Live chat with Herald-Mail Executive Editor Terry Headlee - transcript

October 04, 2005

The Herald-Mail will present a live chat with Herald-Mail Executive Editor Terry Headlee starting at 10:00 am and ending at 11:00 am today. Questions or comments can be submitted by clicking here before and during the chat.

The text of the live discussion will flow into the bottom of this page during its live hour. You can either click "Refresh" on your browser window or hit "F5" on your keyboard to see new responses. Make sure you scroll down to see the latest answers.

Name: Darrell E.Kline

Guest: Headlee

Question: Whats going on at City Hall?

There is a lot of bickering and fighting with the council members .Is this the way our local government should act.

Headlee: Some of our readers have clearly told us that this isn't how our local government should act. We are watching this relationship closely because it is the business of anyone who not only lives in the city but also in Washington County. I was just at a meeting this morning and it was the topic of discussion there and some people were discussing how they hadn't seen anything quite like this since the late 1970s early '80s. And that's saying a mouthful. What we will do here at the newspaper is to continue to cover the meetings and the issues, report them accurately and let the citizens decide for themselves.


Name: Pamela Whalen

Location: Hagerstown, MD

Guest: Headlee

Question: Hi Terry!

Do we know when the City of Hagestown is going to be trick or treating? I'm supposed to be going out of town that weekend and I've got a 4 year old who is anxiously waiting to hear when he's able to trick or treat. Do you all know yet?

Headlee: We are gathering that information now. The problem is that many neighborhoods even within Hagerstown have their own trick or treat nights and also the various communities in Washington County have theirs on different nights. We'll be running a complete listing of this in the very near future and we'll run it several times.

Moderator: Before you became an editor, you were a reporter from 1982 to 1995. What did that experience teach you about the newspaper business that helped you become a better editor?

Headlee: That there's more than two sides to every story. There's actually many sides to a story and a good reporter will try to present the whole picture as best as he or she can. As an editor knowing that there is more than two sides to every story or issue has helped me through the years with personnel issues and hostile calls and e-mails from readers.

Moderator: What is the biggest change that has occurred in the business since you became a journalist?

Headlee: The technology, hands down. When I first started in this industry I worked on an electric typewriter and there were no cell phones, internet. There was a lot more face-to-face contact with sources. Technology has been a double-edged sword. We're far more efficient and can get the news more quickly to readers. But at the same time I wish we did more personalized interviews with citizens and sources so reporters can get a better feel for the interview and can ask better follow-up questions. So that the story more accurately portrays what's really going on.

Moderator: As a person living in the newspaper's circulation area, do you ever find yourself being criticized by people you know when the paper covers something ? such as the drunken-driving arrest of a prominent person ? that many people would rather see kept quiet? What do you tell people who ask that such things be kept out of the newspaper?

Headlee: We are criticized but not as much as you would think. I'm surprised that we don't get more criticism like this from people. I think one of the reasons why is through the years is that we have routinely denied requests to take out negative stories, drunken driving arrests. We've also had people who have not wanted us to publish the fact that they got divorced. Some people have wanted us to take out the fact that they sold their house for X number of dollars. We don't discriminate, we publish them all. People are wasting their time asking us to keep it out of the paper. Because for fairness reasons we have to treat everybody the same. And besides it's all part of the public record.

Moderator: What is the toughest subject for a local newspaper to cover and why?

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