My weekend

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 10, 2003

I’d love to tell you in detail about the flights to and from Birmingham, Ala., where Andy Prutsok and I ventured this past weekend to attend a conference with other publishers, editors and managing editors in the Boone newspaper group.

If only there were space to describe The Wynfrey – the four-star hotel where we were stationed – its spacious and comfortable rooms, the cozy bar, delicious food, and professional service, not to mention the huge shopping mall attached to the facility.

Would that I had time to share two utterly hilarious jokes that the managing editor from Albert Lea, Minn. told me over a bottle or two of wine. I’m still laughing, and even my folks thought they were funny.


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And the people! There were about 60 of us attending and each that I met deserves at least a sentence or two. But, Dan, Jan, Marcia, Dylan, Tom, Bill, Candi, Sam, Sean, Kevin, Leada, Cal, Dennis, Jonathan, Tim, Todd, Richard, Stacy, and Dave – to name a few – will have to content themselves with their mention here.

Instead, I do have room to tell you in detail about the purpose of the trip and what has been accomplished so far.

From the moment Andy and I met an editor from Austin, Minn., to the time we parted company with two folks from Ohio, there was – for me at least – a growing excitement. That thrill came not merely from getting away, eating well and bonding with fellow journalists over a drink or two. It first came from reviewing our purpose: learning how to make better newspapers for you. From there a handful of attendees were in charge of presenting sessions on issues of integrity, finding out what readers say is important to them, setting up advisory boards, seeking out the stories, handling your criticisms, hiring and recruiting new blood, and designing a better looking paper. Collectively and individually we discussed these issues and then some.

Even now as I write this column Sunday night, the ideas swirl through my head and the enthusiasm has not lessened. Andy and I will be sharing what we learned with the staff of the newsroom and other departments, and gradually putting these things to practical use in the days, weeks and months to follow.

One of my concerns, though, is sustaining this energy. I fear this will evaporate too quickly. Thinking on this, for my part I need to frequently recall what just took place, then repeatedly focus, organize, follow up and, of course, write. My staff will also need to personally rededicate themselves to their work and seek ways to improve. Later this month we’ll be attending another seminar on learning to write, photograph and design better.

Still, we cannot produce a better newspaper and service without the customers’ help. If you are genuinely interested in what the Suffolk News-Herald can do for you, then let us know loud and clear. Your constructive complaints tell us that you care.

I want to take a few lines now to publicly thank Jason R. Norman, our sports editor, for being a trouper and putting the paper together in our absence. At present, there’s been no time to critique his efforts, but the fact that he shouldered the task is commendable. Likewise, Allison T. Williams has been a worthy help.

Lastly, you will recall reading Sunday that Andy, Jason, Allison, and I won awards for work this past year. We may have written the stories, but they could not have happened without you.

Stephen H. Cowles is the managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be contacted at the e-mail address above, or by calling 934-9613. He genuinely welcomes your feedback.