Just in case you haven’t been paying attention, there have been some changes being implemented in our papers over the past month.
This is a time of trial and error, of trying some new twists while looking to streamline the operation yet keep a solid product intact. There have been some hiccups – as new deadlines and changing press schedules wreak a little weekly havoc – but ultimately we will be back on track. We’re getting there.
The unique thing about local newspapers is that they are so local; you get the high school sports, the church women’s club meeting news, the latest service organization fundraiser announcement, a wedding photo. It’s those types of things that make up the heartbeat of a small community and, consequently, help fill the pages of our publications. Happily, many readers purchase the paper (sometimes multiple copies) to clip out certain items to put in scrapbooks, post on the fridge or send off to far away family and friends.
As we cooperate with our fellow papers in Manteca, Turlock and Ceres on projects including the 209 Magazine and special Healthy Living sections, we also are joining forces for some new flavors in the ‘Living’ portion of our papers. This is now a separate section, whereas it used to be a couple of pages in Oakdale and typically one page in Escalon and Riverbank. There are more feature stories, covering a variety of family-friendly topics around the ‘209’ area, mixed in with our local goings on.
This ‘Living’ section is now inserted into all three papers and also includes our classifieds, the entertainment page and the perspective page where we typically run our staff columns (like the one you are reading now) and our many guest columnists that run on a monthly basis, plus the political cartoons, horoscopes, etc.
And while the perspective page has traditionally been where the “Letters to the Editor” are run, that is going to change. We can consolidate some things in the interest of efficiency, but my thought is that when someone in Oakdale takes time to write a letter, it likely will be specific to something going on in Oakdale. Same for Escalon and Riverbank. So when we do receive letters we will place them in the ‘A’ section of the paper under a new heading – ‘From Our Readers’ – just another change to be on the lookout for – including this week, as there are letters in our A section in both Escalon and Oakdale.
We also (I say ‘we’ but it was really ‘me’ as editor) ran a combined ‘Do You Remember’ column one week that had all three of our communities included, with bold lettering for each town but all three of the columns featuring stories from decades past in one place. That did not go over well. One caller even said no one gave “a rat’s behind” what happened in Oakdale 40 years ago if they live in Escalon. Maybe that particular comment was a little extreme, but point taken. End of that experiment. Each paper is back to having its own individual ‘Do You Remember’ column.
Another point of contention was having the wrong and, according to readers, much too easy crossword puzzle for a few weeks. Seems that the service we use for that particular feature has more than one difficulty level and the new pagination system inadvertently placed the ‘easy’ puzzle instead of the ‘hard.’ Who would have thought the degree of difficulty of a weekly puzzle would have prompted multiple phone calls to the office and comments from people in the community when they saw me? Thankfully, we were able to address that issue and are back to the harder puzzle – enjoy!
As I said, trial and error; we will see what works best and what we shouldn’t mess with. Some things do make sense to include in all three publications and some obviously are city-specific. We are sensitive to that and will not lose sight of the fact that we are here to serve you, our readers, with a quality, comprehensive, relevant product week in and week out.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.