Busy week leads to tough decisions
I think I’ll remember this last week for some time. It was one of the busiest in terms of local news I can recall in my more than a year back in the editor’s chair of the CT.
You can read about most of the big news in today’s paper, but I couldn’t find space to fit all of it. So how do editors decide what gets printed and posted online and what has to wait?
It’s kind of hard to explain, because it involves something called “news judgement.”
There are those who constantly question – others constantly disagree with – the subjects and people that get news coverage, or how they’re covered and presented.
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That’s fine, everyone is entitled to an opinion. And this country is great, in part, because you can disagree with me. And vice versa. (I just wish differences in opinion didn’t lead to the personal attacks, name calling, etc., you see happen these days.)
For those of us in this business, “news judgement” has almost as much to do with how a certain news story affects people and/or a community as it does the circumstances or details in that story.
Does that make sense? Like I said, it’s hard to explain. We’re trained — many of us are college educated with journalism degrees such as yours truly, but some of the best reporters I’ve known just have a gift — so we’ll hopefully know “news” before it hits us in the eye.
I think it has to include a passion for facts, an organized mind but a creative one as well. I’m not saying I have either in great abundance, but I like to think I have enough that they’ve served me well in my career.
There are certain stories that I don’t think a news media outlet can ignore. Obviously, a wildfire like last week. (Which was a real challenge for me at a weekly paper. I was updating our web page all day Friday, so didn’t get to go to talk to folks myself. Kind of made me feel guilty. But getting the facts on the web seemed more important at the time.)
A City Council vote to put a controversial sales tax hike on the ballot is another must-cover story. I believe the most important role of a free press is to watch our leaders, especially if there’s public money involved.
The biggest struggle I had this week was deciding to hold off — hopefully just for a week — running a story on a public meeting the group backing the recreation center held last week. There weren’t any fireworks, but some interesting facts that voters need to know were discussed.
So I asked myself several questions, including what stories would be of most interest to most readers? Which ones have a time element that would pose a problem if I held it back? What you see in your hands or on your computer screen is the result.
I won’t claim to have made the right decision in everyone’s minds. But I’ve learned to trust the thing we call “news judgement.”
It’s only rarely let me down. I hope I haven’t let you down, either.
Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.
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