Darfur or Detroit. However, we recognize that most people have many other alternatives for getting national and international news. Our strength is reporting on the Crossroads region. We also look for ways to bring the world home by finding local connections to larger stories and by searching for wire news that relates to our region.
If you look at a newspaper from 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, chances are you'll see a front page filled with stories from elsewhere. We don't think that works in the digital age. We try to smartly package that wire coverage on inside pages.
Thanks for the feedback.
I fondly remember the days when the front page was for real news. Fluff pieces -- cute toddlers on skate boards, favorite cafes, etc. -- were inside.
Thank you for your answer, Chris. I trust you will be filling us in through your blog, or articles in the VicAd concerning some of those results, as you have started to with the TV guide conversation. Sorry, but I'm a real detail and statistics freak. It wasn't an attack, I promise you.
Sorry. Not trying to be evasive. The random survey was conducted by telephone of 700 adults in our nine-county region. Belden & Associates, a national research firm, handled it last summer. The results fill a large three-ring binder, so I can't quickly condense them all here. A lot of the information is a demographic breakdown of our readers and their interests matched against the content of the Advocate.
Chris - I well remember that "background" that you referred me to, but it still doesn't answer my question- when, where, how, was this "scientific survey" conducted? These are questions every journalist should answer, right? What were other findings that were not covered in that old blog? I may be the only one who cares about the specifics anyway, and I don't aim to make a pest of myself, but is there a way I can obtain the specific answers here?
I forgot to mention I appreciate the Town Talk example. I asked Mr. Roberts about this column, which he said ended sometime in the 1970s and contained lots of names of local people. We spread a lot of this content around in what we now call community news in the features sections.
However, your suggestion made me think that we ought to bring back some version of Town Talk on Page 2 and spotlight one or two community tidbits each day. We'll look more into this idea. Thanks.
Vince Reedy, a longtime Advocate managing editor, still writes weekly for us in the Your Life section. I had to ask John Roberts, longtime publisher, about Lyons and Witte. Mr. Roberts tells me Lyons was our longtime sports editor. I hope you'll enjoy the columns by our new sports editor, Pat Butler, who brings with him impressive credentials earned over almost three decades of newspaper work. Witte worked on our copy desk and wrote an occasional column, I'm told. We have quite a few staff members who write columns now, including Jim Bishop, Gabe Semenza, Aprill Brandon, CJ Castillo and Tim Delaney.
We also have placed a heavy emphasis on encouraging readers to write guest columns. We recognize our community is full of talented people who can offer views unique to South Texas.
I like how you characterized the feeling of days gone by that you believe what you read in the Advocate. I think a lot of people had that sense about any newspaper they read years ago. My contention is that newspapers haven't become less worthy of belief, but that society has changed dramatically in the past four decades or so. Rightly or wrongly, we're so much more suspicious of all of our institutions than we used to be. And the newspaper certainly falls into the category of an institution.
My working theory, which I haven't researched to fully stand by, is that Watergate changed how we view our institutions. When we stopped trusting the presidency, we started questioning everything. I certainly support people asking questions, so I can't say this is a bad thing.
In addition, we have so many other sources of information available to us. You don't have to accept one news source as gospel.
I remember well the number of young friends of mind that had paper routes (for the VA) and made money and learned how to be responsible individuals at such an early age. The VA had well respected men of the community who wrote columns for years, i.e. Vince Reedy, Johnny Lyons, Pat Witte. The small Town Talk column was short and was popular. The good coverage of local sports, our schools, little league baseball (with a lot less teams/age groups). No articles on some of today's lifestyles that back thirty years or so ago would have Aprill on the street looking for a new profession. And the belief that if you read it in the VA, you can believe it.
We work with both hospitals to provide the newspapers at a deep discount. I don't know the particulars of the deal, but we should extend our thanks to Citizens and DeTar, too, for making this possible. I'm glad you enjoyed the service while you were there.
We conducted a scientific survey of our readers last year to analyze how we're serving them and how we can improve. I blogged about this a while ago. For background, please click here.
I'll write more as we go this year about changes we plan based on those results. One of those you've seen already is a smaller TV book, based on the research that showed a dwindling number of people were using this service. Our biggest focus is on increasing local news in a variety of ways. Local news remains, by far and away, the No. 1 reason people get the Advocate.
Your grandfather sounds like a man I'd like to meet. I recall my parents reading both the morning Topeka Capital and the evening Topeka Journal. By age 10, I was racing up our long driveway to get the evening Journal after school, even though it was pretty thin and contained mainly features. By the time I had my first full-time job, the Topeka Capital-Journal had combined, but I was thrilled to be there. People like your grandfather and my parents had a deep desire to be connected to their community and world. As long as newspapers and their Web sites meet that need, we'll be fine.
Thanks for sharing.
My earliest memories of a hometown paper, is sitting on the floor in front of the kerosene stove of my grandfather's house reading the comics. My grandfather was reading the paper out loud, which was the way he read everything. He listened to the news on the radio early each morning getting the farm report and every evening getting the national news. The newspaper was his enjoyment, he would read almost the entire newspaper. On Sundays, he would met with other local farmers in the kitchen to discuss the news and farming.The newspaper motived my desire to read and learn. I wanted to know more about what I read. I wanted to understand political cartoons and more. I even found old newspapers interesting, looking at old ads of products of years gone by. Newspapers are often the primary or only source of local recorded history.
Chris - what is this "recent readership survey" of which you speak? This is the second time I have seen you make reference to it, but I don't have a clue what you are talking about. Can you enlighten me?