The old editor

I used to look scan all the weekly publications in the market regularly as part of my job. I needed to see what they had that we didn’t. Since I quit, though, I never look at them. I don’t consciously avoid them; they just aren’t where I am. It’s out of sight, out of mind.

So I was surprised when my friend Larry Keech told me on Facebook that Yes! Weekly mentioned me this week. After all, I’m old news. Fortunately, it is an article about Jeff Gauger, my successor in the News & Record’s editing chair. It calls me “the venerable John Robinson.” For that, Jeff, I apologize.

(Venerable: 1: impressive by reason of age; 2: profoundly honored.) I’m flipping my collar.

Writer Jordan Green does express some concern about the paper’s news judgment, which is as it should be, given that Yes is an alt.weekly and has a distinctly different audience from the N&R . But if anyone can explain the meaning of this sentence, please do: As resources become scarcer in the industry and powerful institutions become in some respects less accountable, we’ve come to approach our relationship with the N&R from a standpoint of zoned defense rather than direct competition.

One thought on “The old editor

  1. I’ll take a crack at it.
    This is something we’ve been talking about in our newsroom: the absolute gutting of news departments, particularly at dailies, which are charged with being the newspapers of record, and its effects on overall news coverage of our communities.
    We are something of a boutique news operation, picking and choosing what we cover. And we ask ourselves about each story: Do we need to cover this? Case in point is the Holder story in Pleasant Garden, the mom who killed her whole family. It’s more or less spot news. The N&R performed admirably, flooding the zone with a team of reporters and photogs. We ran a small item, mostly for posterity’s sake, but we saw no need to rehash the story because by the time our paper hit the streets it was old news. And that’s how we approach most of our coverage. Unless we can significantly advance the story, add context or find another take we tend to let the N&R have at it and direct our resources elsewhere to be of more benefit to the community.
    But as the N&R’s staff shrinks, there are more gaps in coverage. I believe “powerful institutions” are well aware of this — business, civic and political interests certainly have not slowed down their activities. There are just fewer of us to report on this.
    So: a zone defense. We are not the newspaper of record, but we complement the reporting done by our colleagues at the daily, add to the conversation, give more depth and insight when we can. Resources like print space and reporters are finite and dwindling. We’re trying to move away from the 5-year-olds playing soccer paradigm, competing by adding to the body of knowledge instead of elbowing for space at a press conference.
    We’re realizing that scoops do not really matter except to those of us in the profession. I like to scoop the N&R mainly because I like to imagine the look on Killian’s face, not because I think a reader will remember the source of the story or that it will benefit us financially. And unless I think it will benefit our readers, many of whom also rely on the N&R to say informed, I’m not all that interested in the scoop.
    And I’ll say that the workmanship at the N&R allows us to go after enterprise stories that are not even on their radar because they’re busy covering the nuts and bolts of the community, like the Greg Harrison thing we’ve been running with the last few months.
    What I’m interested in is avoiding redundancy. It’s a waste of time and space. What’s important is that our community stays informed, a goal I believe is common to both papers.
    Also: If you’re jonesing for some YES! Weekly, hit the website at http://www.yesweekly.com. No paywall! FREE is part of our business model.

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