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Opinion >  Column

Rob Curley: Return of Northwest section appreciated, but Dorothy brought the biggest cheers

UPDATED: Mon., March 13, 2017

“Every Wednesday, often before we’ve even made it into the office, many of us in the newsroom get the messages from our readers who love everything about those classic Dorothy Dean recipes.” (FILE)
“Every Wednesday, often before we’ve even made it into the office, many of us in the newsroom get the messages from our readers who love everything about those classic Dorothy Dean recipes.” (FILE)

The calls were immediate. Emails quickly followed. Now the stamped letters are arriving at our building on West Riverside.

There have been a lot of changes to The Spokesman-Review over the last few months. We hear about them all. Almost instantly. Most have been met positively. Though we get an earful often enough.

But nothing we’ve done to try to improve our newspaper has received the response that we got from the return of Dorothy Dean.

Food sections are one of my favorite things in a newspaper. Mostly because I really love to eat.

When I first saw the old Dorothy Dean recipes that this newspaper produced for nearly 50 years, starting in 1935, I couldn’t wait to bring her back. There was all sorts of talk of how we should do it. We had lots and lots of ideas.

Then it hit us: Why not just scan in the old recipe pages so that they would be exactly like they used to be? Even down to being able to cut them out and save them in a binder.

Every Wednesday, often before we’ve even made it into the office, many of us in the newsroom get the messages from our readers who love everything about those classic Dorothy Dean recipes. Many folks also reluctantly ask how long we plan on continuing to republish them.

They’re almost afraid to hear the answer. They shouldn’t be.

Dorothy’s return to our paper will definitely be through the end of this year. And if you all still love Dorothy’s tasty – and often incredibly high-calorie – suggestions after that, probably longer. We have five decades of her recipes, so why not?

So, what about the other changes to The Spokesman?

I promised back before Christmas that we wanted to do more with more. You’re seeing that now. In an era when most newspapers get smaller and smaller each day, our page count continues to go up.

I can’t hide my love for local news. Dorothy Dean’s recipes might have caused a flood of feedback, but my favorite addition was something else from this newspaper’s past: the Northwest “section” becoming an actual section again.

That’s the real reason why I’m writing today. Today’s edition doesn’t have “Northwest” as a separate section. The reason has everything to do with the NCAA Tournament and Gonzaga being a No. 1 seed. The Northwest section will be back in tomorrow’s newspaper.

There are all sorts of reasons why the Northwest section is so important. The biggest reason for me surprises some people. Local news means a lot of different things to a lot of people, but telling the stories of those in our community who are no longer with us is one of the most important.

Having the obituaries back in the news section is symbolic of that importance. A great sports section is essential, but no one wants to have the obituaries next to the box scores.

That’s where many newspapers have them now. Explaining why this is the case also explains some of the other recent changes to The Spokesman-Review.

Though many people don’t realize this, at most newspapers, the obituaries are really a form of classified advertising that is typically purchased by local funeral homes and mortuaries. As newspapers got smaller, especially after the recession of 2008, sections inside of papers were consolidated.

Local sections were typically the first to disappear. And that was the home for classified advertising in most newspapers. That meant classified ads had to move. At many newspapers, that place was the sports section.

So, as most local newspapers around the country have a two-section paper, especially during the first part of the week, we returned to having a four-section paper … and even bigger than that on most days.

To accomplish that was a cool trick figured out with a lot of help from our newspaper’s great press and production crew. There is a way to publish our newspaper in a more efficient way that would allow us to take those savings and instead of banking them, use them to allow us to print more pages.

The question was that if we really wanted to add the Northwest section back to our newspaper, would we be willing to move the sections around a little from time to time? For the newsroom, this was an easy “yes” if it meant we could give our subscribers more stories and photos.

That’s why you sometimes see the sections in a little different order than you might be accustomed to. Doing that allowed us to add more pages and even resurrect a long-gone section.

The results were immediate once we did this for the first time a few weeks ago.

More local business stories. Many more regional news stories and photos, including all sorts of interesting things from some of the best local newspapers throughout the Pacific Northwest. On some days, we’ve even been able to have an additional page of letters to the editor.

My favorite line from a longtime subscriber was that one of the newest problems she’s facing is that it takes so much longer to read the paper now … and that she’s afraid she is going to be late to work.

We’re not done adding to The Spokesman-Review.

We have put a big focus on making our front page informative, interesting and even fun. We’re producing more local information graphics and trying to accentuate the fascinating little nuggets we’re finding in the stories we tell.

Some of the other things we’re getting ready to add to the newspaper are just like Dorothy Dean – straight from our newspaper’s past. There are things coming back to The Spokesman-Review that have been gone from our pages for more than 50 years.

And we all hope you welcome those back the way you did Dorothy’s salmon-noodle bake and her almond cheese asparagus.

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