Answering readers' questions

Questions come as a singular exchange.


An e-mail, a phone call, a letter, in person.

And they are most often answered the same way. And with the same medium.

The advantages: personal service and human interaction.

The disadvantage: Others might have the same question or would want to know the answer.

One self-described avid reader of the newspaper asked columnist Bill Kirby the following question:

“Can someone not put national news on the front page anymore or what?”

Part of Bill’s response is worth sharing.

He wrote:

“In the old days, newspapers were the main source of all news, particularly national and international.”

One only has to look back at any random day’s paper from the 1950s to appreciate part of what Bill was talking about.

The old Augusta Herald from Groundhog Day in 1955. Of the 18 stories or briefs that were featured on the front page of that edition, only one was about Augusta.

The lead story across the top with big, black headline in all capital letters: IKE FIRMS FORMOSA DEFENSE. It was about President Eisenhower’s vow not to let Taiwan fall to communism.

Over the past 25 years, I have worked for a newspaper that rarely put a local story on the front page (unless it was deemed of national importance) for the B-section was for local stories. And I worked for a paper that ran nothing but locally generated stories (we had turned off our wire service).

Bill told her that we play up local news more now than when he was a young reporter or when I was the news editor at The Augusta Chronicle.

One of my main jobs as news editor was to choose those front-page stories each day.

I used to strive for a good mix among international, national, state and local stories – with the occasional health or human interest story earning its place in the daily lineup.

I would argue with people who challenged my choices of international conflict over local bylines. My reasoning: Local is not where the writers sat when they wrote the story; local is what affects the reader’s life.

And although I still believe that, the world had changed a lot since the late 1990s.

Bill explained to the avid reader about “the proliferation of 24-hour TV news channels and the Internet.”

He then told her that what newspapers still do well is “cover local stuff.”

The city government. The upcoming premiere of the James Brown biopic. The saga at the local animal shelter.

“Because that’s still one of the main things newspapers can do – offer local information and content to customers that they can’t get elsewhere,” Bill told her.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.



Fri, 01/19/2018 - 21:23

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