Monday, July 27, 2009

Why People Don't Read the Paper, Part 3,497

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.


  1. What got me was the "Summer Moments" section on P. A6 today. Two-thirds of the page is a story (OK, mostly a picture) about kids whacking each other with plastic swords? That's news? Oh, for a daily paper with some substance!

    On the plus side, since I can read the RT in 10 minutes, I have more times to read well-written blogs like yours.

  2. Becky: You are a dear. Thank you, but I'm just a hack, writing hack copy. Just ask Carole Tarrant.

  3. I agree. Today's Extra section lacked a local flavor, but I still found the article interesting. And that being said, The ROanoke Times still has more original local news on a day-to-day basis than any news organization in this area.

    As for the Summer Moments series - I liked Dan's criticism of the Extra section. At least it was well rounded and had suggestions for improvement. But Becky, it seems like you're just looking for any excuse to bash the paper. And if you're picking on a once-a-week series that only runs for 2 months over the summer - I'm not sure you're going to get anywhere. Why is it a bad thing to hear from the photographers a little more? We never get to see their work displayed in a larger size, and see what their inspiration was.

  4. It's just I'm old enough to remember how good the RT was a couple of decades ago. I crave actual content again. Words.

    Huge graphics—even photos—don't let me know what is actually happening.

  5. The "kids whacking each other with plastic swords" piece confirmed why we are becoming a nation of over weight slugs. The boys said they sit on the couch all day playing video games and this is what they do at night. The reporter should have written about the 'living in opposite world' view. Children, Outside, Daytime = Healthy
    Slugs sit in front of the TV during the day. I guess it's nothing a little salt can't cure. Oh wait, they get that on their McDonald's french fries.

  6. Dan -- 'Don't worry;..... keep blogging' They think that they can just buy stories from the wires and people will keep reading.... NOT! .... they simply don't get it, and they will die... only I hear the sucking sound of the 'Ghost of the Future.'