I've been writing for one newspaper or another since sixty years ago when I wrote my first story for Galveston's William B. Travis Elementary School's paper.
I've even written for national magazines, in those cases most of the time under a pen name. Forbes, Business Weekly, Forbes, Playboy and even The New Yorker are examples.
Many people are critical of the composition of the make-up of the editorial content of their newspaper. Not enough national news. Not enough local news. Not enough state news. The paper's too biased. Not enough news altogether.
Maybe my explanation will help.
In the main, there are only two sections of the newspaper that take up the same amount of space, day in and day out; the first page and the editorial op-ed section. In order for every other page to exist, it has to be supported by advertising.
Let's say that the business plan of the newspaper is to require each page to have an 80% copy content to a 20% advertisement content. (This example will not consider the classified ad section, and obviously some pages may have more, some less than 20%.)
So each day before the next edition is even begun, the advertising that has been sold for that coming day's edition is spread within that 80-20 formula, page after page. until there are no more ads to be placed.
Perhaps the end result is there will be 20 pages in tomorrow's paper. Now the editorial department begins fitting the reporters' stories into the remaining 80% of each of those pages. If there more stories than there is space, some will be held over to the next day. If there are fewer stories than the space requires, normally the paper will have pieces that are not time sensitive that they can fit in.
Some stories may be expanded by the editors, others reduced in size so that the fit will be exact. It's a judgment call, again based on the editors' opinion of how much information the readers will want to learn from each piece.
Newspapers can become financial losers in a hurry if they underestimate revenues when they are setting up their annual budgets. The number of reporters and the costs allocated to producing the copy are huge expenses for the newspaper. So it is better to be a bit understaffed than it is to find that the paper has more reporters on the street than its revenue will justify.
That's the primary reason oft times some events don't get the coverage that the public feels they should have. It's not that the newspaper disagrees; it's that the economics don't support it.
And being unable or unwilling to follow the formula is the major reason so many newspapers have failed or are losing money year after year.
And there's the other frequent criticism: The paper has too many unseasoned reporters. The paper's answer, of course, is that paying higher salaries to attract super star reporters discounts the quantity of the news coverage it can provide because it diminishes the number of reporters it can have collecting and writing the news.
The newspapers that are in business today have survived primarily because their management has been able to balance it on the tightrope. Far better for readers to be amazed and thankful rather than to threaten cancellation of a subscription because the paper couldn't send a reporter to cover the church's covered dish supper.
BILL CHERRY, REALTORS
DALLAS - PARK CITIES