Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Some questions for readers

I posted this on my Facebook page just now... would also love to hear from those of you checking in via the blog.

So I need some advice from y'all... I'm part of a group at the Charlotte Observer that's trying to figure out better ways to reach out to readers (and survive as a business along the way). So what do we need to do better? What stuff should we NOT be doing? What would make you a loyal reader? And if you're not reading us, what might make you start?

I'd say we're more open to changes now than at any other time in the 20 years I've been here... for economic reasons, of course, but creative and journalistic reasons too. We're playing around with a bunch of things; if you've got ideas on how we should change, in big ways or small, now's the time to speak up.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Link locally, link often.

Jason said...

You could start by actually checking grammar and spelling of everything posted on the web site and printed in the paper.

Robert E Hunt Jr said...

Also posted on Facebook ...

Somehow, someway we need to stop journalism's slow death spiral. Personally, I refuse to watch local news, cable news or national broadcast news any more. If it isn't riddled with partisanship, then it's sensationalized beyond all reason. Either way, it's a useless waste of time and money.

Newspapers need to pick up the mantle of journalism once again. We need more and better investigative journalism. We need less cheerleading and salesmanship. I want to read about *why* things are happening in the Charlotte area.

Just go back and watch about 10 minutes of "All The President's Men" again. Any ten minutes. *That* is what a major metropolitan newspaper is supposed to be ... A relentless voice for the people and one that is unwilling to violate the basic principles of journalism.... See More

In terms of pure journalism, perhaps the saddest observation I can make today is this ... I can get more and better reporting and a deeper understanding of the issues from watching the first 5 minutes of "The Daily Show" than I can from any major newspaper.

Ed said...

I think the only way newspapers will survive is if they are owned locally and not required to make a profit. If the paper can pay everyone and break even then it will survive. If they continue to be owned by corporations that require big profit margins then they will continue to decline.

The more interactive the Observer is the better off it will be. Just take a look at the comments section. Mostly it's a bunch of knuckleheads but there is an interest in interaction. Something close to what www.metafilter does but with a focus on local and regional issues is something to consider.

Anonymous said...

The Charlotte Observer lost its way several years ago when it presented news stories in a very partisan way and eliminated it's investigative journalism approach.

It's sad to say but I quit subscribing to the newspaper years ago as it only took about 10 minutes to read the 'real' news stories instead of a bunch of cheerleading propaganda that was obvious in its bias.

Anonymous said...

"I can get more and better reporting and a deeper understanding of the issues from watching the first 5 minutes of "The Daily Show" than I can from any major newspaper."

Now, that is just sad. Since when did the Daily Show become anything relating to real news?

Anonymous said...

I am an out-of-state daily reader of the online Observer (hoping to relocate to Charlotte this year). As a property owner,I read the paper daily to keep updated on community events. I have noticed that incomplete articles are printed and are often lacking in accuracy. I am not a journalist, but I consistently find holes in stories that should neve have made it past the editorial staff.

From my personal perspective, I am always looking for:
1. Accurate and complete information regarding economic and business issues in the region
2. The news must regain an unbiased perspective. The media (in general) has managed to taint our society in a manner that is neither objective or ethical. Correcting this requires the return of true "investigative reporting."
3. I want to see fewer stories about murders, robberies, rape and other heinous crimes (including less sensationalism), and more stories that help to establish an example to our society and promotes the values we all claim to want more of.
4. The paper has become more of a "gossip rag" than an information source. That must change.

Anonymous said...

America went to hell in a handbasket under Bush and his 'cons for 8 yrs and now BamBam thinks more red ink gumint will solve the probs.
Once these ragheads really begin to do their suicide thing in America on a mass scale its gonna pretty much be the end of everything anyway and it may be headed that way.

The only solution for the whole bankrupt media industry may be a Bernake bailout and allow the feds to own free speech too. The Pravda Observer.

Nancy said...

I get tired of reading the Hickory and Charlotte paper back to back and realizing I've read the same stories over and over. Why are there so many stories on "celebrities" but the book section (which only appears on Sunday) is smaller and smaller and coming either straight off the wire or from Raleigh?

I real the Observer for the columns written by you and a handful of other writers that I wouldn't find anywhere else. (Okay, I also check the obits to see how many of the deceased are my age or younger. Creepy, I know.)

If papers want to survive as papers--and some of us want our news in print on big floppy paper pages--then hire real journalists. I don't mind very opinionated op ed pieces if they are balanced with both sides. Good writing! We want good writing that makes us think. I want to read with my scissors because I find things to clip and share (and I'm not talking about coupons.)

Anonymous said...

Local, local, local.
Columns with more bite, less Nehi and Moon Pie..
And for heaven's sake, STOP those predictable Sunday terminal disease- fighting- back- from -adversity pieces.
We'd rather see Investigative on Sundays!

Robert E Hunt Jr said...

>> Now, that is just sad. Since when did the Daily Show become anything relating to real news?

Ever since real news gave up being real news. And that was a long time ago.

Jumper said...

Kill the comedy quotes from Jay Leno et al on the ed. pages. Kill the talkback column in the ed. pages.

Do an Al Phillips retrospective.

More tech articles, local slant!

M said...

Great photos; comprehensive news features; unique content; local calendars for art, books, camps, activities and social events for adults and children; integrate everything with Twitter, blogs and Facebook ... do preceeds, coverage and follows on electronic media, extending the conversations.

I hate the Big Picture section on Sunday. Most times, it could be a section from any paper in any city. I love Money Wise and Carolina Living. The Neighbors section is often repetitive of content that appears in other sections on the same day.

