Last updated: July 15. 2014 1:34PM - 611 Views
By - rwagner@civitasmedia.com - 419-946-3010

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The Morrow County Sentinel is going through more changes, and I felt we owed our readers an explanation of what’s to come - starting next week - and why.

After Hirt Media sold the Sentinel nearly ten years ago, a lot of changes took place. The once plump 3-section weekly edition that averaged 32 pages began to decrease in size as businesses moved or closed and advertising revenue declined. Eventually, the Morrow County Independent was absorbed into the Sentinel and was no longer printed separately. Though the paper was no longer three sections, it generally remained the same in its appearance and layout.

Almost three years ago we were purchased again and had to adapt to bigger changes: our print plant was closed and operations were consolidated at a larger plant in Miamisburg, our graphic artists were moved to the Delaware Gazette office, and our office was moved to downtown Mt. Gilead.

Eventually all graphics services with our company were consolidated and are now operating out of North Carolina or Miamisburg, with all data transmitted electronically. Our news team no longer electronically paginates (puts the news on the pages) at our office.

These consolidations have occurred not just with Civitas Media but with all newspapers, and the biggest reason is the move toward digital news carriers people are using: the internet, phone apps, and social media. Newspaper companies desire to remain profitable, so they follow the trends, and the trends are away from a print product and toward electronic media.

The number of pages we get each week is determined by the amount of advertisements, classified ads and legals that are sold for that edition. The less ads we have, the less pages we have to work with. Higher ad counts mean more pages, because the company is gauging the editorial space by an ad space/news ratio.

So, what’s happening now?

1. Starting with next week’s issue, a new template is being used for the front page, the sports page and what’s in between. All Civitas papers will look the same. These templates are being implemented to ensure uniformity for the paginators who assemble dozens of publication each week. It’s meant to speed up production as well.

2. A new style guide has been drawn up for the employees who assemble our paper. Paginators must follow this style guide when they put our paper together. This means we, the news team, have very little control over how big headlines are, how large or small photos are, where articles are placed in the paper, or if they make it in at all.

3. Because we always have far fewer pages available for news than the amount of news we have, we are always behind on getting news in the paper. Always. This has to be the number one source of stress and exasperation for me every week. Our once bountiful newspaper is a mere shadow of itself. Every Monday I have to decide what will go in and what has to wait because of space constraints, and it’s driving me nuts. The company wants to free up some of our time to ‘expand our news coverage.” What’s the use of covering all these events and meetings and taking in news from the public if we can only get it on the website?

Something has to give, and since we can’t get the paper back to what it once was, I can think of only one way to get more news into the print edition.

Many articles, especially board and council meetings, can be lengthy. The longer an article is, the more space it takes up, naturally. This means less news, overall, in the paper. The only solution I can see at this point is to shorten the lengthier articles to include the most pertinent information for the PRINT edition, then feature the full length article online. Articles that have their length cut will have a notice at the end stating “This article was shortened for the print edition. Please read the full length article online at www.morrowcountysentinel.com.”

This is no solution for our subscribers who do not use computers. They are the readers who will miss out the most. But it seems a better option than excluding news altogether or running it three weeks late. That just seems insane to me.

I can’t remember the last time I ran an honor roll or college news - there’s just never room for them. These are items that will probably run online hereon, which is a shame, because putting a webpage printout in your scrapbook just isn’t the same as cutting it out of a paper. We can’t run a page of photos with a festival story in the paper anymore - there just isn’t room. When the county fair comes, all we can do is put as much coverage as possible online, and get the highlights in the paper.

It’s just the way it is, and there’s not a thing I can do to change it.

We do try to keep the website up to date and it will be changing soon as well. This time, I actually like the new site better than what we have now. There will much be more featured on the home page with a slideshow of the Top Stories. Inside individual stories, photos are also presented in a slideshow, rather that a zillion piled on top of one another. You can get a preview of what the new website will look like at http://new.morrowcountysentinel.com/

Maybe you’ll like all the new changes the company has implemented. But… if you’re unhappy with the look or content of the paper when it comes in your mailbox each week, please keep all this information in mind. You can call us and voice your opinion all you want to but, no matter who is sitting in the editor’s chair, there isn’t one single thing they can do to change anything. The new styles apply to all Civitas papers, period. It is what it is.

So that’s to expect with the Morrow County Sentinel hereforth. It’s the county’s only newspaper and we’re doing what we can here to keep the news coming each week.

Times are changing, and the Sentinel is too.

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