Sometimes it goes beyond the point of simple, head-scratching exasperation and this morning was one of them. While veteran reporter Duncan Adams' excellent piece on the effects of rising electricity rates on business graced the front page of The Roanoke Times, its Extra (features) section hovered in its normal place in Irrelevant Land. Thirty minutes of a reporter's time would have sent Extra into the Land of Substance, so I'm wondering who's in charge ... if anybody is.
The top story in Extra was made for The Times' editorial goal of appealing primarily to young mothers: a story about how "materinity wards have come a long way in 50 years with hospitals adding more frills for new moms," titled "Oh, baby." The story is based in Minnesota. We're in Virginia. We have hospitals here and some of them are doing innovative things in maternity care. That is not mentioned.
A good editor would have taken this McClatchy-Tribune wire piece and written across the top: "What are Carilion, HCA and Centra doing in this area?" and placed it in a reporter's in-box. That reporter would have called PR managers Eric Earnhart at Carilion (540-224-4966), Susan Brandt at Centra (434-200-4731) and Nancy May at HCA Lewis-Gale (540-776-4754) and asked the simple question: "What are you doing in maternity care that is innovative?" The reporter would have been flooded with information that is relevant to the readers of The Times.
News reporters at The Times are in a constant state of frustration because of a small local news hole (much like the TV reporters, who stay on the verge of tears because of time constraints) when sports and Extra sections are given much more than they can honestly use on a daily basis. This morning's front is a perfect example of space that was simply wasted (the bottom story on the Extra front this a.m. has an Orlando dateline and is about a woman finding her mother ... hardly unusual and certainly not something that would trump a good local story).
This one, I'm afraid, is either about laziness or about cluelessness. Neither fits well into grandma's brag book and what we're left with is yet another reason we are fleeing daily newspapers.