Editor's Views: Tweaks to Sunday edition add content in key areas

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Scott Angus
Saturday, January 18, 2014

In a perfect newspaper world, The Gazette would have page after page to hold stories and photos that inform and entertain readers, and we'd have dozens and dozens of reporters, editors and photographers to produce and handle that content.

Alas, it's not a perfect world, and we must make smart, strategic decisions to give readers the best newspaper we can with the resources we have.

I've written before about how advertising largely determines the paper's size—the number of pages and the space available for news. We need a certain percentage of advertising to justify the cost of newsprint.

As print advertising has declined in recent years, the paper has gotten smaller. The space for news—or the news hole, as we call it—hasn't fallen proportionately, but it's not what it once was. Additionally, we've lost a few bodies in the newsroom as broad changes in our industry and a sputtering economy have affected our revenues.

Still, we produce a strong newspaper with a greater emphasis than ever on local content. This past week was a fine example, as the front page was full of solid local stories every day, and the inside space contained important news and information about communities in our readership area.

Our coverage of the news that JCPenney will close in Janesville, for example, demonstrated the best of what a local newspaper can be. We confirmed the news mid-afternoon Wednesday, and we had a comprehensive, forward-looking story on readers' doorsteps by 6 a.m. Thursday.

We never sit still around here, though, and we're always looking for ways to improve. The current focus is on the Sunday edition. It's our biggest-selling paper, and it costs the most. We need to be sure we're giving our customers their money's worth.

To that end, we're making a few adjustments starting this Sunday. They aren't monumental, and they don't involve a huge investment, but we think they'll make the Sunday paper more fulfilling for many readers.

In short, we're adding space to make room for more news and information. The A and B sections combined will more often be 24 pages, and that gives us room to beef up content in several key areas.

To start, we're guaranteeing a Walworth County story in every Sunday edition. We've traditionally featured three good local stories on the front and another few inside the A section. Sometimes, we've had a story from Walworth County. Sometimes, we haven't. From now on, we will, and that's an addition to the local story count.

We're also adding an op-ed page every Sunday. We've occasionally had space for more columns, letters and political cartoons on a second Opinion page in the Sunday edition, but now that space will be a mainstay. We've got a stable of knowledgeable columnists from across the political spectrum, and this gives us a chance to showcase more of their work on a day when people generally have more time to read.

Last, we're adding space for national and world news in the B section. We've often had only one page for that news, and that's not enough for our most important paper of the week. Starting today, we'll have at least two and sometimes three pages, and we plan to regularly include longer articles that take in-depth looks at some of the day's most pressing issues.

These are the latest changes in The Gazette's evolution, but they won't be the last. In every case, we're doing our best to respond to a rapidly changing media landscape and still provide a meaningful, valuable and ultimately satisfying newspaper for our readers.

Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications. His email is sangus@gazettextra.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangus_.

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