Doing more with less: Consultant offers a few suggestions p. 13

By: Bernard Caughey IF EDITORS AND publishers are trying to do more with less, they should take a close look at two things: staff and space, newspaper consultant Joseph Ungaro said.
Here are some of his suggestions about how to make the reporting staff more productive:
? Have fewer but better paid reporters and keep them very busy covering major events and developing major stories.
? Make sure reporters have a backlog of stories to work on so there is no excuse that they can't reach their source and the day flies away.
? Add an editorial assistant or two to do routine collection of formula material, such as court and police reports and obituaries.
? Add college interns and part-timers to cover routine local meetings.
Ungaro said newspapers also should take advantage of community resources.
"Even in small communities, there are many people who have knowledge and writing skills that can be very effectively used in the newspaper," he said.
For example:
? Develop a weekly local issues column and ask four citizens each week to write 250 words on that topic.
? Ask one of the participants in a march on Washington or some other significant news event to write a first-person account of the trip. Play this with a wire story about the event.
? Develop a quarterly feature on economic conditions in the area and ask four different business people each time to write their views.
? Invite a rotating group of business leaders for a luncheon discussion of economic issues in the community. This can turn out candid and interesting features.
? Instead of interviewing an expert about a major issue, have the expert write his views about it. (But, Ungaro warned, this doesn't work with politicians and government officials because they tend to be very self-serving.)
? Hold once-a-year community forums for presidents and public relations people of community organizations and give them instructions about how to prepare news releases.
Regarding space, Ungaro suggested:
? Work to develop a minimum news-hole with a space bank for days when there is a major story and more space is needed. Allocate space by days by department so you can give readers a consistent news package.
? Achieve more impact by organizing the paper by departments and allocate space to each department each day. If, for example, you allocate four columns a day for business news, it forces editors to go through and find the four most interesting and relevant columns.
? Use the Associated Press wire more effectively by taking advantage of its briefs, wrapups, etc.
? If you are a morning paper going against a metro and you have later deadlines, react to late news breaks. If you are an afternoon paper, react to major news breaks in the morning and play them well. "It emphasizes your newness and helps with your credibility."
? Take a hard look at the editorial page. "For most small and medium-size papers, it is too much space for what the paper needs for its views." Use part of the page for an explanatory backgrounder that you don't have room for in the news columns. Or run summaries of editorials and columns that appear in other publications.
? Take a critical look at the space devoted to comics. Does it really fill a need anymore when there are so many cartoons on television? Run a coupon and ask readers to rate the comics. Move some of the panels to the classified section as a break there and save the news space. Merge the comics that are worth keeping into the features section.
? If you cover more than one community, don't treat the smaller or more remote communities as stepchildren. Make sure you give them the proportionate space they should receive, including police and court reports, births, real estate transfers and the like.
? Don't write off zoning because you think your circulation is too small. It makes possible the most effective use of news space and you should review the potential for it in your market.
? Review staffing every time you lose a reporter or editor to determine what changes to make and what the new employee should be.


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