Stick to the FAQs
I made a promise to myself that I would use this space at some point to address FAQs I receive from readers. That little voice in my head tells me that that time has come, so here goes.
QUESTION: Why would anyone use three "thats" in a sentence?
ANSWER: That's a great question, one that I will answer by saying that there is nothing wrong with using "that" in newspaper stories. That's that!
Q: Is the Miner a Republican paper?
Q: Is it a Democratic paper?
Q: What about Libertarian?
Q: Green Party?
A: No way. Ralph Nader creeps me out.
Q: Why is the paper so small?
A: The size of the newspaper is determined by the amount of advertisements. Because the economy is tanking, businesses have less money to spend on advertising, so newspapers are forced to limit the size of the paper to stay afloat.
Q: Why do you only report bad news?
A: We don't. The Miner has actually covered more "positive" news pieces than "negative" ones during my time here.
Q: How long have you been at the Miner.
A: Five years on Monday.
Q: Why do you print columns on the Opinion page that I don't agree with?
A: To tell you the truth, I don't agree with many of the things we print on the Opinion page. I purposely look for columns that take a strong stance on issues, especially ones that provoke passionate responses from readers.
Q: Why would you do that?
A: Because I believe it's best to know what the "other" side is thinking. Readers can then formulate their beliefs, or strengthen them, by negating the opposite argument.
A: Well, look at it this way. How could you be a conservative if you didn't know what a radical was? I believe an Opinion page should include ideas from all sides, even wacky ones, so that readers can understand why they feel the way they do about a particular issue.
I must admit, many times I test readers with "crazy" columns to elicit responses. I want them to write and tell our readers WHY that letter or that column was off the mark. Most of the time, intelligent readers take the bait.
Q: But some don't?
A: Yes, that's true. Some don't. They call me up and threaten to cancel their subscription, or they call my boss and tell her that I should be fired, or they send me a letter chastising me for printing such an "offensive" article or cartoon. They want to only read columns that fit their beliefs.
I came from a paper that printed only one side, and I made a promise to myself that if I was ever in charge of an Opinion page, I would include content from every side, no matter how I personally felt.
Q: You no longer print Michael Reagan?
A: That's true. There's a limit to wackiness, and he crossed the line a long time ago. We no longer print Michelle Malkin for the same reason, and Molly Ivins was on her way out before she died.
Q: You almost never print letters from readers criticizing businesses. Why?
A: Because we can't tell if their complaint is a valid criticism of a business. One angry letter could do great harm to a business, and it could actually be the letter-writer who was most at fault in the dispute.
I hang on to these letters to see if others come in. If I receive a few complaining about the same thing, I assign a reporter to look into it.
Q: Why does it take so long for the Miner to print stories? I hear stuff on the radio sometimes days before I see it in the paper.
A: That depends. Sometimes, we run out of space and have to move stories to the next day. Other times, we refuse to go to press on a story until we've talked with the necessary sources.
Unfortunately, sources don't always respond in a timely manner. When that happens, we have to determine whether we will wait or not. I will not allow a source to criticize a person or entity without letting said person or entity have a chance to respond. At times, however, we have to break this policy to get the news out.
Q: Are you one of the Good 'Ol Boys?
A: Good lord, I hope not. I go out of my way to remain fair and unbiased, and I expect my staff to do the same. I don't golf. I only belong to one organization in town - because they do great things for this community.
We report injustices when the evidence is there, we routinely print letters from readers who feel they've been wronged, and I've never been ordered from those above me to keep something out of the paper. Well, actually, that last one isn't totally true. I had a column pulled once, but I've forgotten all about that. Really.
Q: If a business buys an ad, do they get a story?
Q: What if they buy a really big ad?
A: No. Advertising and editorial must forever remain separate. If readers lose faith in their paper, if they think that businesses that advertise get special favors, then they will quit reading. If they quit reading, then there is no one to look and respond to the ads. In the end, it hurts all businesses when a paper gives editorial space to advertisers just because they bought an ad.
Q: How do you decide what goes on the front page?
A: A year ago, I would have answered that only the most newsworthy pieces get on the front page. Now, though, we are forced at times to put all of our local content on the front. I have three open spots in my newsroom at present, and two other members of my staff have seen their hours reduced.
Like most businesses during this terrible economy, we have had to cut back to stay in the black. And the last thing we want to do is increase the cost of the paper to our readers. Many have it bad enough right now.
Q: Why do you keep messing around with the comics?
A: We tried to sell space on the Amusements page to advertisers, but no one responded. So, the space was returned to the newsroom. I decided to use it as an opportunity to introduce a few comics to see if we could find a couple that readers liked.
Readers responded very favorably to "State of the Union," so I added it to the Opinion page, where several readers said it should be. Now, I'm asking readers to vote. We've tried out "The Meaning of Lila," "Momma," "The Barn," "Chuckle Bros.," "The Argyle Sweater" "Non Sequitur" and "State of the Union." Please let me know what you think. Send an e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a message at (928) 753-6397, ext. 222. I will take votes for the next two weeks or so.
If you want to see something else, tell me what it is. I might be able to test it for a week or two to see what readers think. It's YOUR Miner and YOUR Amusements page. Please let me know what you want to see on there. The comics on the right have already been voted on, and they appear in the order readers chose. The two under Abby are up for grabs.
Q: Did you fire Nicholas Wilbur?
A: No. Nick left to further his career elsewhere. He is currently creating havoc in Albuquerque, N.M. Hopefully, our paths will cross again.
Q: Sometimes, I don't see events in your paper until after they've happened. Why is that?
A: Many times, we were not told about an event BEFORE it took place. We try very hard to put "advances" into the paper before an event takes place, especially ones we know the general public might want to attend. I would rather see a write-up in the paper on an event that's going to happen than coverage after.
I'm no different than anyone else. It burns my butt to read about an event, with pretty pictures included, AFTER it has already taken place. I'm like, "Wow. I would have liked to go to that." We make it a priority to get information about upcoming events into the paper. Organizers, however, don't always make it their priority to tell us about it.
Q: What can I look forward to in my Miner?
A: We are continuously looking for ways to engage our readers. While we've been concentrating on our online product the last several months, we plan to introduce several features in the print edition in the next few months ... so stay tuned.