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Making your Journal relevant

Another View
By: Deric Rothe
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It’s been another interesting week at the newspaper. We launched our redesign Tuesday. We reduced the size of our newspaper to 11 inches wide by 22 inches deep. I think it feels better in my hands. But it’s not what I think that ultimately counts. It’s what you think that matters. John Knierim came in this morning to buy 24 copies of our Friday edition, which featured the 25th anniversary of Cruise Nite on the front page. Knierim, a Chevy man and former co-chairman of the event, said he likes the way the smaller size fits into his hands as well. It no doubt helped that a big story about the history of Downtown Auburn’s car show was on the cover. The bottom line for most readers is not what font we use, although that’s important for readability, but what content our newspaper contains. Many people have called and written to me this week about Bud Pisarek’s Above All little angels cartoon, which is no longer published on the opinion page. Reader Mel Lee called and said he would not miss Bud’s liberal-slanted cartoons. “It’s incredible how many people we know who have quit (reading) the paper over Bud,” Mel said. Reader Elinor Petuskey vehemently disagrees. She called to say she loves Bud’s little angels. “It breaks my heart to lose Bud,” she told me. Elinor has been e-mailing friends to call me and complain. Several have done just that. “I fail to understand why they would choose to cancel this charming cartoon,” she wrote. “I encourage the Auburn Journal to reconsider this very poor decision and reinstate the angels.” We are very interested in reader feedback. The decisions we make regarding what regular features to publish are intended to best serve our readers. We need to change and adapt with the times. Large metropolitan daily newspapers are suffering these days. Most of us who are paying attention see the nationwide trend of large daily newspapers going bankrupt, ceasing to publish and getting smaller. I find that disturbing. Newspapers serve a vital purpose as government watchdogs and recorders of history. I believe community newspapers, like the Auburn Journal, can have a positive future. But it’s going to take some belt-tightening and refocusing on how we do business. One thing I am sure about is that covering local news is what we do best. You have many other sources for state, national and world news, but we are the only daily newspaper that focuses on the greater Auburn area. Bud’s Above All cartoon is rarely local, instead focusing on national issues. Reader feedback will help us decide whether removing Above All from the Journal’s daily opinion page was a good idea. I also heard a variety of views this week regarding our Thursday news story by Gus Thomson on the public sex and nudity at the nearby American River. Reader Jim Joyner of Meadow Vista was disgusted that the Journal would cover a subject like gay public sex. He sent me a scathing e-mail. Jim also objected to the placement of the article on page 1, just above a photo of junior high kids celebrating a Renaissance Faire this weekend at Regional Park. “You need to decide right now whether your publication is to become a worthless tabloid rag or continue as a newspaper worthy of community support and readership,” he wrote. Reader Susan Boyme of Auburn had a much different reaction. She also e-mailed me. “I want to applaud your story yesterday on the nude beach,” Susan wrote. “ It has received quite a bit of buzz, as you know. Now that the river is open to rafting, it is bad for the recreational economy to have a center for public nudity (and related activities) right below our downtown area. Now that we have kids I dread hiking down below our house in fear of running into another naked dude with a backpack and Tevas on. Do you think there’s hope of getting some patrol/enforcement? I hope your story has inspired action.” Our goal is to cover local news with compassion and integrity. We also strive to help lead the community in a positive direction, such as inspiring action near the river as Boyme suggests. Our redesign is an effort to reduce newsprint costs, yet continue to bring you compelling, quality journalism that matters. There are obviously a variety of opinions on what belongs in your newspaper. Yes, community journalism is an interesting business this week and most others. Our goal is to make your community newspaper interesting and relevant to you. Deric Rothe is Auburn Journal editor/general manager. Contact him at dericr@goldcountrymedia.com.