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As I reviewed Wednesday's newspaper, I thought about a phone conversation I had the day before with a longtime Victoria reader.


The edition is packed with news from front to back. Here are just a few of the highlights:

As I looked at all of this news I wondered how we had broken our connection with this longtime reader, who told me she didn't like the Advocate's redesign of 2006, which occurred about six months before I arrived. In her mind, the newspaper's front page became filled with too much fluff after that redesign.

I looked on Google's archives at the same date in 2005. You can do that as well by clicking here. I have no vested interest in the redesign, but clearly we have more work to do in terms of emphasizing the hard news we continue to cover far better than anyone else in the Crossroads region. That edition from four years ago contained no more hard news than today's.

The biggest shift we have made in recent years is in emphasizing local news on the front page at the expense of wire news from elsewhere. We know readers can get news about Darfur or Detroit from a variety of other sources. We also know our strength is reporting on the Crossroads region.

At the same time we want to please our longtime readers, we also are trying to build a new audience. That means we sometimes do place feature stories on the front page if we think they will reach new readers. The Monday edition, for example, is a likely candidate for softer news because Sundays can be pretty quiet around the Crossroads region. That's why you might see a fun feature about a toddler riding a skateboard on the front page.

Even so, we want hard news on the front page as much as anyone. We get an adrenaline rush from going after the big story. But even a big story in Victoria or Edna or Port Lavaca usually doesn't make the national radar.

To this reader, wire news should fill the front page when local news doesn't measure up. She said she was so fed up she had quit reading. I pointed out she wouldn't know what was happening in her hometown and asked what would happen to our community and society if no one reported the news. If people don't know about city elections and new school boundaries (a story coming Saturday), how exactly does democracy work?

I try to talk with every reader who calls our customer service department and reports a concern about the Advocate's news content. Our readers educate me daily about what they like and don't like. I hope in some small way I also let them know we're listening and trying to represent their interests.