EDITOR’S NOTE: Why we do what we do

EDITOR’S NOTE By Hank Kalet: The Cranbury Press seeks to better understand our readers’ needs.

By: Hank Kalet
   Putting together a newspaper on a weekly basis can lead those of us in the news business to be a bit myopic. We start to look at the world with blinders on, focusing through the narrow lens of expediency on the day-to-day requirements of getting the paper finished, to the post office and to your mailboxes.
   That rush of activity can lead those of us in the community newspaper business to take for granted what we do and why we do it. We start functioning by rote, making decisions about content, design and other matters based on habit, rather than contemplating what it is our readers might need.
   It’s not that we forget our readers. On the contrary, it’s that we become set in our ways, relying on old routines that may have been effective in the past, but that may or may not be effective any longer.
   That’s what made my recent trip to the American Press Institute so valuable. I spent much of last week in Reston, Va., where I met and worked with other newspaper editors from around the country and around the globe — there were two editors from Toronto and another from Brussels — talking about everything from the First Amendment and journalistic ethics to newspaper design and how we should handle a crisis should it occur.
   The seminar, which ran from Feb. 3 to Feb. 7, was on editing the weekly and community newspaper. I bring a lot back with me from my trip, including fresh eyes, fresh ears and a renewed sense of what it is we can offer communities like Jamesburg and Monroe.
   We are its eyes and ears, its advocate and critic, the place where every one of the area’s nearly 33,000 residents can turn to find out what is happening, to announce their milestones, to criticize their leaders, to thank their neighbors.
   As Tim Waltner, publisher of the Freeman (S.D.) Courier said during his keynote speech to open the seminar, we write the local history of our towns as it happens.
   Every decision we make must have this focus in mind.
   What I also have come to understand is that most of our readers do not understand what it is we do and why we do it. We ask a lot of questions of a lot of people, of government officials and residents alike, but rarely give our readers a chance to ask us about the decisions we make — an inconsistency that cannot leave the reader with a good feeling about the news business.
   So I write this Editor’s Note as an invitation to you, the readers of The Cranbury Press, to send me your questions about the paper, about the news business, about the decisions we’ve made. I’ll try and answer as many as I can in a future Editor’s Note. I’m hoping to write this Page 1 column on a regular basis – in addition to my weekly Dispatches column — as a way of bringing you into the process of publishing The Cranbury Press.
   The more information you have about us, the better understanding you’ll have about what I think is a special calling. And the more I understand what it is you expect of us here at the Press, the better we can serve you.
   And that’s what it’s all about.
   Call me at (732) 329-9214, write me at P.O. Box 309, Dayton, N.J. 08810 or e- mail me at hkalet@pacpub.com.