News coverage should be a shared responsibilityhis week marked the revival of the newspaper’s advisory board – a cross section of citizen news junkies, parents, business people, volunteers, seniors and others interested in the role of the newspaper in the community.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The brownies were barely touched and the coffee, not at all – somewhat unusual when a group gets together in this neck of the woods. But the one compelling agenda around the conference table at the Pine Journal office on Monday was not the refreshments, but the newspaper itself.
This week marked the revival of the newspaper’s advisory board – a cross section of citizen news junkies, parents, business people, volunteers, seniors and others interested in the role of the newspaper in the community.
The makeup of the group was assembled over the past months, ever since the call went out for people who feel passionately about having a say in how “their” hometown newspaper delivers the news. Not to be confused with an editorial board – which determines the subject matter and editorial focus in the publication’s opinion columns – the group is designed to provide a “sounding board” for those who put the Pine Journal out on a weekly basis.
Though illness and prior commitments prevented all who agreed to serve on the advisory board from attending the first of an ongoing series of meetings, those who were there were more than willing to pick up the slack.
“I like my newspapers,” attested former Minnesota Supreme Court judge and Cloquet resident Lawrence Yetka. “I subscribe to the Duluth News Tribune, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Pine Journal. I go out every morning and pick up my daily papers at 5:15 a.m. and read them.”
Yetka said he doesn’t own a computer and he still abides by the print version of newspapers to gather his local, state and national news.
Despite a considerable age difference, Time for Tots teaching assistant Katie Zack reflected Yetka’s sentiments.
“I don’t think I’ve ever read the Pine Journal online,” Zack said. “I like to go out to my mailbox [to get my Pine Journal] and take the time to sit down and read it.”
Zack said she particularly enjoys school, community and business news and would like to see more of it in the Pine Journal, but she said she skips the sports entirely.
“Right now, sports is half the content of the newspaper,” she commented, adding she would like to see more space dedicated to other school programs such as Destination Imagination. She further suggested that calendars for such activities be included in the paper similar to those for upcoming sports events.
Esko resident Lisa Stracek, a mom and employee at Barr Engineering who said she is also actively involved in the Cloquet community, concurred. She said she tries to encourage her children to be involved in a wide spectrum of things and she believes coverage of youth and school activities should be more far-reaching than just sports. She suggested that youth liaisons in the schools might be the best way to pass along information on student accomplishments. She did say, however, that she enjoys the sports feature stories run occasionally as part of the Pine Journals sports coverage.
Scott Elwood of US Bank admitted he likes reading the sports– along with the obituaries.
“I don’t have kids old enough to be playing high school sports yet,” he said, “but I like to read about how the teams are doing.”
Yetka commented that in covering local news, he believes school sports coverage is “one of the biggest links to every family,” whether their kids participate in sports or merely have friends who do.
Stracek further added that she doesn’t care for the crime reporting in the newspaper, voicing concern over her children reading it, though she acknowledged that the Pine Journal reporters don’t sensationalize it as some newspapers do. If covered at all, she said she would prefer to see crime news inside the newspaper instead of on the front.
The hour-long dialogue was eye-opening, insightful and, possibly, course-changing for the two-person editorial staff of the Pine Journal, and it will most definitely go on. To have readers – and non-readers – involved in the important role of community newspapers is essential in covering the public we serve.