ADH flowing with media trends

Published 8:52 am Saturday, June 7, 2008

Yes, you are seeing another new face in this Sunday column; however, I am not a new byline in the Austin Daily Herald, and am merely providing a column until a new managing editor is hired.

Let me introduce myself. I started at the Herald in November 2006 as the public affairs reporter after two years at a bi-weekly in Park Rapids, Minn. I became news editor in June 2007.

Austin is a great news town and opportunity for those in the journalism field. Media is very competitive and quick on their feet to get the scoop first.

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The one thing that struck me as extrordinary when I started in Austin was the availability and frankness of government officials, board members and law enforcement with the media. You could literally pick up the telephone, ask a question, and get a patient and pleasant reply, rather than a “no comment,” or worse, just a “click.” In my experience here, Police Chief Paul Philipp, Sheriff Terese Amazi, city administrator Jim Hurm, Austin Public Schools Superintendent Candace Raskin and numerous others have gone above and beyond what I expected.

A question I know many are asking themselves, and to the staff here as well, is, “Why the constant turnover?”

The Austin Daily Herald is not unique in this regard, particularly with small newspapers, which include multi-tasking, working nights and weekends, and often not-great pay. A small daily is considered a great stepping stone to a paper in a bigger city with a larger circulation. Some companies, like ours, Boone Newspapers, provide great opportunities for promotion; for instance, former managing editor Bryan Clapper took a general manager position in Niles, Mich.

Newspapers are going in a different direction, and fast. The Herald is no different. We have launched a more interactive Web site, are dabbling in video and audio, and are reaching a whole new audience with our Spanish language newspaper, Tiempos Del Sudeste, which debuts very soon. Those papers who don’t address their futures remain stagnant and eventually, will be left behind.

You may have heard the axiom “newspapers are dead,”a rather foreboding prediction of the future print journalism careers. Newspapers are not going to the wayside yet; they must constantly remain relevant to their readers and move with trends in demographics to appeal to the audience.

According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s “State of the Media 2008:”

“As newspapers struggle with the future unknowns — audience base, delivery mechanism, revenue base and even reporting agenda — one thing is clear: In 2007, the print pages, and the print front-pages in particular, still provided information that was harder to find elsewhere.”

In 2007, the report revealed, despite the flood of other forms of information, most notably the Web, print tracked stories that ebbed and flowed over the course of the year, like health care policy, the mortgage crisis, domestic terrorism and the presidential campaign.

There is no “finished” product anymore, and the Herald aims to be in line with that trend. Look for coverage updated continually on the Web, a renewed focus on letters to the editor, and an effort to welcome feedback from readers on the topics that matter to them in the Austin area.

We appreciate your readership, and we acknowledge some of you have been reading the Austin Daily Herald for several decades. We will continue that long-standing tradition as your source for Austin and Mower County news.