The Northern Sun News came under fire this week for failing to include the accomplishments of local athletes on its pages. Criticized for only covering events for sports organizations with “close ties” to the newspaper, the writers were also ambushed for asking for submissions and for not following up on leads provided. I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion and while some may agree, I don’t and figured the criticism offered a great opportunity to let Northern Sun News readers in on the magical world of newspaper publication.
Firstly, we have deadlines. Lots of them. We have deadlines for general advertising, deadlines for classifieds, deadlines for submissions and deadlines for stories. And, because we don’t print our paper in a back room of our office here in Red Lake, these deadlines are reached long before our paper ever makes it to a shelf at a store near you. As many are likely unaware, we don’t put our paper together on Tuesday nights or print it on Wednesday mornings. Nope. Believe it or not, our pages are filled and ads and stories accounted for on Mondays when we spend a full eight hours editing and making corrections in the hopes of getting everything right.
That may not happen every week. We understand that spelling mistakes are sometimes missed, information misquoted or Letters to the Editor held over because of a lack of space. We’re certainly not perfect around here but week after week, we continue to do our best to provide as many local happenings as possible to those gracious enough to pick up a newspaper each week and we certainly appreciate your business!
There are four local people working in our office and between the four of us, we try to keep abreast of area happenings as best as possible and make every effort to be at every event held by organizations. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen. Often we aren’t made aware of events until after the fact, sometimes we have scheduling conflicts and can’t be in two places at once, and other times we have time booked off or life gets in the way and plans are forced to change. In these cases, we will ask for submissions because we recognize that showcasing the accomplishments of community members is important regardless of how that information is obtained and we really do appreciate those who send in photos of events we weren’t available to attend. But to be clear, while appreciated, submissions are never an expectation.
As for not following up on leads; all I can do is assure you that those criticisms aren’t true. You wouldn’t believe how many phone calls I’ve made to various agencies checking up on something that seems ridiculous in an effort to be diligent. Sometimes those phone calls don’t take place three minutes after a “tip” has been received but they do happen and if there is a story to be had, it is developed and subsequently run in our newspaper.
If you’re calling in something on Monday morning or are submitting information that you insist must be run during the current week and not at a later date when more information can be collected and included, you should understand that you may not get the coverage you’re hoping for. A lead received on a Monday, while important, generally doesn’t pan out in time to make the paper because layout has already begun and despite our best efforts, people aren’t always available to comment right when we need them to be. Trust me; I am an expert at phone tag.
The point of all this: some events won’t make our pages and this isn’t because the people that are involved in these events aren’t important or aren’t interesting, it is because we just couldn’t get there. We can’t be everywhere at once and despite the fact that it makes some people feel that they are being asked to do our jobs for free, we will continue to encourage our readers to contribute to our pages by providing photos, event details or by giving us the heads up when something important is about to take place. We are a community newspaper and we are making every effort to serve this entire community.
Letters to the Editor can be submitted to email@example.com