Ask the Editor: We’ll make room for the election

Caption Cartoon Contest will be eliminated so more letters, viewpoints can be published

March 7, 2010 

As the election season intensifies we’re seeing the usual corresponding increase in letters from readers who want to comment on specific races, candidates and ballot measures — and not just local ones.

So in order to make more room for this commentary, effective Saturday, we will drop our Caption Cartoon Contest from our Opinion page but keep it on our Web site, www.sanluisobispo.com. We trust you understand this decision.

We currently publish 200 to 250 letters and viewpoints a month; during election years, that increases to at least 400.

If you write an election letter, please keep it under 200 words and avoid statements that could be construed as personal attacks on a candidate. If our volume of letters is so high that we can’t print them all in the newspaper, we’ll publish some on our Web site and suggest readers look there. Q: In the last couple of years your newspaper has gotten smaller yet your price has gone up.

Are you trying to get out of the newspaper business? Will the printed newspaper be around in 30 years?

Tom Hoffman

Arroyo Grande

A: We are celebrating our 140th birthday this year — and we have every intention to keep celebrating it! The death knell of the newspaper has been sounded before, such as when radio, then television, arrived. Newspapers adapted.

Newspapers nationwide are now going through their most dramatic restructuring in 50 years as they adjust to a changing marketplace driven by consumers who want news and advertising information immediately, delivered in various ways — print, online, cell phone.

At the same time, newspapers, like other businesses, have been hit hard by the recession. That has reduced their main revenue — advertising. Circulation fees contribute only a small percentage. As a result newspapers, including ours, have cut costs by trimming some space, combining sections, reducing staff (here, mostly through attrition) and cutting wages.

Despite these changes, our print readership has remained unquestionably strong. Seven out of 10 adults in the county read The Tribune in the last month, for example.

And our online site is the leading local Web site for news and information. In January, it received more than 390,000 monthly unique visitors, up 30 percent over the year-earlier period.

Even if some readers increasingly look for local news online, you can count on us to be there providing in-depth, useful and investigative local coverage.

Q: At the back of the Sports page, you used to display the levels of the local lakes and reservoirs. Have you moved it, or do you no longer have that information in your paper? … After so many years of drought, I can imagine that quite a few readers are interested in that piece of information as there are a lot of people in this area who are fishermen, boaters, or just plain worried about our water supplies.

Ray Craig

Atascadero

A: We now publish that information weekly, on Thursdays in the Sports section next to the fishing report by freelancer Wayne Shaw.

Like you, we understand the importance of this information, given that water levels had dropped to severe lows after three years of drought. So far this year we’ve reported on rising water levels and depths at area lakes in three stories, including two on the front page. Look for another this week.

Do you have a question about our news decisions or news operation? Please write to me c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA, 93406-0112, or e-mail me at sduerr@thetribunenews.com.

Sandra Duerr is the executive editor of The Tribune.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

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