Nothing ‘comical’ about it

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 12, 2004

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were going to be making some major changes at the paper – basically, that we were going to be devoting all of our resources to provide the best local newspaper we can.

The most obvious changes have been the dropping of the Associated Press report and the elimination of comic strips.

My thinking behind this move was that with such a large media presence in this market, the Suffolk News-Herald is, in effect, a niche publication. If it’s state, national and world news – or comics strips – that you are looking for, there are comparably priced alternatives in the market that offer a much more comprehensive package of those things. It’s not our niche.

Email newsletter signup

What we do offer – and offer more of than anyone else – is news about Suffolk, from the important government news to the little league baseball scores.

That is our franchise and our goal is to free up space and money to capitalize on our strength.

Response after about a week and a half has been mixed, but pretty good. I’ve not received single complaint about the absence of Associated Press news. The comics, however, are a different story.

I’ve gotten several calls everyday asking what’s happened to the comics. Most of the callers are polite and simply curious. I explain pretty much what I’ve written above and most, while perhaps not happy about it, are at least understanding and courteous.

A few, of course, are downright nasty. Few have actually quit the paper, but some have.

I hate to lose any subscriber and will do everything I can to try to keep them.

I received one letter from a gentleman who was a 40-year subscriber. He had requested a refund on his subscription because of the comics being eliminated. We gave him the refund, but I didn’t stop the paper. I figured if someone had been with us for 40 years, the least we could do was give him the paper for a while to make up for causing him to be dissatisfied with us. I hope he changes his mind and comes back with us.

What’s interesting is that almost all of the callers are our more mature readers. One would think that it would be younger folks attracted the comics but that’s not the case — heck, they don’t read at all.

I bet there are many more people who would like to call but are a little embarrassed to let people know they read the paper for the comics.

I know there’s at least one youngster who was a fan of our comics and read them. I received a letter Friday from 10-year-old Cole Martin. He told me how much he and his dad have enjoyed reading the comics together on a daily basis and what a special time it was for them. It was heartbreaking.

&uot;If you don’t put the comics back in you’re a monster,&uot; reporter Allison Williams said after reading young Cole’s plea.

It’s possible. I knew there would be complaints when I did this, but I vowed to myself that I would not panic. I remain convinced that if you stick with us and give us time, you will see that we can give you a much better newspaper without the comics.

I’m excited about what Luefras Robinson, our new managing editor, is doing. There’s a refreshing atmosphere in the news department. Folks are excited again about reporting the news and I think it’s reflected in our paper. It’s only going to get better.

We’re going to be making other moves as well to better serve you. Perhaps chief among them is rolling back our deadlines so that we can get the paper to our carriers sooner so they can get it to you sooner, and make their delivery time more consistent.

Not counting on wire copy, we no longer have to wait for breaking news. There’s little breaking local news after 5 o’clock. Folks are home eating dinner instead of making news. About the only thing that will change is we won’t have the same 10-inch City Council story that other papers have the day after the meeting. Instead, we’ll come back the following day with a lot more depth and detail about what City Council did.

But over the course of the next few weeks, I hope to hear from a lot of readers about what we are doing. If it turns out that we need to bring the comics back, it’s not out of the question. I’m not a monster after all. The only reason I sleep in a coffin is because it helps my back.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via e-mail at