Readers shape their newspaper

June 04, 2006|by JAKE WOMER

Interactivity is leading to activity, or is it the other way around?

Regardless, it's keeping me busy.

From a newspaperman's point of view, this is your newspaper, not mine. And that's a notion that numerous people at The Herald-Mail Co. are working to reinforce.

The silent reader is a thing of the past. Not a day goes by that I don't hear from a reader, and I'm holed up here in the office. Most readers aren't shy about calling to let me know about something they think we should cover or something they think we did wrong ... or maybe right.

That's the most basic form of interactivity, but there's more. Here are some of the ways readers affect our newspapers:

  • Time-tested are the letters to the editor and our Mail Call and You Said It features that allow readers to call in, speak their minds and see their comments in print.

  • Various calendars list upcoming events. Ninety percent of the time, that information is submitted by readers who have organized entertainment or a fundraiser. Soon, a Web site feature will allow these notices to be submitted online to be posted in the paper and online.

  • Speaking of the Web, we already have online forums and polls, and we're working on Web site ideas that encourage reader comment on stories, world events, local events, even movies. Some online comments are then published in the paper.

  • A few times a week, I field e-mailed criticism and praise for the comics we run. And what I've learned from this is that I have no idea what's funny.

  • We're constantly recruiting teens to contribute to the weekly teen section, Pulse, as writers, photographers and graphic artists. Tri-State-area teens are creating a newspaper section for themselves and their peers.

  • Reader-driven contests. We've received numerous entries after posing 10 trivia questions about famous people with roots in the Tri-State area. That contest is coming to a close soon, but contact me if you've missed the questions. In July, we'll unveil the clues in the latest edition of the popular landmarks contest - 10 clues show a tight angle of a piece of architecture, and readers are asked to find them. We've made a few adjustments based on participant feedback, and this could be our best one yet.

For now though, we have another, completely subjective contest for Father's Day.


Don't know what to get your sire? Try a published drawing. On June 16, we'll run the best drawings of dads on the Family page in The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail. We'll run as many submissions as we can, and the artist behind the top drawing will win $50. If you win, whether you give that to your ancestor is completely up to you. A panel of judges will vote on the winner. (I think we'll have a bunch of writers judging an art contest. Who knows what could win?) But we'll run as many submissions as we can.

Jake Womer is Lifestyle editor of The Herald-Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2340, or by e-mail at

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