The end of summer signaled a typical slowdown in email traffic from readers. Still had a few in August. Here goes.
I got this one from a Mebane reader who first called to question me about the front page placement of our first-day Republican Convention story last week. We had a great discussion over the telephone about stories, newspapers and the need for national news in a community. Here’s what he wrote me afterward.
Madison, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the local community. I was disappointed in your coverage on the Republican Convention this morning edition and of all places to put a reference to Obama right in the middle. Your explanation was excellent. As I mentioned I moved from Northern Virginia about 4 years ago to Mebane and have been a customer of yours and enjoy the local news. The issue that I have is a lot of people are ignoring the convention and have no idea what’s going on in Washington DC and how important the decisions made in that arena affects us in Alamance County. I am certainly a two-party person but a lot of people I come in contact are Democrats, because their parents and grandparents were. They apparently have tunnel vision and by incorporating only the local news and ignoring the national news, maybe a disservice to the public. The local public is changing with all the retirees which is good and they are very interested in not only the national but global news as well. My comments only and I have and will continue enjoying your paper.
MY TAKE: The newspaper edition Mr. Born is talking about was published on Aug. 29, which coincided with a centerpiece package on our front page remembering the late Williams High student and football quarterback Harry Cohen, whose stunning death was a year ago that date. Because it was the first convention day we decided to put the story on A1 down the left hand side of the page — removing our normal rail of news blurbs, weather, etc. that usually goes there. So the GOP Convention was on the front page and above the fold.
Mr. Born also questioned a small promo placed in the text of the story letting readers know a related story about the Obama campaign was inside the A section. The latter is pretty standard for a lot of stories we publish. In our business we call them refers or teasers. I’m not sure I think it detracts from the overall story.
I told Mr. Born we would give the GOP coverage bigger play throughout the week, which was our plan all along. In fact, we had it set for big advance play the previous day but Hurricane Isaac scotched those plans.
This week our Democratic Convention coverage will probably just a tad larger because it’s in North Carolina — just a couple of hours away in Charlotte. And because we’re coming off a three-day holiday weekend, there is simply less going on and fewer people at work. We’re short a photographer this week which will also change how things are presented on our front page.
I also told Mr. Born that as the news business changes, we are much more dedicated to coverage of local news, features and events. The national news is available from so many other sources who can devote more newsprint or airtime.
We are trying to use our wire services to bulk up our regional coverage of the Triad and Triangle to augment our local news digest. Hopefully it’ll give readers what they need.
Loving Rip Haywire
Rip Haywire by Graham artist Dan Thompson is one of our more controversial comics. Many of my friends who are artists admire it greatly. Others don’t like it all. They find the serial format old-hat and hard to follow. They also think its subject matter is inappropriate for some younger readers.
So I love it when someone writes in to salute Rip and his creator. Personally, I’m a Rip Haywire fan.
Here’s the note from Jeff Tudor of Graham.
My emails to the editor are usually about more serious subjects, but I have to say how much I enjoy reading Rip Haywire in my Times-News. I was recommending it to a friend in Greensboro, which prompted me to look online for info about the strip. I was surprised to read that the Times-News actually publishes the strip. Keep up the good work!
MY TAKE: I had to correct Jeff on the publication of the strip. While Dan lives in Graham, we don’t publish it here. It’s handled by a syndicated service. But Dan’s a great guy and we relish the opportunity to help out his career.
Phooey to online commenters
I got this note from Bob about our online commenting system — especially a handful of commenters.
Madison: I know all about the First Amendment and everyone having the right to voice their own opinion. But have you ever thought about banning 5-6 people from the comments section of the Letters To The Editor because they do nothing but name call and conduct a pissing contest everyday???
MY TAKE: From a personal standpoint, I would love to. In fact, I stopped reading the online comments a long time ago for exactly the reason Bob points out. I only go there when readers specifically ask me to or to see what someone who works for the Times-News might be saying online.
I had hoped that a year ago when we switched to the Facebook commenting system things might change. As most recall, that system strongly encourages people to put a name with their posts instead of a pseudonym. It has ended most anonymous commenting, but not all.
It’s difficult in this system to ban a user without also having them removed from Facebook so we tread carefully in that area. And we can’t delete comments but can make them so others who are not Facebook friends of the commenter in question can’t see them.
It’s sad that discourse today can’t be conducted in a civil manner or one free of snarky comments.