Sister papers may share some stories, but not everything

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 17, 2000

The Austin Daily Herald shares a unique arrangement with a nearby newspaper, the Albert Lea Tribune.

Friday, November 17, 2000

The Austin Daily Herald shares a unique arrangement with a nearby newspaper, the Albert Lea Tribune. And there’s good reason for it.

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First of all, we’re both owned by the same company, Boone Newspapers Inc. Secondly, our readership overlaps a little.

When I came to the Herald almost a year ago, the two newspapers’ newsrooms seemingly operated in a vacuum void of each other. That didn’t make sense to me. Why not tap the resources of both newsrooms to enhance the product we present to our readers in both Mower and Freeborn counties each day of the week?

There are many people who commute back and forth between the two counties and oftentimes there are stories in either county that are of interest to readers in the other county.

Case in point: the armed robbery of a bank in Hayward this year in which the suspected robber was shot and killed south of the Twin Cities. It’s a story that is of interest to readers in both counties because it’s right in the middle between Albert Lea and Austin. It’s of further interest because it was a brazen crime in a rural community and the suspect was shot dead afterward.

The Albert Lea Tribune covered the story and included a photo in its report. The Herald was able to use the same story on its front page the same day because we share stories and photos. The sharing arrangement allowed the Herald to include a more detailed report than what The Associated Press included on its wires that day and we feel our readers benefited from the better story.

The sharing arrangement has worked well for both newspapers. We’re able to offer stories we could not have offered in the past. Our readers are the beneficiaries. The editors in both newsrooms, including my counterpart, Dylan Belden at the Tribune, keep in contact with each other and keep the other paper in mind when a story may be of interest to readers at the other paper.

While we share stories and an occasional editorial, that’s about all we share between our newsrooms.

I recently was upset when I heard that one candidate this past election season was concerned that our two newspapers decided jointly on a particular endorsement because we’re owned by the same company. While it would have been easy to laugh at the statement, it’s a misconception that needs to be dispelled.

Throughout our endorsement process for the general election, at no time did the Herald or Tribune share any discussion on the candidates or our endorsements. That allows each of us to make fair and unbiased decisions on the candidates. Yes, the Tribune endorsed candidates before the Herald this year, but I cautioned myself NOT to read the Tribune’s endorsements until ours were carefully thought out and written for publication. That would keep our opinions unique and without influence from our own peers.

Yes, it was somewhat ironic that the Herald and the Tribune endorsed several of the same candidates. However, we both came to those decisions after careful deliberation at our own newspapers and after our own interviews with candidates (only a few either did not respond to our invitation for an interview or failed to follow through with our invitation).

The candidate who complained about our endorsements said that the Herald reprinted the Tribune’s endorsement for its own. To that comment, I say it didn’t happen and never will.

Yes, both newspapers are owned by the same company and we share news and minor editorials, but we’re both the voices of our own communities and when it comes to endorsements, we don’t treat them lightly. Thus, the endorsements you read in the Herald were unique and prepared with the readers of Mower County in mind.

That’s the only way to endorse a candidate and be fair at the same time.