Every few months, we ask readers, like you, how we’re doing.
We want to know if you think the paper is getting better, getting worse or if it’s about the same since our last round of research.
This time, though, we added another question:
If you could ask the top editor one question about the newspaper, what would you ask?
Quite a few readers asked about balance and bias; others wondered about our crossword puzzle and how we choose our comics; we even had a question about the style we and other newspapers follow when abbreviating states.
But several key themes emerged: Folks wanted to know how we go about covering and reporting the news. They asked about our deadlines – and our headlines. And they wondered how it all comes together each and every day, both in print and on our web sites.
So let’s take a look at some of the questions:
How do you choose the headlines?
Headlines are tricky. After all, we have only four or six words to capture the essence of a story.
So at 5:30 each night, a group gathers in our conference room to write our front-page headlines. We start by identifying key words – then kick around ideas as we try to bring some finesse to the finished product.
From there, the story and the suggested headline go to our Copy Desk. Oftentimes, a copy editor takes another crack at the headline, improving upon our original idea. With headlines and stories on the page, our night news editor signs off on them – checking one last time to make sure we haven’t written a one-sided or biased headline.
All of this happens as our deadline looms.
Which brings me to our next question:
What is the deadline for printing the next day’s edition? And why are sports results cut off so early?
One of our top priorities is to make sure the paper is as complete as possible.
Yet, we also understand how important it is to have the paper delivered to your home in the morning – early enough so that you can read it with that first cup of coffee before racing out the door to work.
Therein lies the tension.
Because we want to get the paper there on time, it sometimes means we don’t always have late sports scores. When that happens, we guide readers to AJC.com and MyAJC.com, where they can find the latest and most complete results.
We’ve also started experimenting with digital editions, such as our SEC Insider – the virtual edition we published each Sunday throughout the college football season.
On our Today’s Paper app, readers were able to find coverage of every SEC game (even results from games that ended after midnight).
It’s all part of making improvements, which brings us to our next question:
What will you do to keep the paper compelling and current for today’s reader?
That question goes hand in hand with another:
Do you see my much-loved print newspaper eventually being discontinued?
Earlier this year, I was at a conference in Portland, Maine, when someone shared the story of Monocle, a British magazine found in 82 countries. When asked if print is dead, the magazine’s editor replied:
“The idea that print is dead is, well, dead. If you can create [something] that makes the most of the medium … you create something that is tactile and sensual, and you have unique stories, then you can do very well.”
I’m certain I couldn’t have answered that question any better.
All along, we’ve said that we remain committed to the printed newspaper. At the same time, we’re continuing to enhance and introduce new digital products.
While no one knows what the future holds, this much is certain: We’ll continue to innovate.
Eighteen months ago, we introduced our new Personal Journeys feature – and our writing and storytelling have been recognized nationally.
In 2013, we launched two new digital editions – MyAJC.com and our Today’s Paper app.
And our investigative reporters continued to hold your public officials accountable:
We dug deep on the new Falcons stadium and the Braves move to Cobb County. Our four-year investigation of suspicious test scores culminated in the indictment of former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 other educators. And a year-long investigation of state child protective services revealed that last year alone, state workers failed to recognize or act on signs that foretold the deaths of at least 25 children.
That kind of innovation – and that special, in-depth reporting – will continue in the new year.
Today, you’ll find a digital version of our new Living Intown magazine on the Today’s Paper app.
On Tuesday, we’re planning a digital bonus section on the BCS Championship Game. That, too, can be found on the Today’s Paper app.
And in a few weeks, our legislative team (the largest and most-experienced in Georgia) returns to the Capitol.
It promises to be an exciting 2014.
I hope you keep your questions coming throughout the year.
We’ll do our best to answer them.