Our version of addition by subtraction
by PI Editorial Board
May 09, 2009 | 1025 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It was somewhat fitting, perhaps, that Congress went looking for answers for the sorry state of the newspaper business on the same day the Irrigator announced it was cutting its print publications from two per week to one.

A group of U.S. senators, led by John Kerry, failed to come up with the solution to all our woes. No big surprise there.

We don’t believe we’ve solved the puzzle, either. All we did was take a step we think will help improve our solvency while — ideally — not sacrificing the quality of our product.

Some will no doubt argue that eliminating one of our two weekly print editions will do exactly that — diminish the quality of our print product. We humbly and optimistically disagree.

The only thing that will diminish in our print product is its immediacy, which wasn’t exactly its strong suit to begin with. If anything, printing twice a week demanded an immediacy that was impossible to actually deliver.

Because of the lengthy process of physically producing and mailing the paper, our deadline for stories and photos is more than 40 hours earlier than when most people get the paper in their mailbox — a full two days if you don’t pick up your mail until after 5 p.m. Only the most urgent stories from the day before mailing make it in the paper.

So by the time you read your Wednesday issue of the Irrigator, we’re probably less than a day away from our deadline for the Saturday paper — which, by the way, will include the news of things that have already happened.

It’s very difficult to maintain timeliness in print under those sorts of circumstances. But with a paper coming out every three or four days, it feels like it should be more timely.

With a weekly paper, the expectation of timeliness is not as great. With few exceptions, the news that happens from Monday through Sunday will appear in Wednesday’s print edition. It’s a routine that feels more comfortable and more logical to us. Hopefully, once we get a few weeks into it, it’ll feel that way to our readers as well.

The immediacy we could never give in print is not going away, though. It’s online, and it’s going to be stronger than ever.

Those Tuesday night City Council meetings that have most recently been covered in Saturday papers — already four days old — will be a little older by the time you see them in print. But most of the time, they’ll be on our Web site the day after the meeting.

The extra time before going to press with these stories should also allow us to better develop them. Ideally, our online readers will have the benefit of a quicker turnaround, while our print readers will get more in-depth coverage of the issues. And those who want both can have it.

We’re not thrilled about the state of the economy or the newspaper industry. It’s scary. And there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution.

It’s true that we would not be going down to one print edition per week if business were booming. But you likely would have seen more drastic changes a long time ago if things were as bad here as they are in Seattle or Denver, for example, where major metropolitan dailies have closed down or gone online-only.

We’re holding our own. And we really do think this change gives us a chance to improve the services we offer our readers. We remain as committed as ever to bringing you the news. We’re simply modifying the package in which you receive it.
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