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Everyday Ethics by Jim Pumarlo

Jim Pumarlo writes, speaks and provides training on community newsroom success strategies. He is author of “Journalism Primer: A Guide to Community News Coverage,” “Votes and Quotes: A Guide to Outstanding Election Coverage” and “Bad News and Good Judgment: A Guide to Reporting on Sensitive Issues in Small-Town Newspapers.” He can be reached at www.pumarlo.com and welcomes comments and questions at jim@pumarlo.com.

Take steps now to report on 2024 budgets

We’re halfway into 2023, and many local governments are well involved in exploring 2024 budgets. Are your newsrooms aware of the process? Are you keeping readers abreast of the dynamics?

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Letters invigorate editorial pages but demand scrutiny

The extra time and attention devoted to screening letters was underscored in a recent exchange on the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors hotline. 

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Carefully screen columns by public officials

Lawmaker columns were the subject of a recent online discussion on the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors’ hotline.

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Are your news, ad departments on same page?

Editors often raise red flags — or at least hesitate — at requests for business news, and often for good reason ... 

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Prime time to take inventory of your newsmakers

Newspapers are shortchanging their readers — their customers — if they do not expand their definition of newsmakers in community conversations. 

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Resolve to be accessible, stay relevant

At its foundation, transparency means connecting with readers. Here are a handful of ideas:

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Are you transparent in your operations?

The principle is equally applicable to newsroom operations. Do you practice what you preach?

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Robust public affairs coverage requires more than recording meetings

My formula for shaping newspaper content is straightforward: Present a blend of stories that people like to read and stories they should read. Under the “should read” category, consider me ...

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Go beyond ‘votes and quotes’ when delivering election results

In short, newspapers put incredible resources into laying the groundwork for elections, but then they often fall short in translating what voters said. This is an excellent time to think how best to examine ...

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Keep eye out for 11th-hour election volleys

The stakes are ramped up even higher in the final weeks as candidates and their camps seek to level charges at the last possible moment in press releases and letters to augment — or maybe even replace ...

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How are you doing? Ask your readers

How often do you ask for a direct critique of your news content, the very lifeblood of your product? When is the last time you asked the subjects of a news story what they thought of a report?

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Plan now to recognize first responders

Are you looking for a project that can energize your news staffs, generate new advertising revenue and underscore the value of a local newspaper to potential new subscribers? Mark Oct. 28 ... 

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Single-source stories too often miss the mark of solid journalism

A regular flow of press releases demands editors’ everyday attention. The communications, in varying degrees, play a role in newspaper content. Their value looms even larger in today’s landscape ...

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What’s happened to nuts and bolts of public safety reporting?

Crime and public safety are garnering more headlines across the country. Law enforcement and racial disparities in the criminal justice system are under increasing scrutiny. Newspapers play a key role ...

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Use your special insight to recommend election choices

If the newspaper as a community institution advocates for or against a position taken by an elected body, why not advance equally strong convictions about the people who ultimately will make those decisions?

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Seize opportunity to moderate election noise

Newspapers should step up and fill the void — use your community knowledge to provide an inside look at candidates, to set a framework for constructive debate on issues. It takes work, and now is ...

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Examine, evaluate reporting shortcuts

Editors and reporters necessarily must explore and implement shortcuts, but you should keep two questions at the forefront: Are you really saving time considering the extra legwork that might be required ...

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Are you ready for the new year? Take inventory, prepare calendar

Many of the things you cover spanning hard news and features are the same year after year. Use the opportunity to explore new ideas and approaches for coverage. When is the last time you’ve really ...

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Don’t rely on advisories to be first with the news; engage in social media

All newsrooms should set aside time to identify and share the social media platforms most relevant to and visible in a community.

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Educate and engage readers with public affairs reporting

The strongest meeting coverage boils down to three steps. 

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