Offer subscriptions for the days people most want ... Sunday, Wednesday (grocery circular day) and Friday. I would subscribe for those, but I won't subscribe for seven days or just the weekend, even if it's a decent deal. I only want those days.

Local content, local angles on national and international stories. Everyone has access to wire-type stories day and night on phones, laptops and televeision.

Avoid print and electronic references to the good old days of journalism and newspapers, because younger readers/potential readers don't care, and it's alienating/sounds like you're all part of an exclusive club of elitists better than the shallow, stupid Twitter-thinking public who don't know what they're missing.

Interaction, interaction, interaction ... ask for conversations and participation on all levels/in all media, and cross-promote. Live tweeting of meetings, like school board, is great.

Use lots of freelancers or correspondents from the community ... writers, journalists, columnists who are familiar and unique to Charlotte and to whom readers may have loyalties or might buy a paper/click a link to see what they have to say.

Develop innovative relationships with advertisers, whose advertising content or campaign might be interesting enough for people to invest attention in The Observer.

billhiltonjr said...

Tommy, thanks for your work. I agree with many folks who have told me The Charlotte Observer REALLY needs a regular nature column (with photos) that directs the attention of boomers and younger folks to the natural wonders that abound in the Carolina Piedmont.

Many newspapers across the country offer such columns, which are among the most avidly read components of those papers. Information provided in a regular nature feature helps the public understand the interconnectedness of living things and provides the knowledge that empowers us protect local flora, fauna, and habitats.

I'd be happy to talk further with your editors about this concept. :-)

Lynne Stevenson said...

Ever since Doug Robarcheck retired from the paper it has been going steadily down hill. If it wasn't for you, Tom Sorenson, Scott Fowler, Dannye Powell, and a few other columnists I read from time to time,I would not even bother with the CO anymore. Even though I live in SC, I still enjoy catching up with what is going on in The Queen City. I agree that proofreading has somewhat fallen by the wayside in most local and regional newspapers and needs to be throughly addressed. Even though the average reader doesn't read beyond the sixth grade level, give those of us who graduated from college a break...

Anonymous said...

Quit focusing on newcomers all the time and have more stories on what really made Charlotte what it is today--the natives. People such as the Belks and the Levines with their generosity have helped make this city what it is today. A regular column about Charlotte natives and what they think about the progress of Charlotte would be very interesting. Another very good story could be about what USED to be in Charlotte but has now torn down. That could be a regular feature for years! Oh the stories I and other natives could tell about what used to be here and is now gone forever.

Anonymous said...

Local writers; local stories.

Algernon said...

Bring back the old "neighbors" section where you printed photos and stories from readers. Local interest pieces are a keen reason to pick up the Sunday.

Milking stories for days on end changing the headline, and not content is annoying at best.

Stop being afraid to print negative articles about Obama and camp...like Reids "dialect" comment floating about more agressive venues.

Charging for online access will provide a great story for former Observer employees waddling about down in the unemployment trenches. Maybe you all should try that, to give us some first person perspective on the real world.

Bill Burkholder said...

1. Get onto Apple's new tablet device immediately after it is released! Quit killing trees and wasting gas and diesel fuel delivering the paper, shipping the paper, etc. This alone will save millions of dollars that can be put into the content of the paper. Use bits instead of atoms to deliver your content, and apply that exhorbitant subscription fee toward improving the contents of the virtual paper.

DON'T assume your current web site works well on a tablet. It's weaker than the current print edition.

DO understand the benefits of real-time updates and community involvement with blogs such as this one. Once everyone is steered onto web devices, we will all be better off.

Personally, I want everything I read - novels, journals, magazines, news"papers" and blogs - to be on that new device, along with everything I watch and listen to. There is no reason to print paper in the rest of the 21st century and beyond, except for product labeling.

2. Get back to the five Ws plus H of traditional, news-oriented journalism! Can the opinion unless it is labeled as such. Quit thinking of journalism as a way to push an agenda. Present all sides! Advocacy journalism eventually loses you the customers who are on the side you are not advocating.

There is a reason Air America died while conservative talk radio thrives. It's called LOGIC. Audio and the written word are linear. They are processed in a different section of the brain from images, which are holistically interpreted, so liberal talk and articles don't work so well (they're much more touchy-feely and emotional and less logical). It's difficult for liberals to sell their articles in print, and even more difficult with audio alone.

3. Go LOCAL. Cover more of what matters on the home front and in the region.

We want more business news, more news of what people are doing to make this a better place, and less cops and robbers, woe-is-me the sky is falling 'cause I just lost my arm and my job on the same day.

If 20% of us are out of work, 80% of us are still employed. Find out what we're doing that matters and that is super-cool! We're a majority.

Anonymous said...

LOCAL LOCAL LOCAL. I can get world and national news everywhere and anywhere, but local stuff is hard to find. cover the HS sports, HS academics more than once a year, and more businesses than BOA and Wachovia/WF. Less random articles from the AP. I started reading a promising article a while ago, only to get 2/3 of the way through and have all the locations referenced be in San Francisco. I missed the AP byline. It was disappointing. If the same topic had been covered LOCALLY, it would have been great.

Anonymous said...

The death of the Charlotte Observer. GOOD RIDDANCE!!!!!

Anonymous said...

You want the CO to stay afloat? How about trying a little balance in your articles instead of being a mouthpiece for the far left? You have alienated the majority of your community and they have written you off. Maybe your lib friends will hold a fund raiser for you. The Observer used ot be a respectable paper, but it is no longer. Te print version will be gone within 5 years.