Although it’s been several months since we’ve been able to gather and events have started up again, and a busy summer led into a busy fall, it still feels like a bit of a novelty to speak to people face-to-face.
Based on several conversations I’ve had lately while I’ve been out covering events and had the chance to chat with people a bit, it seems many people aren’t very familiar with the different roles in a community newspaper and how they operate. For the sake of clarity, and to be best able to serve our clients and the community, I thought I’d explain a little about what we do here at Ponoka News for those who may not know.
Roles at a newspaper
As the editor of both Ponoka News and the Bashaw Star, people are sometimes curious if the title “editor” means I edit others’ work or if I write as well.
In short, it can be both, as an editor can work with other journalists under them as part of a team or as a one-person newsroom. Currently, I’m a solo act.
I’m a journalist and write, gather and prepare local news items for publication and take photos at events.
An editor is in charge of all the local news or opinion content, or “editorial” copy, for their publication so if you have a question about submitting a news story or want to know if the paper can cover your event, I’m the one you’d call.
I love to be invited, and letting me know about your event or calling in a news tip can be extremely helpful, as I may not otherwise hear about it.
Typically, a small community newspaper will have at least two main departments: editorial and advertising.
These departments are kept separate intentionally, to protect the integrity of unbiased reporting of local news. Editorial doesn’t handle the money, and advertising doesn’t write the news.
While I may not be much help if you come into the office wanting to place an ad, I will make sure our fabulous sales rep Karen Douglass or our genuine rock star of a regional publisher Christina Komives gets the information.
A sales department may have one or more sales reps, headed up by a manager of some kind, but it handles all advertising needs for the paper’s clients.
While the role of publisher may differ between media outlets, in the most basic terms, publishers oversee the publication as a whole. Karen and I both report to Christina.
Clients can contact either Christina or Karen for advertising needs. If sent to Christina, she can assign the account to either Karen or herself. Otherwise, clients can continue to contact who they usually work with for their ads.
Sometimes community members have difficulty understanding why something they submitted wasn’t published. I carefully consider each submission for publication, and there is a process.
There are two questions that have to be asked: First, is this editorial or advertising? And second, if it’s editorial, is it suitable for publication?
Generally speaking, anything promoting a business or brand is advertising unless it’s of great public interest. Congratulations, thank you’s or other personal messages are also advertising.
If I have a question about whether an item should be considered editorial or advertising, I defer to Christina as publisher.
To determine the suitability of news content for publication, as editor, I use my own judgement and experience as a trained journalist to make a judgement call. If needed, I defer to Christina or consult a senior editor within our media company, Black Press, or even sometimes, our lawyer.
Larger media outlets may have editorial boards to debate the finer points of journalistic standards or defamation law, but at Ponoka News, that’s how it works.
Newspapers are liable for all content they publish or host, so it doesn’t matter if one of our journalists wrote an article or opinion piece or if it was submitted: once we publish it, we’re responsible for it.
The only legal defence for defamation is if it can be proven to be true, so that’s why we don’t publish statements that we can’t verify as true, even in opinion pieces.
It’s not only about liability, but about reliable and responsible journalism.
One common question is why there isn’t more local news. While businesses had to adapt during the pandemic and Ponoka News was no exception, I believe this is a misconception.
Although we’ve had to economize and prioritize the way we report on local news, we continue to produce an impressive amount of hyper-local news. We also provide regular news content of regional interest from our other central Alberta publications.
As part of Black Press Media, we’re also able to provide access to our readers to timely, relevant and compelling provincial, national and international news.
We post a mix of local and other news stories from Canadian Press on our Facebook page. If you’ve missed our local news stories in your social media feed, you can find all the latest local news on our website under News> Local News. Better yet, you can sign up for our newsletter and have all the local news delivered straight to your inbox three times a week.
The purpose, function and importance of community journalism is one of my favourite topics, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. Drop me an email anytime at email@example.com.