Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sounding off

We've made some changes to The Mercury in recent weeks, some more popular than others. But once again, the lasting reminder to us is how much our readers care. And sometimes, we are surprised at what they care about.
First, the TV book, or Channels as it was officially called. The decision to eliminate a separate publication of TV listings was an economic decision made for the group of newspapers of which we are a part. And, it was not a bad decision.
The cost of producing such a book has become greater than the demand for it in today's digital programming age when listings are available in other sources. We know it was convenient for many of our readers, and we know that some people miss it.
But the cost of producing it had become greater than the return. And we are at the end of the day a company with expense and the need to make a profit. If those who make these decisions do not consider costs versus return, they would not be doing their jobs.
Nonetheless we take seriously the complaints of our readers, and we continue to try to include in our daily listings as much as possible so that we do not shortchange readers on information, even if it is not in a convenient book format.
We're still working out the kinks. Just today, a reader called to ask why we took God's channel out of the listings. She was referring to the Trinity Broadcasting Service. She said she suspected it was a plot against Christians by Muslims. I assured her the listings service just missed it, and we will try to get it back.
Eliminating the TV book had another effect on the daily paper. The expanded daily TV listings took away the spot we use for the popular Sound Off column. To find another home for Sound Off, we decided to do away with the World News at a Glance fixture on A2 and put Sound Off there. World news is still in the paper, but it is on regular news pages and not part of a packaged feature.
We have been surprised at the number of callers who have told us they disagree with this move and want the nation/world news back on A2. We are in fact delighted that readers enjoyed that feature, and we had not previously had any feedback to let us know it was popular. As a result, we are analyzing the news space to see if we can find a different home for Sound Off and put World News at a Glance back on A2.
Stay tuned, and stay in touch. We really do pay attention.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

No forward motion

Ten years ago, I returned to Pottstown as editor of The Mercury after working at another newspaper and a business newsletter company for seven years. I had previously worked here for 16 years.

At the time I returned, The Mercury had just published the award-winning reporting series by Evan Brandt, "Do or Die," a comprehensive look at the crossroads the borough of Pottstown faced in its efforts to become a revitalized town center. At the time I returned, there was hope and a lot of buzz about the borough's future and its potential.

Some in town blamed a perceived negative attitude at the paper for dragging down progress, but the change in management here was seen as a positive step. I wrote a number of encouraging editorials in the first few years I was back to herald any sign of progress.

But here we are 10 years later, and the state of the downtown is worse, if there is any change at all. Now, the editorials I write often focus on the lack of cooperation, the infighting, the waste of time over individual agendas instead of a community coming together to pull itself up.

I wrote another one of those yesterday, Mrs. Smith's vote showed no forward motion, and it has reminded me of how long it has been since an exciting idea actually came to fruition.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Back in the mix

It's been a while.
I call this being a "bad blogger" -- the gap of being too busy with life to write about how busy life has become. But, this time the break between writing was because of a vacation, the longest vacation I have ever taken, 10 glorious days on a remote island to celebrate an upcoming landmark wedding anniversary (25).
Now, I'm back, and as I inevitably do after being out of town, I catch up on my reading with a fresh outlook. In today's information overload, I have been catching up on the blogs at as well as the print edition of The Mercury.
The variety and quality of our writers online is not news to me, but returning to The Mommy Diaries, Garden Gal, Tony Phyrillas, The Thin Green Line, Scene and Heard, and the rest after some time away offers a reminder of the personality and lively discourse that our blogs represent.
I'm not sure my meanderings are on point as much as some of my co-workers, but that's okay. The mix we offer is a good one.
With that thought, I'm back in the mix.