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Barbara Lombardo writes about journalisml, local news and anything else that strikes her fancy. She is executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News, sister papers in the Digital First Media family. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The president, the governor and the community -- not necessarily in that order

What a week.
Monday, which had been anticipated as a slow news when The Saratogian scheduled its first community forum in several years, turned out to be the day President Obama visited the Capital District. Not so slow after all.
That night, with news pages not quite done and sports pages barely started, the newspaper staff shifted over to the Holiday Inn, where more than 130 people filled a meeting room to learn more about our operations and to talk about how we can work better together to our mutual benefit. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
Tuesday, after a day’s work and an evening at University at Albany, where I teach a journalism class that meets once a week, my colleague at the The Record in Troy, Lisa Lewis, and I drove out to Syracuse so we’d be fresh for the next morning’s meeting of the board of the New York State Associated Press Association. She was completing her term as president of the board, and I am a member and past president.
The primary role of the New York State Associated Press Association is to provide training opportunities for journalists and to honor and encourage good work at every size newspaper. Wednesday began with an 8:30 a.m. board meeting at which ideas for 2010 seminars were discussed. A likely topic will be social networking and what journalists ought to be doing to keep readers informed and engaged. Who knows what new networks will be in place six months from now?
Wednesday’s luncheon speaker was Gov. David Paterson, direct from a morning meeting with legislative leaders. For a guy who’s been under the political gun, he was gracious, articulate, funny and candid. Though he didn’t plan to be governor, that’s what he is, and he intends to do everything he can to lead New York and dig it out of its financial hole. He said he wouldn’t do anything to harm his political party. By the time it dawned on me to ask about the holdup in bringing slots to Aqueduct racetrack, he was down to "one more question" and it wasn’t mine.
The seminars on Wednesday included a review and discussion of a national survey about newsroom attitudes toward multimedia reporting, and how that translates into a successful mix of stories and visuals in print and online. For every respondent who wished they could turn back the clock, there were several journalists who think they should be investing more of their workweek into the Internet.
Wednesday evening, I was proud to be called up four times at the awards banquet to accept applause and certificates on behalf of reporters Paul Post and Andrew Bernstein and Beverly McKim, the former features editor who is now editor of WG Life, our weekly publication for the Wilton and Gansevoort area.
Which brings me back to Monday’s community meeting.
We presented our first-ever video, prepared by Web Editor Stephen Shoemaker, which briefly touched on what we do around here. As if publishing a daily newspaper weren’t enough, we also publish the Community News, which is southern Saratoga County’s weekly newspaper, and this year we introduced two new weekly newspapers, the aforementioned WG Life and Ballston Spa Life, for the Ballston Spa and Milton area, as well as a bi-weekly entertainment publication called The Scene.
We’re busy. We reach more than 50,000 households in print, and thousands more online.
Everyone at the meeting received a packet describing those publications along with tips about how to publicize your news and who to contact for what. Shoemaker, back from his honeymoon refreshed and rearing to go, will be putting up the contact information and publicity tips on our Web site.
We’ve already begun discussions about how to present upcoming activities in ways that are even more timely and convenient and how to provide coverage of events that our staff can’t get to (share your photos and information, please). More, smaller forums focusing on particular areas of interest are in the plans.
The turnout Monday was heartening, because it meant the community is connected with The Saratogian and its publications. The community meeting was just the start of our conversation. Thank you to those who took the time to come out to speak with us. Whether or not you were there, I and the rest of The Saratogian staff want to listen to and be responsive to your suggestions and concerns.

Friday, September 11, 2009

You're invited to Saratogian community meeting on Sept. 21

Talk to me.

Come talk to me -- and to my colleagues at The Saratogian.
We at The Saratogian are hosting an informal community get-together on Monday, Sept. 21. You’re invited, you’re all invited.

The purpose of the event is a mix: getting to know one another, learning how we can work together to get your news in, and addressing any questions and concerns about any aspect of our operations. Yes, any aspect.

And sometimes it’s just good to put together names and faces.

Besides, we’re not just The Saratogian, you know. Or did you? In the last six months, we’ve introduced three new publications in addition to The Saratogian. Two are weekly papers delivered free to homes: “Ballston Spa Life” for the Ballston Spa and Milton areas, and “WG Life” for the Wilton and Gansevoort neighborhoods. The third is a bi-weekly local entertainment paper called “The Scene” that’s distributed around town, separate from the daily newspaper. And we continue to produce the “Community News,” southern Saratoga County’s local weekly newspaper for more than 30 years.

And when we talk about The Saratogian, we’re not just talking about the paper you’re holding in your hand right now. We’re also talking about the Web site, whose readership is growing by leaps and bounds.

All of that is activity is good news, really good news. At a time when the newspaper industry nationwide has been seriously struggling, faltering and even failing in the face of declining advertising, changes in reader habits and crushing debt, it’s something to not only be chugging along, but to be moving forward.

But we can succeed only if you find us compelling, useful and important. So let’s talk.

The get-together will be from 7 to 8 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Holiday Inn on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. We’ll serve up some beverages and sweets. And to sweeten the pot even more, everyone there will be eligible to win a full-page ad for the non-profit organization of their choice.

You can also win a Saratogian cartoon umbrella if you’re selected from among those who take our fun little Saratogian quiz, which you can find on our Web site, www.saratogian.com. Click on the “GOT NEWS?” promotion at the top of the Web page and you’re on your way.

Please RSVP for the meeting at the GOT NEWS site or by calling 583-8702. Do it now, while you’re thinking about it. Make sure your organization, institution, business and neighborhood is represented.

Hope you can make it.