Local matters: Yes it does, and we're all over them

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

The grammatically inclined among you probably noticed the inconsistency in this column’s headline. It’s part singular, part plural.

We did that for a reason. “Local matters” is The Janesville Gazette’s new motto, and we want you to read it two ways:

- Local news matters if you care about your community and if you want to make good decisions about your life and those of others you care about.

- Local matters—as in local issues, developments, events, people and more—will be more prominent and plentiful than ever in the reinvented Gazette that debuts Monday.

The Gazette always has been a local newspaper, but we’re making big changes in staffing and format to produce more local content and display it better.

Why and why now?

Newspapers face more competition than ever in the information business. The Internet and 24-hour television news are the biggest reasons. We need to set ourselves apart by focusing on what we do best.

The Gazette covers Janesville, the rest of Rock County and Walworth County better than any other news outlet. It’s not even close. That local news is the core of our franchise, and our changes will strengthen that core.

If you want the latest news from Washington or Iraq or other distant places, you have many options. If you want the latest news from Janesville, Milton, Edgerton, Evansville, Delavan, Elkhorn, Williams Bay or other southern Wisconsin communities, you need to read the Gazette or our Web site, GazetteXtra.com.

We’ve planned the changes for months, but we decided to launch them along with our new press and distribution plant. The new press will produce the Gazette for the first time Monday, and the paper that rolls off will be different in many ways.

Among the first things you’ll notice is the paper’s size. It will be shorter and narrower by about an inch per page. Other papers have made the change, and readers like it. Granted, newspapers cut the size to save money on newsprint, but the smaller paper is easier to handle and read.

Then you will notice that the paper is only two sections instead of four. The page count will be the same—28 on average—but the news will be distributed differently. The first section will be devoted to local news. That’s a significant boost, but we think it’s the way to go.

Newspapers aren’t adding resources these days—either people or space—so we had to cut back in some areas to provide more local news. We eliminated our daily features section, and we’re using that space and most of the features staff for local content. We’re also trimming our nation and world coverage—but not significantly—and moving it into the second section.

The Gazette will have additional sections at least three days a week—kicks on Thursdays, TV on Saturdays, Destinations and Marketplace on Sundays—but the standard paper will be two sections.

While we are cutting some nonlocal content, we aren’t eliminating feature material entirely. The best of the local features about health, relationships, schools and more will move into the front section and often be displayed on the front page. The Sunday section led by Destinations will also include health, relationships and parenting stories.

Few of our decisions came easily. Newspapers have tried to provide variety to appeal to as many people as possible. But challenging times require tough choices.

What did come easily was our decision to focus more on local news. Our research, your feedback and trends in society made it clear that our future is in doing a better job of covering the news that’s closest to home.

Starting Monday, we will, and we think that will matter to you in a good way.

Last updated: 5:56 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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