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Explaining to readers why there isn't anything in their paper about some events

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mr. X, Dec 5, 2008.

  1. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    I'm in the midst of an e-mail exchange with the editor of the weekly I write for about how to handle complaints from the public over the lack of coverage of some sporting events in this week's edition.

    A late design change cut resulted in a slightly more than one-third reduction in the space for sports. I had essentially written the entire roundup when I learned of the change. (I was at the high school doing reporting and writing when she sent me the e-mail.)

    My suggestion was to write people complaining, "I had written about those sports for Thursday's paper, but a late design change reduced the amount of space for sports. I will try my best to have something about those sports in the next edition."

    I received a long response from the editor, which included the following:

    "As I'm sure you know after working in the news industry and at this paper for several years, there is never a guarantee that anything is going to run in the paper. You can tell them that and tell them that we have several stories every week and we do the best we can with the space that we have."

    [Later]

    "As I'm sure you also know, parents are just looking out for their kids and were looking forward to having their kids name in the paper. Fielding these types of calls and e-mails is really just territory that comes with the job. You don't have to and really should not promise them anything. But I'm positive that you are experienced and intelligent enough to know how to handle this."

    Basically, I don't want to be the one blamed for the lack of coverage. I did write about the events, but because of the late design change, there was not room for that part of the roundup. (The paper's policy is to cut from the bottom on the roundup and use what was not run the following week.)

    I think you might score a point or so with the public if you explain why something was not covered. Is there something wrong with telling a reader, "I will try my best to have something about those sports in the next edition?" To me, that is not a promise of coverage, just that I will make my best effort to get those sports covered.

    I soon will write an e-mail to the editor, seeking her approval for a phrase to deal with angry readers and would be appreciative for suggestions on what I should write, whether what I initially wrote was appropriate and what I should write the editor.
     
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Your editor is right. Never promise something will be in the paper. Never say you'll do your best to get something specific in the paper (because the readers will take it as a promise).

    You never know what will happen. I can remember having stories dummied as centerpieces at 8 p.m. and telling someone it would run because the family wanted to make sure to get copies and because of a photo ID questions, it was yanked.

    Never promise.

    I would tell the callers you planned it for last week's paper but a late change resulted in some unfortunate cutting and the paper's goal is to cover every sport. You'll hope to have a more complete package next week, etc.
     
  3. expendable

    expendable Well-Known Member

    Re: Explaining to readers why there isn't anything in their paper about some eve

    That late design change just cost three kids college scholarships.




    I understand and feel your pain, but your editor is 100 percent right on this.
     
  4. X,

    Save what didn't run as fodder for future notes and advance material, but I would caution against running week-old news. Do you really want to push out next week's news for week-old stuff? Because your space problems aren't likely to improve.

    Your editor and Ace are on the mark about promises. Don't promise something will run. If a reader wants to know why it's not in, you can give a general response that editors select from a wide range of events to fit in a finite amount of space, and not everything will run. If it's something you can use later, do so, maybe in another format.
     
  5. fossywriter8

    fossywriter8 Active Member

    What caused the late design change? An ad? A switch from broadsheet to tab, or vice versa? A picture being blown up?
     
  6. JR

    JR Active Member

    Your editor is absolutely right.

    Never promise anything you can't deliver or more importantly, have the authority to deliver.
     
  7. CM Punk

    CM Punk Guest

    Re: Explaining to readers why there isn't anything in their paper about some eve

    Tell 'em "tough shit."
     
  8. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    Don't use the term "I" - it's not a you thing. It's a "we" thing. And as the threads on this website attest, you can't guarantee anything to anyone in this business right now.
     
  9. Clerk Typist

    Clerk Typist Guest

    It doesn't appear that you promised anything, just explained that your space was cut. Sounds like your editor doesn't want people to know that. God forbid we tell the truth about ourselves.
     
  10. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    How does this sound for an explanation, "I had written about those sports for Thursday's paper, but a late design change reduced the amount of space for sports."

    That way people will know that I tried to get something about the teams they are interested in into the paper. It also removes any possibility that essentially anyone would think I was making a promise about future coverage, even though I do not believe that writing, " I will try my best to have something about those sports in the next edition," constitutes a promise about coverage, just a pledge to make my best effort.

    To Lone Star Scribe who said, "your space problems aren't likely to improve," the only thing consist about the space for sports is its inconsistency.

    For many weeks I was told to write 1,800 words and about 1,200 would be run. Two issues ago about 2,500 words were run and in the issue before this week's about 3,150. This week it was about 1,130.
     
  11. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    How about what your editor said?
     
  12. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    She said a lot. What do you specifically mean?
     
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