Reader Roy, this one’s for you.
Roy likely is shaking his head, having seen today’s front page. Smack in the middle of it is an essay about Seattle Seahawks fans written by our top investigative reporter.
Have we abandoned our hard news mission in favor of fluff? Roy asked essentially that a week ago.
“Come on, Guys,” he wrote me.
“Yesterday, Monday, 7-27, you had an article above the fold on the front page about a small farm on the Key Peninsula ... today it was about the libraries closing for two weeks. This is not front page news ... it's something that should be relegated to another section of the paper. At least the library story served a community service/purpose ... the farm piece served nothing ... You are better ... I've seen it”
Here’s what I wrote back to Roy. It explains, in part, how we arrived at today’s centerpiece story.
“I grant you those weren't hard breaking news stories. I'd offer a couple of explanations.
“First, those stories actually were quite popular with readers. Having some ‘good news’ or lighter human features mixed in with the serious stuff is OK in our books, and we hear support for that all the time from readers.
“Second, we often find ourselves in this place during mid-summer, when a lot of government agencies are on break. Those truly were slow news days.
“Trust me, we're working on some bigger, harder hitting pieces, as well. We take that mission very seriously.”
Today’s Seahawks story came out of a conversation among editors weeks ago.
With no pressing local news stories in the cue for this date, we looked to the calendar and noticed that the Seahawks’ first pre-season game is at home this Friday. That’s not hard news, but it’s what everyone will be talking about. No single topic gets more readership for us than the Seahawks.
Our sports writers will cover the pre-season opener as a news story, but we decided to try something fun today for fans. Following back-to-back Super Bowl runs, Seahawks fans for the first time are cheering for a wildly successful team. Isn’t it funny how that’s created a rub with football fans elsewhere?
Investigative writer Sean Robinson jumped at the challenge of writing in a wholly different genre. Artist Jessica Randklev stepped up with an original piece of art.
So we took a chance on this one, Roy. (The page also contains important news, both local and national, deserving of the Sunday cover.) We look forward to hearing your reaction.
WE SHOULD HAVE EXPLAINED
A handful of readers called Friday unhappy to find no substantial coverage of the Republican presidential debate in the morning’s paper.
Instead, we ran a photograph taken early in the debate and suggested readers go to our website for complete coverage.
That left print readers justifiably wanting Friday morning, particularly those who don’t use the Internet.
Here’s what happened.
The debate ended after our news deadlines, and we couldn’t get a story in time to make Friday’s paper. Our newspaper deadlines have moved earlier in recent months, and we are able to extend them only on rare occasions (like for Tuesday night’s local elections).
Anticipating the deadline pinch, we focused instead on giving readers an advance story in Thursday’s paper that could serve as a guide to watching the debate that night. We ran a candidate- by-candidate synopsis and told readers when and where the debate was televised.
On Friday, we ran the photo and reference to remind readers they could go online for in-depth debate coverage we updated through the night.
That’s helpful for most readers, because most readers use the Internet. (The Pew Research Center reported last month that only 15 percent of U.S. adults don’t use the Internet.)
But that doesn’t make you feel any better if you’re one of the remaining print-only readers just trying to get your news.
What we didn’t tell readers Friday was that deadlines prevented us from giving them more, leaving the impression we chose to skip print debate coverage altogether. We also neglected to tell them they’d get more debate coverage in Saturday’s paper.
In addition to deadline challenges, changing reader habits are changing the flow of news.
We rarely break news in the newspaper any more because most readers already have seen it online or on TV. Increasingly, we use the newspaper for explaining events in advance and analyzing the news afterward.
In the future, we’ll try to do a better job of sharing coverage plans with our readers.
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434