A place to vent

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2005

I was out of the office the past week much of each day on sales calls. We were having a little blitz effort of sorts to promote our Web site and I got to visit with three or four advertising clients each day.

It was a wonderful experience. I’ve worked in advertising sales before, but it’s been a long time. I’d apparently forgotten how invigorating and educational it can be.

There are few feelings in the world like convincing someone to part with their hard-earned money…and knowing you helped their business, of course. It’s a real feeling of accomplishment. But more than that, you learn so much about your town.

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Small business owners are the backbone of any community. They provide most of the jobs, pay most of the taxes and deal with most of the red tape. And they know most of what goes on, at least the stuff that’s newsworthy.

In addition to picking up some more sponsors for www.suffolknewsherald.com (more on that later), I got some good feedback on things we can do to enhance our print product.

I heard from more than one customer that the News-Herald needs some type of &uot;Gripe Line&uot; column – a place where people can go and unload about whatever might be on their mind without having to have their name published.

We require letters to the editor to be signed and that the writer’s name be published along with it on our editorial page. The argument was always that people should have the courage to put their names to what they write.

But maybe that’s an archaic view. For one thing, nobody writes letters any more. We’re too busy. Ninety-five percent of what appears as a &uot;letter&uot; to the editor was actually an email. I’m sure people would be more inclined to offer input if all they had to do was dial a phone.

One person suggested I check out the Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg, which they said has a particularly entertaining and informative column. I asked managing editor Luefras Robinson to investigate it, talk to the managing editor of the Gazette about it and report back. I’m also going to be talking to other editors and publishers about this over the course of the next few days to get their thoughts.

I’d love to hear from our readers about it, too. Please feel free to contact me over the next week and let me know whether you would support and utilize such a feature.

I’m inclined to believe that the more voices that can be heard, the better off we will all be. We need to make it as easy (and safe) as possible for people to join in the public discourse.

I mentioned suffolknewsherald.com earlier. I was amazed at these statistics. In May, we had nearly half-a-million page views, with nearly 75,000 visitors. A visitor is defined as someone who came to the site and spent some time there, looking at more than one page. That’s more than double the number we had before our redesign was launched in March.

In addition, suffolknewsherald.com is linked to more than 2,500 other Web sites, meaning people don’t have to know the address to find it.

After our home page, the most heavily viewed page is our Calendar. The reason for that is simple. Studies have shown that if newspapers want to grow readership, their biggest opportunity is in providing more information on things to do. Further, our Calendar page is our only interactive page. Anybody can access it from their home or office computer and enter their upcoming event. It’s simple to use and I encourage civic organizations to take advantage of it. Our Webmaster Mike Curbelo has done a good job with our site, call him at 934-9606 or email him at michael.curbelo@suffolknewsherald.com if you have any questions.

We are going to continue to focus heavily on this segment of our business and develop more interactive features.

I’m excited to announce that Andrew Giermak has joined the staff of the News-Herald. Andrew is a graduate of NSA and Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. He is the son of former Obici administrator Bill Giermak. He’ll be working as a general assignment reporter and also helping beef up our sports report. He can be reached at andrew.giermak@suffolknewsherald.com.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or via email at andy.prutsok@suffolknewsherald.com.