What to expect from our new format
I don’t have a favorite TV program but I try to catch at least a couple of the categories on “Jeopardy!” every weeknight.
I like to remind myself that what I know would comfortably fit in a leaflet, and what I don’t know would fill to bursting a great library.
So let’s say, by way of example, that ABC decided to stop showing “Jeopardy!” on Tuesdays and Thursday.
But on Wednesdays and Fridays you get two episodes per night instead of one.
That’s twice as many daily doubles on those two nights.
(It’s also, unfortunately, twice as many of Alex Trebek’s annoying French pronunciations.)
The preceding “Jeopardy!” hypothetical pretty well describes what’s actually going to happen with the Baker City Herald starting the week of June 1-5.
We’ll keep gathering a week’s worth of news but we’ll publish all the words and photographs in three issues — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — rather than five.
Which means you’ll probably do well to set aside extra time to get through each issue, because each one will contain more local news than do the editions you’re used to.
Our goal, though, is not merely to wedge five days of news into the space now occupied by three.
We intend to do more than that.
Because we won’t be assembling a newspaper on Tuesdays or Thursdays, our reporters and photographs will have more time to interview and write and photograph.
And it’s the same group of reporters — Chris Collins, Mike Ferguson, Lisa Britton, Ed Merriman and Gerry Steele — and photographers — S. John Collins and Kathy Orr — that bring you the news of Baker County now. We’re cutting a couple of issues per week but we’ve not laid off any member of the news staff; and it’s a staff, by the way, which has among its members about 125 years of experience covering this county.
Our current schedule, publishing five days a week, goes like this:
We have to finish our color pages — usually Page 1 and the back page, although occasionally others — by 9:45 a.m.
The deadline for all other pages is 10:15 a.m.
Until the paper is done, all of us in the news department concentrate on finishing the daily issue, and none of us has much time to work on stories or photographs for future editions.
Unlike at larger newspapers, where reporters only report and editors only edit, everyone in the newsroom has to take on all manner of tasks in the morning, including proof-reading each other’s stories, putting the text and photos on the page, and then sending the completed pages by computer to La Grande, where the Herald is printed.
But after June 1, Tuesday and Thursday mornings will be quite different around here.
With no deadlines to meet on those two days, we’ll have more time to gather news.
The actual amounts will vary, of course, but I figure that each of us will have, on average, about six more hours more per week to find out what’s happening in our county.
With that extra time, our staff will be able to pursue more stories and take more photographs.
But also — and I think this is at least as important — they’ll have the chance in many cases to add vital information to stories which now, due to deadlines, might not be as detailed as we’d like.
It’s an inevitability in this business that reporters sometimes “finish” a story while they’re waiting for someone to return a phone call or respond to an e-mail.
That won’t happen as often in the Herald after June 1.
As for immediacy, we are fortunate to be living in the Internet age.
If a blizzard blocks the freeway on a Tuesday or a Thursday morning, we’ll post the information on our Web site — www.bakercityherald.com — as soon as possible.
We’ll make similar use of the Web site in other cases. For instance, if the county commissioners, who usually meet on Wednesday, approve a zoning ordinance that affects hundreds of property owners, we won’t wait until Friday’s issue to alert the county. We’ll get the story on the Web Wednesday, with perhaps a more detailed online version Thursday, followed by an even more comprehensive story in the Friday print edition.
One thing that won’t change even a whit after June is our insatiable curiosity about the people and the places of Baker County, what they’re doing, what they care about, what they find fascinating.
Our stories aren’t really ours, after all.
The stories are all yours.
We consider it a privilege to tell them, and, as always, we want to hear more.
Or stop by the office; I’m usually around, and on Tuesday and Thursday mornings I won’t, as the saying goes, be on deadline.
The address is 1915 First St.