Your tough­est ques­tions will help us build a bet­ter news­pa­per

The News-Times (Sunday) - - More Opinion - About use­ful for Matt DeRienzo is vice pres­i­dent of news and dig­i­tal con­tent for Hearst’s Con­necti­cut news­pa­pers. He can be reached at matt.derienzo@hearst­medi­act.com or 203-842-2556.

Two weeks ago, I asked our read­ers a bunch of ques­tions that I have step­ping into a new job lead­ing Hearst’s news­pa­pers in Con­necti­cut. I’ve re­ceived hun­dreds of emails and phone calls, and would love more (matt.derienzo@hearst­medi­act.com or 203-842-2556). But please be pa­tient! It’s tak­ing me some time to get back to ev­ery­one.

As it turns out, your an­swers so far lead me to more ques­tions. But they’re ques­tions we need to ask our­selves about how we re­port, write and distribute the news.

Why do so many feel there is an un­fair po­lit­i­cal bias to how we write and pre­sent the news? Is that just about Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, na­tional news sto­ries and the gov­er­nor’s race, or is the po­lar­iza­tion of our pol­i­tics threat­en­ing faith in the way we re­port lo­cal news?

“You can see the bias in al­most ev­ery ar­ti­cle,” one long­time reader told me.

Oth­ers said re­porters some­times miss im­por­tant con­text about a story, or it seems like one side of an is­sue has their ear.

We might be sin­cere in ap­proach­ing the jour­nal­ism we do with ob­jec­tiv­ity and fair­ness, but ev­ery­one is col­ored by their own ex­pe­ri­ences, cir­cle of friends and list of sources. There are half a dozen ways of ap­proach­ing any given story, and those choices can lead read­ers to to­tally dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions of an is­sue.

And the words we use, es­pe­cially in head­lines, mat­ter so much. Is that car­a­van in Cen­tral Amer­ica an “army” of mi­grants, as the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ferred to it be­fore back­track­ing the other day, or a walk­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis of asy­lum seek­ers? And should we even be choos­ing to em­pha­size that story over some­thing else, and what are the mo­tives of the peo­ple who are try­ing to get it into the news cy­cle or out?

There are also some prac­ti­cal con­cerns.

▶ Why can’t we get the pa­per de­liv­ered on time and on the front porch? Why has pric­ing seemed so com­pli­cated? Why do some peo­ple have to call mul­ti­ple times to get an is­sue re­solved?

▶ Why can’t we make our web­sites eas­ier to nav­i­gate? Why isn’t news about a par­tic­u­lar town or a topic some­one cares about eas­ier to find and fol­low?

▶ How do spell­ing and gram­mar er­rors end up be­ing pub­lished? (I just hope our ed­i­to­rial page edi­tors have my back on this col­umn, even though I badly missed my dead­line.)

▶ How can we be more to peo­ple, writ­ing them, not just them? Sev­eral peo­ple com­plained that they don’t find out about im­por­tant lo­cal events un­til af­ter the fact or too late to be in­volved.

▶ And how do we bal­ance cov­er­age of the cities and the sub­urbs, town-by-town lo­cal news with re­gional or statewide top­ics and trends?

Not sur­pris­ingly, I heard from peo­ple who feel like we don’t cover lo­cal news the way we used to. Peo­ple who don’t want to see out-of-town news in the pa­per.

Specif­i­cally, peo­ple who live in Mon­roe, Eas­ton, Weston, Redding and Strat­ford, whose home­town weekly pa­pers were re­cently shut down, are won­der­ing what Hearst can do with the Con­necti­cut Post, the Dan­bury News-Times, the Fair­field Ci­ti­zen or the West­port News to step up cov­er­age of those com­mu­ni­ties.

I also heard from many read­ers who want the pa­per to do a bet­ter job sum­ma­riz­ing the most im­por­tant news of the coun­try and the world, es­pe­cially at a time when so much is hap­pen­ing.

Oth­ers felt we have an op­por­tu­nity to put the big­gest ques­tions fac­ing Con­necti­cut and the re­gion in con­text, go­ing in-depth on is­sues that cross town lines.

The read­ers who re­sponded to my ques­tions in­cluded peo­ple who have been sub­scribers for 25, 30, 40 and even 50 years. They shared some in­cred­i­ble story ideas, some of which you’ll see come to fruition in the weeks and months ahead.

Some read­ers rely on us as their main source of lo­cal and na­tional news. Oth­ers turn to us as their lo­cal news source, but are also read­ing the New York Times, Wall Street Jour­nal and nu­mer­ous other me­dia sources in print and on­line.

De­spite his tough ques­tions about how we can do bet­ter, one reader said this about how much money he was spend­ing on a sub­scrip­tion to his lo­cal Hearst daily, his lo­cal weekly and some na­tional news publi­ca­tions: “I con­sider this an im­por­tant in­vest­ment in democ­racy, which de­pends on well-in­formed vot­ers.”

His thought­ful feed­back, and yours, is help­ing us be a bet­ter stew­ard of that in­vest­ment. Keep ask­ing the tough ques­tions.

The read­ers who re­sponded to my ques­tions in­cluded peo­ple who have been sub­scribers for 25, 30, 40 and even 50 years. They shared some in­cred­i­ble story ideas, some of which you’ll see come to fruition in the weeks and months ahead.

Cathy Zu­raw / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Matt DeRienzo is vice pres­i­dent of news and dig­i­tal con­tent for Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia Group.

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