What information do you expect from us?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 8, 2007

Why do you read a local newspaper? Or better yet, why do you not read one?

In the early 20th century, the daily newspaper was the information staple in nearly every household. Families subscribed each and every day to find out what was going on in their neighborhood, their town, their country and their world.

Radio altered that a little. TV changed the world. The Internet was another seismic shift of the information dissemination landscape.

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All the while, the daily newspaper keeps chugging along.

Make no mistake about it, the newspaper is still the best solution for delivering advertising messages and information of interest.

The real challenge for newspapers is to find a way to evolve and adapt in an ever-changing media landscape. The industry must come to terms with that fact. Newspapers companies, first and foremost, are professional information gatherers and distributors. The key is to realize that this may not be on the printed page. We must use every medium needed — including the Internet, video, phone alerts, podcasts and other options — to serve our communities by getting information to readers faster and more accurate than anyone else.

So the next logical question is this: What information do you expect a community paper like The Ironton Tribune to include?

What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? This newspaper’s leadership team is in the process of evaluating how it uses its resources and what our readers would like to see is important to do that.

Should we include more human-interest news? Would you like to see more state news? Is it national and world news that piques your interest? Is sports coverage something that deserves more space? Or maybe it is something else.

In fact, I need your help on determining how much you use a few features that have been a part of the paper for years, but that may be part of the problem rather than the solution.

Traditionally, newspapers have spent lots of space and money on stock market listings, TV data and weather charts. We are no different and still include all these in the paper.

I am not sure we should keep doing it.

My philosophy has always been to focus on what we can do best — cover local news — and provide avenues toward getting the information that maybe we cannot focus on.

I feel that is the problem with those three things mentioned.

Does anyone still use the TV grids each day? Could they live without them?

Are our stocks, which are more than a day old when published, vital to our readers? Wouldn’t our Web site provide this information to most of those same readers just as well?

Is The Ironton Tribune really where you turn for your weather forecast? Would a sentence or two keep you from getting rained on?

I believe that all three of these things could be eliminated — or reduced — to allow these resources to be used in other ways. Would readers rather have stocks, weather and TV grids or another reporter to write more local stories?

We decided several years ago that we cannot be all thing to all people and we will never be able to make everyone happy all the time. Our vision is to cover Lawrence County better than anyone.

I think we do that. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still plenty of room for improvement and room for our readers to have a voice.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.