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Everyday Ethics by Jim Pumarlo

Jim Pumarlo writes, speaks and provides training on community newsroom success strategies. He is author of “Journalism Primer: A Guide to Community News Coverage,” “Votes and Quotes: A Guide to Outstanding Election Coverage” and “Bad News and Good Judgment: A Guide to Reporting on Sensitive Issues in Small-Town Newspapers.” He can be reached at www.pumarlo.com and welcomes comments and questions at jim@pumarlo.com.

One checklist for evaluating, advocating coverage of sensitive issues

To be certain, there is no universal right or wrong call on whether to publish a story and in how much detail. Several factors could be in play, including community norms and longstanding newspaper policy.

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Omissions as damaging as glaring errors to credibility

First, give the opposing voices equal prominence. Court proceedings are a great example.

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Deliver more than votes and quotes from government meetings

Newspapers, as representatives of readers in the public sphere, play a vital role in educating and engaging citizens to spur vibrant discussion on important public policy.

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Step away from your desk and enrich community coverage

Are you producing quality content to keep reader and advertiser interest? What other community news are you missing by not regularly connecting with a broad array of individuals in formal and informal ...

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Be responsible in exercising rights to public information

These instances, and many more, occurred during my tenure as editor of the Red Wing (Minnesota) Republican Eagle. Other editors can likely relate.

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Editorials can serve variety of roles

Editors often feel the burden of publishing editorials that attempt to solve the problems of their worlds — their communities. In truth, editorials serve a variety of roles.

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Take the offense when advocating for FOI

Why not be proactive in educating public officials on the dos and don’ts of public information? 

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Take steps now to report on 2024 budgets

We’re halfway into 2023, and many local governments are well involved in exploring 2024 budgets. Are your newsrooms aware of the process? Are you keeping readers abreast of the dynamics?

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Letters invigorate editorial pages but demand scrutiny

The extra time and attention devoted to screening letters was underscored in a recent exchange on the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors hotline. 

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Carefully screen columns by public officials

Lawmaker columns were the subject of a recent online discussion on the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors’ hotline.

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Are your news, ad departments on same page?

Editors often raise red flags — or at least hesitate — at requests for business news, and often for good reason ... 

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Prime time to take inventory of your newsmakers

Newspapers are shortchanging their readers — their customers — if they do not expand their definition of newsmakers in community conversations. 

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Resolve to be accessible, stay relevant

At its foundation, transparency means connecting with readers. Here are a handful of ideas:

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Are you transparent in your operations?

The principle is equally applicable to newsroom operations. Do you practice what you preach?

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Robust public affairs coverage requires more than recording meetings

My formula for shaping newspaper content is straightforward: Present a blend of stories that people like to read and stories they should read. Under the “should read” category, consider me ...

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Go beyond ‘votes and quotes’ when delivering election results

In short, newspapers put incredible resources into laying the groundwork for elections, but then they often fall short in translating what voters said. This is an excellent time to think how best to examine ...

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Keep eye out for 11th-hour election volleys

The stakes are ramped up even higher in the final weeks as candidates and their camps seek to level charges at the last possible moment in press releases and letters to augment — or maybe even replace ...

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How are you doing? Ask your readers

How often do you ask for a direct critique of your news content, the very lifeblood of your product? When is the last time you asked the subjects of a news story what they thought of a report?

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Plan now to recognize first responders

Are you looking for a project that can energize your news staffs, generate new advertising revenue and underscore the value of a local newspaper to potential new subscribers? Mark Oct. 28 ... 

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Single-source stories too often miss the mark of solid journalism

A regular flow of press releases demands editors’ everyday attention. The communications, in varying degrees, play a role in newspaper content. Their value looms even larger in today’s landscape ...

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