Bret Bevens, PDT Sports Writer
September 7, 2012
PDT General Manager
Little did April Hobbs know it, but this past Wednesday, she became a Portsmouth Daily Times cub reporter.
As we often do, our newsroom posted a preview/tease to Thursday’s story on the gloves coming off in the race for Scioto County Sheriff on our Facebook page. Interestingly enough, Hobbs saw the posting on her Facebook timeline and posted a comment that tipped us off to an accident at state routes 348 and 104 in Morgan Township.
Following up on Hobbs’ information, Daily Times reporter Ryan Ottney called the state patrol and got the information needed to quickly post a story up on our Web site, portsmouth-dailytimes.com. We also posted the story on our Facebook page. If not for Hobbs, this is a story we may have not known about for several hours, or possibly, we would have received a press release from the state patrol too close to deadline to do anything with it.
So what can I tell you about our newest cub reporter, April Hobbs? Well, honestly, not much. She “likes” our Facebook page and as seen in her Facebook profile picture she has long dark hair and loves to wear pink sweaters. It may turn out she recently colored her hair, cut it short and only wears the pink sweater when she knows her mother in law might see it, because otherwise, she hates it. The point is, we don’t know April Hobbs any better than we do anyone else who tips us off to news and information, but we’re sure grateful there are those of you out there who do.
Welcome to the new world of newspaper reporting and information gathering.
As a community newspaper, not to be confused with a metro, state or national newspaper, we are dependent upon our audience to provide us with information we need to produce the daily edition focused primarily on local news and information. The Daily Times newsroom is not made up of beat reporters who may only cover city government, or the schools, or crime and courts. We’re a community newspaper staff that has to cover all of those beats and more for all of the communities of the surrounding counties. In stressing that we’re a community newspaper, I’m making the case that the community needs to be involved in creating the daily newspaper.
Although we no longer have the people resources we once had, no newspaper does, it is actually easier today to communicate with us than ever before. Using April Hobbs as the example, she made a comment on a Facebook post. She also could have sent us an email or a tweet. Had April been at the scene, she could have used a smartphone to take a picture of the crash and sent that to us. We would have used the picture.
Let’s use sports as an example of the community helping to produce the newspaper. The Daily Times sports department consists of two people covering more than 20 high schools playing several sports a season broken out by gender on an almost daily basis.
Pause for a moment and let that sink in. Hundreds of athletes, several games a week, different sports, two reporters.
If not for the assistance of area coaches and athletic directors, there is no way just two people can come close to adequately covering local high school sports. If not for parents or coaches of young athletes who excel in sports outside of school, how are Bob Strickley and Cody Leist to know of their accomplishments? And, I haven’t even mentioned local teams not affiliated with local schools such as American Legion ball or little leagues. Heck, did you know Portsmouth was host to a minor league football team this summer?
When it comes to news, Frank Lewis’ phones go off more often than your average teenager, a good number of those calls straight from people like you.
The dependence we have on our audience breaks both ways. Community support and cooperation can fill our pages with local news and information. However, a lack of community support and cooperation can keep news and information away.
When I first arrived in Portsmouth, I wanted to start running bowling scores in our newspaper. The idea is more local names in the newspaper brings about more local readers. I visited a local bowling alley just before leagues were set to begin and asked if they would be willing to send us league bowling scores on a regular basis. The proprietor asked what it would cost and my answer was not a thing, we would just like to publish the information. The bowling alley agreed to send us the scores and I tipped off our sports guys to expect the results … results that never came. We called the bowling alley a number of times, but they never followed up.
Simply put, we can’t publish news stories or information when none is given.
I have met with various community organizations, school districts and private citizens who occasionally ask the question, “why wasn’t there anything in the newspaper about (blank)?” My reply is typically the same, “Did you inform us about (blank)?”
Another example I can use focuses on two prominent local school districts who were unhappy with their coverage in the Daily Times. Both school districts felt as if they were receiving negative coverage although neither disputed the stories we published. Unprompted, both school districts’ officials admitted they were no longer sending press releases or news items in to the Daily Times. One school district admitted to having not sent us any information for more than two years!
Again, we can’t publish news stories or information when none is given.
The Daily Times is not adverse to publishing good news stories, Wayne Allen and Portia Williams are often full of them. However, good news can be more difficult to come by than hard news. As I say all the time, no one writes stories about all the planes that land safely at the airport because no one would care to read them. Good news, upcoming community events and breaking news are the three categories that we depend upon the community to inform us on the most. We’re not too proud to admit, in those areas, we appreciate your help.
In all fairness, I will confess we don’t always cover every story idea or get every event listed in the newspaper. If you want a guarantee, that’s what advertising exists to do. However, portsmouth-dailytimes.com does have an events calendar that allows people to submit entries and have them published online automatically. With an average monthly online audience of more than 75,000 unique visitors, an event promoter would be foolish not to list an event on our site. Equally foolish would be an event promoter who chooses not to advertise in the print edition because obviously people are also going there looking for things to do!
Feel free to use April Hobbs as an example of how you can directly influence what we cover at the Daily Times. Yes, without any formal training, you too can become a cub reporter … a pink sweater isn’t even required.