The executive editor of the Times/Review talks about the group’s three newspapers being selected as the first weeklies to be featured in the online gallery of front pages at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
By Kathryn G. Menu
Late last month, the Times/Review’s three newspapers—The Suffolk Times, The Riverhead News-Review and the Shelter Island Reporter—were the first weekly newspapers displayed in the online front page tribute on the Newseum’s website, newseum.org. That’s got to be a pretty heady experience.
It was pretty cool. We first heard from Michelle Rea [the executive director] at NYPA (New York Press Association) that there were a bunch of weeklies writing to the museum and asking if they could take part in the online gallery. So we took part in this protest on April 17, which was selected because it was the birthday of [McDill] Huck Boyd, who I had never heard of before this, but was a newspaper publisher in Kansas and a legendary community journalist. The protest was organized by a community college professor in Maryland and the same day of the protest the Newseum changed its policy regarding weeklies.
It was that quick?
We sent out covers at about 7 a.m. that morning and at 8 p.m. that night they changed their policy. What they did was remove the word “daily”—they changed the language on the FAQ for the exhibit to include weeklies. The next step was they sent us a letter on how we could take part in the online gallery. I sent in covers on the 23rd and we heard back on April 30, with an email that said ‘The Suffolk Times will be a welcome addition to the display.’ A minute later I received the same email about The Riverhead News Review and then the Shelter Island Reporter. It was pretty surreal to find out we had been selected, but we just figured we were one of the 130 newspapers that took part in the protest that would be going up. So we emailed them, and that is when we found out we were the first.
Are the newspaper front pages now going to be displayed weekly on the Newseum website?
Every Thursday we send the covers through an FTP site to the Newseum. There are about 800 total newspapers selected and that is in 80 countries around the globe.
What kind of exposure will this give the Times/Review beyond your coverage area?
There are about 75,000 visitors to the Today’s Front Pages each day. It’s probably a little inside baseball, but it does give us exposure to our peers around the country and more importantly will open the door for other weeklies to be included. I think at least on the East End you can make the argument that people go to the weeklies for their news.
What sets weeklies apart from dailies?
We are always there. On some nights we have a town board meeting, two or three school board meetings and a chamber of commerce meeting, and we have someone at every single one of them. Dailies are really not doing that. We have the ability to spread out within the community. We also focus on bread-and-butter issues like schools, local government and sports.
Of course, all newspapers are moving in the direction of daily newspapers when it comes to their websites. How did the Times/Review choose to tackle that challenge?
What we did at first was create two divisions—a web team and a print team. I was the web editor at the time and had two full-time reporters just for the web, and the rest of the staff focuses on the print side of the business. It was a good way to get our feet wet, but it created a divide in the newsroom. To do our jobs, we realized everyone has to embrace this and become a web person. The way we were able to do that is by adding staff, and we put everyone on a beat. We have a police reporter, a government reporter, a business reporter, an environmental reporter. Everyone still does a little bit of everything, but we all have a focus and that gives us a more balanced newspaper, a more balanced website. We were also able to get out of the weekly cycle … Now the expectation is if a story isn’t going to go up the night of a meeting, it should be up the next morning. We are more productive as a result, and we can plan for more. We put a lot more emphasis in how we package stories.