News with a Regional View

By Ezell, Wayne | The Florida Times Union, November 20, 2005 | Go to article overview

News with a Regional View


Ezell, Wayne, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Wayne Ezell

A handful of stories published in the last few weeks had something in common, in addition to all being interesting.

There was the one about "a shack by the tracks" that serves food that isn't fancy, but the "shack" has gained regional fame and lures people from miles away.

A columnist wrote about a high school football team that had lost all nine of its games only to have the coach resign before the final game of the season. But there were "Never Quit" signs posted in the team's weight room and the town seemed to be supporting its team, strongly.

Jobs are being created in one community, signaling a positive impact on the entire region, because a company found a welcoming environment for its call center.

A "new town" of 30,000 residents will emerge, which could lead to better shopping venues and other enhancements. But the rapid development may contribute to the region's worsening traffic problems.

Those stories had in common their location: All were from communities outside of Jacksonville, in nearby "suburban" cities and counties. Readers can expect more such stories in the future.

Newsroom editors initiated efforts a few weeks ago to increase the stories from suburban communities and to ensure region-oriented stories include more information from those communities.

The effort is serious. Specific goals have been set for each news department and for several columnists. Most have exceeded the goal since the counting started a month ago. To appreciate the importance of the goals and keeping count, one might need to understand that newsrooms don't normally do much measuring and quantifying of content.

If newsrooms miss deadline too often or overtime expenses get out of hand, someone will start counting and providing feedback. But when it comes to the number of stories or photos about a given subject or area, not much gets counted, although more such counting would probably be a good thing.

"A big shift for the newsroom," is how the change was described by Karen Brune Mathis, the business columnist who plans to write one suburban-related column each week.

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