This is what I love about our readers: You pay attention to what you see in the paper and on our website and you aren’t shy about sharing your opinions.
No, really. Of course the diplomatically presented opinions are easier to hear than the ones that begin “you people.” But either way, at least most of the time, it is information we need to hear.
I also know that most once we get used to something, we aren’t crazy about change. So I wasn’t surprised to hear from some of you about the changes we’ve made to our weather page. As you will have noticed, it has been something of a work in progress this week. We have lightened the local map and changed the type color for the temperatures and town names to make it easier to read.
We also are working with those who supply the national and international temperatures to return some of the national cities to the list. We will try to swap out some of the international cities for others that have been requested, but we won’t have room to run the full list. We made the decision to trade some of those far-flung locations for more specific local data.
Clearing quotes with sources
This topic has received much attention lately in the world of journalism following the revelation that reporters from some of the top news operations in the nation are giving government sources the right to, essentially, pre-censor their work.
I am proud to note that the policy for McClatchy journalists covering the arcane, complicated, volatile but critically important world of Washington politics prohibits this practice. Here’s what Jim Asher, editor of McClatchy’s Washington bureau posted on their site last week. If you want to read his full essay, go here: http://tinyurl.com/cm9dqb4
To our staff and to our readers:
As you are aware, reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg and others are agreeing to give government sources the right to clear and alter quotes as a prerequisite to granting an interview.
To be clear, it is the bureau’s policy that we do not alter accurate quotes from any source. And to the fullest extent possible, we do not make deals that we will clear quotes as a condition of interviews.
With the government trying to do more of the public’s business in secret, the demands that interviews be conducted off the record is growing. While it puts us at a disadvantage, we should argue strenuously for on-the-record interviews with government officials.
It has long been the policy of The Sun News to bar unattributed quotes, and neither do we allow our sources to read articles prior to publication. We remain committed to accuracy, and may call a source back to confirm a fact or a comment. We also correct errors spotted in online versions of articles that appear in advance of the next day’s newspaper, when factual errors are brought to our attention.
I specify “factual errors” because sources often aren’t happy with the angle we have taken on an article. Sometimes they have a point, sometimes they are overly sensitive and see conspiracy where there is none, and sometimes they are just furious that we’ve written about something they didn’t want brought to light.
If you find ourself in one of those categories, by all means contact me. I may not make you happy, but I am always willing to talk about your concerns and explain why we did what we did.
Where are we?
Print journalists have long used the dateline -- that bold city, state combination at the start of an article -- as a way to let readers know we’ve been to the place we’re reporting on. And it has long been a journalistic no-no to put that label on an article if you haven’t been there, if, for example, you have reported by phone from your office, a necessity that happens with more frequency in these days of fewer staffers.
We also generally did not use a dateline for the city in which the publication was located, assuming that readers knew where it was.
Careful readers may have noted a recent change to that policy.
We now use a Myrtle Beach dateline on articles that are written from our office in Myrtle Beach on topics that have broad area interest, such as changes in board of education policy, or rules governing area beaches. There are two main reasons for this.
One is that so many readers come to us online from out of the area, it is no longer safe to assume that they know where we are.
The second has to do with something called search engine optimization, or SEO in our new digital lingo. It is a technique that directs more online readers to your site based on the words they use in their search. Yup, you guessed it, “Myrtle Beach” is a frequent flier when it comes to online searches.
Starting soon, we will also begin using a geographic label with some print articles to make it easier for those scanning the paper to see if a topic is about their particular corner of Horry/Georgetown county paradise. This is not meant to serve as a dateline, but rather as a signpost, if you will.
For example, an article about the upcoming Pawleys Festival of Music and Art will have a “Pawleys Island” label, even though likely will be written from inside our newsroom in Myrtle Beach.
The goal in all of this is to help readers identify the topics they most want to spend time with, ensure that if we quote someone they haven’t preapproved their comments, and to keep improving the weather page.
As always, thanks for reading.
Contact CAROLYN CALLISON MURRAY at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at TSN_ccmurray.