January 9, 2011 in Opinion

We’re making some changes

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The new year has brought noticeable changes to The Spokesman-Review, so it is important to bring our readers up to date on the changes and explain our strategy.

All of the changes were driven by the hard reality of tough economic times in the newspaper business. We considered a variety of cost-cutting measures with the goal of preserving the most critical functions of a newspaper: covering local news while providing a good menu of features, sports and national and international news. In order to avoid a new round of layoffs in the newsroom, we have had to eliminate two positions for 2011 by way of attrition and we’ve had to reduce our dependence on freelance columns purchased from various correspondents.

We’re still publishing TV Week, which has been a staple of the Sunday edition for decades, but we’re making it available only to readers who specifically request the guide. In an age of remote control devices and on-screen program grids, we’ve learned that many readers no longer use our TV section. We’re happy to keep providing it to readers who rely on it, but we will be able to save considerable newsprint costs by reducing the number that we distribute. Readers just need to let our circulation department know they want TV Week and we’ll notify their carriers. To receive TV Week, which will be delivered on Saturday instead of Sunday, call (509) 744-5710 or (800) 338-8801. The e-mail address is circ@spokesman.com, and there is also a link on our home page at www.spokesman.com.

Some areas will no longer receive TV Week in the store or rack copies, but customers who are in an area where we offer home delivery can sign up for a discounted Sunday-only offer to receive TV Week at home.

We have published TV listings in the Today section Monday through Saturday for many years and we will continue to do that. We’ve also expanded that service by adding a daily listing to the Sunday Today section.

We publish several weekly Voice sections that focus on neighborhood news. As part of the cost-cutting effort, we’ve had to make the painful decision to eliminate Handle Extra, which was the Idaho version of our Voice sections. Several readers have expressed their disappointment with our decision to end Handle Extra, but I’ve explained to them that we still will have a considerable amount of daily coverage of North Idaho. The popular Handle Extra columns by blogger Dave Oliveria and Boise bureau reporter Betsy Russell have moved to the Idaho edition of the Sunday paper. We still have veteran reporters Becky Kramer, Alison Boggs and photographer Kathy Plonka stationed full time in our Coeur d’Alene bureau. Russell is the only member of the press corps in Boise who provides news of the Legislature and Idaho state government tailored for North Idaho readers. News assistant Sherry Adkins, another full-time staffer in Coeur d’Alene, continues to gather a variety of official Idaho records, such as criminal sentencings and divorce actions, that we publish on a regular basis. Greg Lee, who covers sports on both sides of the state line, is still keeping an eye on key prep matchups in Idaho.

The Voice sections published for Washington readers will undergo a change beginning Feb. 3. The North, South and West Plains Voice editions, published on Thursdays, will be combined into one edition. The new combined edition will contain practically all of the regular features that appeared separately before the merger. The Valley Voice will continue its publication schedule on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Amid all the changes, we’ll actually be introducing a new section. Beginning Jan. 20, sports fans will find a new monthly tabloid tucked inside the paper. The publication, called Athlon Sports, features national sports content and will be inserted in the paper the third Thursday of each month.

Newsroom editors frequently receive telephone calls that begin with “I’ve been subscribing to the Spokesman-Review for 30 (or more) years …” That lead-in usually signals that we’re going to be listening to a complaint. We’ve learned to accept the criticism and to try to address the complaint with an explanation or a solution. We appreciate that our long-term subscribers are loyal readers, and we will continue to work hard to earn their support. After all, it really is their newspaper.

In past years, I’ve written a separate column each January about our accuracy record for the previous year. I’ll keep that report short and simple this year. Our accuracy record has dramatically improved since we began tracking our performance in 2005. That year, we published 519 corrections in Accuracy Watch. In 2010, we published 235 corrections. Of course, accuracy is not about the yearly statistics. Accuracy is about getting the story right, including names, identifications, dates, telephone numbers and addresses. Accuracy is fundamental to our credibility with readers, and it will always remain a top priority in our newsroom. If you think we have made an error, call (509) 459-5403 or e-mail editorforum@spokesman.com.

Gary Graham is editor of The Spokesman-Review. He can be contacted at garyg@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5405.

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