A good deal of my internship has been spent living the life of a new reporter. This meant writing obituaries and press releases. These could grow tiresome, but it also gave me a glimpse of one of the Democrat’s strengths – the awareness the editors have of their reader’s needs.
In obituaries this means always putting the local connection up front - whether it be family that lives in the area, a local business they owned, former resident, etc. For press releases it means appealing to the interests of readers in the most concise way possible.
After I got my feet wet covering meetings and writing releases and obits, I moved on to a variety of feature stories which were mostly profiles. My stories ranged from the Red Cross Volunteer of the Year, to a world class female rower in the 50-55 age grouping, to a young online millionaire, to a former Hunterdon resident who is certified to fly the world’s largest passenger plane. The last one even got on the front page!
Writing these profiles was something I really enjoyed. I tell my students that everyone has a story and I’d love to see more profiles in the school newspaper. The profiles that I was assigned came from a number of sources – public relations e-mails, other articles, and even other readers.
Of course, even in these stories the local angle is paramount. If they no longer live in the area, the connection needs to be made upfront. And even if they do live in the county, adding other residents that are relevant to the story offers “circles of connectivity,” as one editor put it.
The way front page stories are chosen also gave me a glimpse into the way the newspaper serves their readers. They try to constantly focus what is of interest to their readers and give them something other papers can’t – a local angle that is informative, entertaining, and even quant. They represent Hunterdon’s rural, small town, nature in the corner of the most populated state in the country.
This awareness and dedication to readers is something that I’d like to encourage the school newspaper’s staff to focus on as well: What is the student body interested in? What do they need to know? How can you represent the identity of the school to readers?