Paris Goodnight: Shop talk — putting together a newspaper isn’t as easy as you might think

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 11, 2022

If you’ve been out to some restaurants still trying to get back up to speed after the pandemic, you’ve probably  seen the signs asking for patience because of staffing issues. I’m trying to figure where we can place such a sign around here. Not just because of the short staffing part, but with turnover at a paper our size, it can be hard to maintain continuity — as in reporting on things like we always have.

I’m constantly getting reminders about how Elizabeth Cook or Mark Wineka did things back in their day. But none of our reporters have been around as long as they were to soak up the details of the community.

And it’s not as easy as you might think to put a newspaper together these days. Sometimes new technology comes along that’s supposed to make things easier, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Take email for instance. It’s so easy to communicate with anyone around the world. But because it’s so easy, you can imagine the numbers of people who try to communicate with us daily from who knows where. Some of them probably aren’t even human, as the bots that fill the internet have gotten better at sounding almost human too.

But because there are so many, it can be overwhelming wading through them all to get to ones that are real. Plenty of spam blockers have cleared out the people trying to sell us stuff, but political entities aren’t slowed by such hurdles. And unsubscribing to some emails just seems to cause the numbers to multiply in the inboxes we check.

That doesn’t even touch on what may be fake news out there, but in the local news game, it probably wouldn’t take long for someone to figure out if something of the sort made its way into print. Over the years, several of the big news organizations fell victim to people writing some riveting stories about a character that later proved to be made up. People in charge realized after the fact that one easy way to stop that is to require photos with any such tricky stories.

That’s all to say that while getting news from anywhere at anytime has gotten so much easier than it used to be, pulling all the important items that happen into a package that can be delivered each day or sent to subscribers’ email addresses remains an ongoing  challenge. Fighting through the mass of emails is only one of the hurdles.

Earlier deadlines to get everything ready to be shipped to an offsite location to print squeezes late-night coverage also, particularly sporting events. And it’s not cheap trying to get around to all the events that should be covered or getting the paper hot off the presses delivered to all the local addresses.

Another hazard for papers the size of the Post is when reporters decide to move on to bigger and better, it takes a sizable chunk out of the working knowledge of the staff that remains. As long as I’ve been here, we’ve always had somewhat of a steppingstone rotation for younger reporters to move to bigger news outlets, so that’s nothing new.

But as staff sizes shrink, when it’s time to replace someone who leaves, the pressure on those left behind gets a little tougher.

Then you get to deal with people on the phone or via sharply worded emails who don’t appreciate what unintended slight you may have done to them.

So that’s why I’m still working on a way to get that sign up like some restaurants have, asking for a little understanding for those dealing with understaffed conditions. I haven’t figured out exactly where to put it so people might actually have a little sympathy for those left trying to report all that goes on around Rowan County.

But we’ll keep trying if you’ll keep supplying us with interesting material that people can enjoy reading. And if you have an idea where such a sign asking for a little understanding should go, just let me know. And I know people have always complained about the paper, wherever they live. But if there wasn’t one, I guess we’d  all just have to complain about the weather.

So to all the folks who read the Post and keep us on our toes when something isn’t right, we say thanks and we’ll keep striving to do the best we possibly can. We know everyone doesn’t write letters to the editor or call up to the newsroom — to praise or chastise — but we appreciate all those who continue to want to know as much as they can about the community around them.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.