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How to make your news better - Joel Hall

The newspaper business, like many other industries, is experiencing tremendous change, due to this sour economy.

Newspapers, however, had been feeling the strain long before the bottom fell out of the financial market. The price of ink and paper skyrocketed, thus, many newspapers are physically becoming smaller. Web sites, such as craigslist.com, have cut deeply into the newspaper industry's classified revenues.

While more people are reading the newspaper online, most businesses with web sites, have yet to find a way to give their advertisers accurate information about their online readership. While subscriptions tell you who your customers are, web hits only tell you that somebody (possibly in Bulgaria) has found their way to your web site, somehow.

As a result, newspaper staffs have gotten smaller, scrappier, and are doing more -- with less. Big papers, like the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, have cut hundreds of positions in the last few years.

However, I am a firm believer that newspapers are an integral part of our society. In many ways, they are history ... now.

When people look back 50 years from now, and try to figure out the past, they are most likely going to read an old newspaper. I highly doubt YouTube will take on the Herculean task of cataloging the history of the world.

Newspapers are necessary to keep citizens informed about the communities in which they live, and vital to keep the people who spend our tax money, and make our laws, honest. While broadcast mediums are important, they simply don't have the attention span to dissect an issue the way a newspaper can.

Most of the reporters I know, who haven't jumped ship, are fascinated by details, obsessed with nuance, and in the business for the long haul. We are going to do the best we can to make newspapers as interesting, helpful, and thought-provoking as possible. However, communities and newspapers are vitally linked. Without the help of the community, there is no newspaper, and without the newspaper, there is little sense of community.

In order for newspapers to be all they can be, it requires an effort on the part of the community as well. These are a few suggestions I have:

Politicians and other important people -- If you don't like talking to reporters, don't be a politician. We're not going anywhere. The best thing you can do, is learn to work with us.

Institutions such as the City of Morrow, Clayton State University, and the Clayton County Water Authority, often get great press, not necessarily because they are better than everybody, but because they have highly proactive public relations departments that let us know every good thing they are doing.

Instead of hiding, tell us about your accomplishments, tell us about your unsung heroes, and tell us in advance. It's not always bad to be in the news.

Readers -- While reporters are required to talk about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the things people try to hide, we're also interested in the things that make us laugh, think, and love the county in which we're located.

We usually have an interesting, or heartwarming, story on the front page everyday. If you want to see more stories like that, communicate with us. Let us know your feelings, and what interests you. Most likely, we will be interested, too.

And everybody -- please continue to read the paper, and if you like what you see, please buy a copy. We can't do this without you.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can reached at jhall@news-daily.com.