Column: Emphasis on local news is by design
The Friday Catchall, which runs in this space normally, is taking a day off. Instead, I will relate to you a discussion I have been having over the past three weeks or so - explaining The Daily Courier's stance on politics to readers through emails, specifically how we treated the national conventions and some political cartoons.
Following is an email from one of those readers that is similar to the others:
"I have always admired the way the Courier concentrates on local news and leaves the national stuff to the papers with larger circulation. I have also admired the way the Courier is fairly even-handed politically, giving space to both liberal and conservative syndicated columnists and even 'Specials to the Courier.' I feel these policies serve our community well.
"Therefore, I was more than a little surprised to see the political cartoons on both Thursday and Friday of this week (Aug. 30-31). Unless Friday's was a jab at the general population's lack of understanding about the importance of this election, I thought it was rather tasteless and discriminatory.
"I was also surprised to find no coverage whatsoever of the RNC until today (Friday) when Romney's acceptance of the nomination was buried on page EIGHT! In spite of the fact that you cover local and regional news in more depth, this seemed important enough to at least deserve a mention on the front page.
"If it is becoming a matter of the Courier's joining the typical left-leaning media, I am very disappointed. You are charged with a great responsibility - serving the community in which you are the ONLY newspaper. Maintaining a centrist position seems to me to be important. ... I will be watching to see how you handle the happenings at the DNC!"
In response, I wrote:
"First, thank you for your comments. I also liked that you keyed in on our mission: LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL. Knowing that people read many other publications, in print or online, and that most will inform themselves with TV and other sources as well, I consider the Courier a niche publication - news that you can get nowhere else. And, that is LOCAL news.
"Coincidence, I just got off the phone with a man who accused me of being liberal and hating Republicans (I am a conservative). He based his opinion on the last two days of opinion page cartoons, which were not 'favorable' toward the GOP. I asked if he was a subscriber; no, he said, he bought only the past two days' papers. I will say the same to you as I said to him: The GOP was in the news this week because of its convention; over time, I believe one would see that the cartoons do not favor one side or the other. That is the nature of the opinion page; that is why we have Tom Cantlon's column (Wednesdays), which is progressive/liberal, and other columnists who are on the 'right' side other times of the week.
"However, your comments also remind me of a complaint I got four years ago. A man complained that the Obama acceptance was on page 8A and the McCain acceptance was on page 5A later. No slight intended - both were merely inside. And, today, Mitt's article was inside but teased on page 1A in the bottom left corner.
"Since we focus on local news, we often do not have room for a lot of nation or world news. But, we made sure we put the biggest highlight of the week - his acceptance of the nomination - in Friday's paper. Those who cared more about the convention likely saw it on TV. Do AP (nation or world) events make 1A? Sure, but mostly when they are monumental stories, such as war or terror, that everyone cares about; even then, it has to be coverage that will not be stale by the time it comes out. It is not a clear science, newspaper decisions, and we break the pattern from time to time (nothing is black and white). So, I will keep your comments in mind as we move forward."
And, how did we treat the Dems the next week? Obama's acceptance was inside, on page 11A and teased on 1A - just like the GOP.
This week we observed the 11th anniversary of 9/11 on the top of 1A. That is the sort of monumental news I was referring to, just like I imagine where we will play the results from the Nov. 6 election.
The difference is one is a convention - you knew who would be the nominee. On Nov. 7, the morning after the General Election, we all will want to see who won.