From the editor: Today's front-page stories must go beyond important
Several recent letters to the editor have taken The Forum to task for certain stories we've chosen to place on the front page. Two front-page stories especially got some readers riled: One examined the increasing number of fat cats and veterinari...
Several recent letters to the editor have taken The Forum to task for certain stories we've chosen to place on the front page.
Two front-page stories especially got some readers riled:
One examined the increasing number of fat cats and veterinarians' worries about the trend.
Another profiled the life of a champion beaver skinner who honed her skills so she could earn a living while staying home to raise her children.
Admittedly, both stories from our region were not traditional front-page fodder. And that may explain a lot.
See, for years, newspapers always featured the most important stories on the front page, stories editors felt everyone in a free society ought to know.
That didn't mean they were interesting, uplifting or even relevant to how people lived, but they were important.
Most stories focused on politics, the economy and international affairs - all important subjects.
Were papers operating just like that today, typical front pages would carry stories about North Korea's leaders, the Middle East's changing political landscape, warring factions in Kenya and the U.S. home mortgage crisis.
Newspapers could do this - and it can be argued our nation was better for it - because everyone read newspapers, regardless of whether the news spoke to them and their lives or not. Reading the newspaper is what you did.
Newspapers operating that same way today are dying, and dying quickly.
Readers today, most of whom have 24-hour access to news and the World Wide Web at their fingertips, demand information that's not only important, but also interesting, entertaining and, most importantly, relevant.
They tell us first and foremost they value local news, or at least national and international news presented in a way that makes it relevant to their everyday lives.
So, when Pakistan prime minister candidate Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Dec. 27, the next day we ran a large front-page package headlined: "Why her death matters."
We organized the story into smaller, easily readable bits, each looking at how her death may affect our readers in different ways.
One reader was nonplussed:
"The Forum spent more time talking about 'Why her death matters' to us - to our safety, our troops and their families, our economy, and to United States politics - than about how she was assassinated, or what it means for Pakistan."
So what does making relevant to readers the assassination of a foreign political leader have to do with front-page stories on fat cats or a champion beaver skinner?
Ask anyone who struggles with eating too much and not exercising enough, or a mother who wishes she could work from home while raising her kids.
When about 12 editors of different ages and gender sit down each afternoon to decide what news is going where in the paper, we ask ourselves the following two questions, questions we ask reporters to ask themselves when writing:
"Would I read this?" and "Why should I care?"
If it's local, important or entertaining and, most importantly relevant, it has a greater chance of landing on the front page.
Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum. Reach him at (701) 241-5579 From the editor: Today's front-page stories must go beyond important Von Pinnon 20080113