Help us help serve you better

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 15, 2003

We reporters take a lot of criticism at times and, try as we might, can’t please everybody. But through it all we are still here to please our customers. However, I hope I’m allowed to educate you a little about some aspects of reporting that will improve service for you.

As I stated in a previous article, each reporter has a specific beat. Barbara Allen’s main one is police and criminal justice. However, if time permits, she takes on other assignments such as school, clubs and some features. Allison Williams’ beat is politics and government, and she has to attend school board retreats, city council and other meetings having to do with government and politics. Mine is human-interest stories, obituaries, applause, town topics, service news and gathering information from city hall that includes land transfers, building permits and marriage license information. Jason Norman is our sports writer and attends all sports events in the city. He is also the health news reporter, but will take on others assignments in a heartbeat if necessary.

Harvey White is our full-time photographer and Eric Brooks works part-time, which is after five and on weekends.

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We all have a full load of work that is required to be done; and Andy Prutsok, editor, or in his absence, Stephen Cowles, managing editor, meets with us periodically to make sure that we are coming up to their expectations.

When it comes to having our articles printed in the paper, Prutsok also checks for mistakes that we make. Therefore we have to do all that we can to be sure that we are writing correctly, even to the point of changing some forms of English that are submitted. We also have a writer’s journal that we must follow. Here are examples of some unacceptable English.

When I am typing obituaries, many times they may state that the deceased person is survived by a host of friends and relatives. Webster’s Dictionary stated that the word host means a multitude or a very large number. So unless there are relatives equaled to this number, we prefer to use the word many or several. Also, there is no such word as brother-in-laws. The plural should be placed on brothers to make the word brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, etc.

Church news runs free of charge. The events nearest to publication date are considered to run first. I have gotten many calls from angry customers who want to know why their church news didn’t run when it was scheduled to take place two or three weeks later.

Eldress is not in the dictionary but elder is and defined as a governing official of the church. The definition does not state whether the person has to be male or female. But I am sure that churches use eldress when they are referring to women who perform the same duties as an elder.

Town Topics are also free publicity for your organizations and events. If you are going to fax a topic, I prefer that you fax it to 757-539-8804. It would be good if you would call me at 934-9615 to let me know when you are going to do so. If you don’t have time to do this and haven’t seen it printed at least a couple of days before a reservation deadline or the event takes place, you need to call me anyway so that I can make sure that it was not picked up by a person in another department or to make sure that the fax machine is not malfunctioning. I keep a file called Town Topics and move them daily to the published file date. It is up to the editor and managing editor to choose from them from what space that is allowed in the paper on a given day. Just because your topic didn’t run on a given day does not mean that it is not in the file. Topics that include a sale of any kind have to be screened to see if they need to be run under paid ads or if the proceeds are going to be used for personal funds instead of going towards the community or some other charitable project.

This next concern deals with assignments on the weekend. We are not allowed to make over 40 hours a week. I now welcome this rule because I can remember times when I really became burned out. Now, if we have an important assignment that we must cover after 6 or 7 p.m. and on weekends, we must take time off during the week or maybe a complete day off. You are still welcomed to take your own pictures. If you are using one of those cameras that includes loaded film and flash, have plenty of lighting and get close enough so that faces or pictures won’t be too dark to produce a good product. You then may submit your information by coming in for an interview and your news can still be published.

I hope that this bit of information will help us to serve you more efficiently both now and in the future.

Remember, all of us reporters may have specific beats, but tell us anyway what you need and you will be accommodated. In any event, we will strive to serve you with consideration, caring and confidence to your satisfaction.

Evelyn Wall is a staff writer and regular columnist for the News-Herald.