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There's a lot on the menu in Lifestyle

January 20, 2008|By CHRIS COPLEY

Hello. I'm Chris Copley, and I'll be your server at today's smorgasbord.

Actually, I'm the new Lifestyle editor for The Herald-Mail - recently promoted from the assistant editor position. But, really, as editor, I intend to serve you, our readers, a full smorgasbord of Lifestyle offerings.

Juicy appetizer

Lifestyle is the section of The Herald-Mail about the stuff of life. We're not news. We're not sports. Lifestyle is about nearly everything else - food, health, children, families, home improvement, fashion, arts, entertainment, puzzles, advice columns and much more. The juicy stuff of life.

The Lifestyle team tries to present many aspects of living in the Tri-State area. We create each day's section with readers' wants and needs in mind. We look for interesting people to profile. We look for interesting topics to write about. We look for interesting things to go and do, so we can tell readers about them.

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But covering the juicy life of a six-county region is a tall order, and we miss some things. We don't know all of the interesting people in every town. We don't think of everything. We haven't seen all of the eye-catching places in the area.

So the Lifestyle team is always looking for story ideas, for suggestions of people doing remarkable things, for topics or trends that catch local readers' interest.

And we're looking for suggestions for improving the section. This section is for our readers. If we don't interest them, we're not doing our job. We're not serving our customers.

Chewy main course

Here's the challenge: Our readers, like newspaper readers nationwide, are changing. Newspapers must be loyal to traditional readers who like their stories, photos and advertisements printed on paper. But newspapers also try to appeal to younger readers, who more and more like their stories and photos (and videos and slideshows and other things we can't print in the newspaper) online.

So newspapers are suffering from a bit of multiple personality disorder. On Lifestyle's staff, we keep both types of readers in mind when we develop our content.

But, in fact, journalism is increasingly heading online. More and more of The Herald-Mail's products will be online. The Herald-Mail's Web site, www.herald-mail.com, has room for far more content - stories, photos, videos, ads and more - than we can print in the newspaper.

In fact, we just published our 1,000th video on our Web site. A thousand videos. As an old-school journo, I still shake my head in wonder that Herald-Mail writers are shooting video. It's a new era.

For Lifestyle, having a lot of space on the Web means we can publish more recipes. We can publish more photos. We can show a video version of our interviews: Readers can follow a cook's recipe, see children dancing, hear a performer's music.

Also, the Internet is interactive, so readers can respond to stories. They can go to the Web site and send us announcements of births, weddings, engagements and anniversaries. At hmloop.com, the Web site for our arts and entertainment guide, readers can upload announcements for meetings, concerts, car shows or other events.

Readers are not just consumers of The Herald-Mail, they are increasingly creating parts of it.

Satisfying dessert

So this is a time of change and challenge for The Herald-Mail's Lifestyle section. I could feel threatened by the way the earth is moving under my feet. But I come to work every day with optimism. I don't exactly cherish being the boss and calling the shots in my department. But I love being caught up in the mishmash of developing a new-style Lifestyle section - on paper and online - that serves traditional readers and online surfers.

Some experts in the newspaper industry tell us to throw out all of our old assumptions about what newspapers "should" look like and be like. They tell us we need to develop new ways to deliver the news, entertainment and advertisements our readers want. "Send news and video to readers' cell phones!" they say. "Produce a TV broadcast in your newsroom! Print color on every page of the newspaper!"

Well, maybe. Certainly, we'll try new ways to serve readers in the Tri-State area. Certainly, Lifestyle won't abandon one set of readers for another.

But as we go forward into a new year and a whole new era for newspapering, the Lifestyle staff will keep our customers' wants and needs as our No. 1 priority.

How can we serve you? Let us know.

Chris Copley is Lifestyle editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2343, or by e-mail at chrisc@herald-mail.com.

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