We’re focusing on your needs

Newspapers have always been designed for readers, but never more so than now and in the future.

The combination of busier people, emerging new media and a sophisticated society has forced those of us with newspaper ink in our blood to rethink our business and focus on readers. The end result is hopefully a newspaper that gives readers the news they need in a format that fits their lifestyles.

That’s not an easy accomplishment, but something we’re striving toward

To that end, The Herald has created a new group of employees who are all geared toward looking out for readers’ best interests. The Readership Committee is made up of members from the news, circulation and marketing departments.

I call us the anti-Dilbert group because we are searching for new ways to present our newspaper to the public, while not getting caught up in old habits and falling back into the traditional way of doing things. Our goal is to make business decisions that serve readers as well as the company.

Removing the old barriers between news, marketing and circulation must be done carefully. The walls exist for a very good reason – to keep the integrity of the news. If we have one thing to rely on, it’s the credibility of the news and the confidence of readers that the newspaper is not being compromised by the business arm of the company.

The downside of this barrier is that it sometimes causes us to be too isolated from one another and sacrifice opportunities to reach out to readers. For example, before my position was created at the beginning of this year, no one was charged with alerting the circulation department that a big story was coming the next day so that arrangements could be made to ensure there were enough newspapers at news racks and in stores to meet demand. And marketing was missing out on opportunities to promote reader awareness of our local news stories.

We’re now learning that, through communication, we can put ourselves in a better position in the community and still maintain our independence. People in marketing and circulation will never decide what stories are written or how they’re displayed in the paper. But if they know what decisions news is making, they can do their jobs better.

The Herald isn’t the only newspaper taking steps to make sure that readers are the top concern. In fact, the industry as a whole is starting to recognize that our priorities may have been askew. The summer edition of American Journalism Review, a respected trade journal, leads with a story titled, "Reader Friendly."

It explains how many newspapers across the country are starting efforts similar to ours to reconnect with readers and join forces with other departments within the company. Editors are starting to ask, "what’s in it for the reader?"

Newspapers once were the only game in town. No longer. We realize we have to be in better touch with our readers to make The Herald relevant to people’s lives.

Unfortunately, society is more complex than it used to be. Connecting with readers isn’t a simple task. But it’s certainly worth a major effort. Through the efforts of The Herald Readership Committee, we should be able to get a better handle on what our readers are looking for in their local newspaper. We’re aware of the fact that newspapers need to adapt with the times, and we want to make sure we’re changing the way you want us to.

"Your Newspaper" is a column about the newspaper written by Stan Strick, executive editor, and Suzanne Ames, public journalism editor. It appears here every Sunday. You can call Strick at 425-339-3480 and Ames at 425-339-3097 or send e-mail to them at

yournewspaper@heraldnet.com. To read previous "Your Newspaper" columns, go online to www.heraldnet.com/yournewspaper/.

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