DAVE BOHRER: Newspaper Week a reminder of relevance then and now

The calls used to come in regularly to the newspaper sports departments where I spent my early years as a journalist.

People would ask which team won some West Coast ball game that ended later than our East Coast deadline, or maybe they couldn’t wait until the morning to know the result of some high school game, or maybe they wanted to know who held the county record for the long jump.

Newspapers, journalists and the world have changed in the more than 42 years I’ve been doing this. And, of course, newspapers, journalists and the world had changed long before any of us arrived. That’s mostly a good thing. Who would ever want to be stuck at the same age?

Sports fans today can find the results and the records in an instant with new technology, but then the ability to spit out those facts was only a fraction of our relevance all along.

Bohrer pic

Dave Bohrer

The desire to inform our communities, to help our neighbors and to be good citizens motivated journalists then as it does today.

The eve of National Newspaper Week brings some reflection on ways we’ve acted on that motivation and on ways we can take action to improve.

No longer restricted to newsprint, we deliver some of that instant information through new technology. Sports Editor Drew Kerekes and sports writer Matt Case use their Twitter accounts to report those scores as the plays are made and results of the evening’s games are posted on our website long before the newspaper reaches your driveway.

News reporter Bianca Moorman, unburdened of print deadlines, is equally responsive pushing out emergency news about approaching storms or accident-blocked highways just as rapidly to your phones and other electronic devices.

Photographer Paula Merritt is able to share many more of her impressive photographs with online galleries, and we can share information digitally through videos, maps and public documents that go beyond what appears in print.

Still, The Meridian Star is known as a “newspaper” and our mission to inform you remains.

We report on the struggles of the city to balance its budget, the success of programs in our classrooms and the challenges educators face as they take on the role of social worker as much as teacher. We report on public safety issues on city streets and at the county courthouse. We attend public meetings when you can’t and report on how public officials do your business.

Beyond our watchdog role, we report on new businesses coming to town and old ones that have been in families for generations.

We report on talented performers and stage hands putting on shows at Meridian Little Theatre and well-known performers coming to town to entertain you at the MSU Riley Center. We report on the new jewel of entertainment, The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience, and an old friend struggling to survive, the Temple Theater.

We report on the predictable fun at the Queen City Fair and the unpredictable news of cows falling out of a trailer onto a highway – as Erin Kelly did between some court reporting all in one day this week.

Sometimes we make connections behind the scenes that you never read about, like a message Erin made to city hall to have illegally dumped trash picked up from a city street after a citizen’s complaint had gone unheard.

News assistant Cheryl Owens still receives many of the calls that have come to newsrooms for ages from community members seeking help on getting information published or readers and non-readers alike trying to find information that has nothing to do with The Meridian Star.

Those calls and letters may seem a nuisance to some, but we take them as praise and confidence of our relevance and knowledge.

Some calls and letters that make it to me are critical and unpleasant, too, but that’s OK. They tell me that you care. When you stop calling, I’ll worry.

As for the reflection on ways we can improve, we don’t have the numbers in our newsroom as we used to. That’s not your problem, many of you have fewer co-workers than you had previously — no matter your business.

But fewer journalists does reduce our connections with you and it does mean that we sometimes have to say no when you invite us to your event. 

To help address our challenge, we have a couple of ideas in mind.

In the weeks ahead, we will invite readers and sources to a session on how to get your news into the newspaper and our other products. We’ll create a how-to document for those who can’t make it.

We also will form a community advisory board to meet monthly. If you have an interest in becoming a member, please drop me a note to tell us about yourself and what you think you would add to that board.

And as always, we welcome your comments every day on your favorites and your recommendations. We might even be able to provide a score or two.

Dave Bohrer is editor of The Meridian Star. Email dbohrer@themeridianstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @DA_Bohrer.

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