May 2, 2011

Misconceptions about the Press-Republican


---- — Everyone has their pet peeves at work. Over the years, I have heard a few generalizations about the Press-Republican that are frustrating.

Thought I would share them.

"It would be nice if you wrote something positive in the paper instead of all that bad news."

We do report plenty of "bad" news; we can't ignore arrests, fires, fatal car accidents, budget clashes, etc.

A few weeks ago, we had a streak of sex-abuse arrests and sentencings to cover. They seemed to come up one after another. We are just as disgusted as anyone with people convicted of sex crimes, especially those involving children, but reporting on crimes and other unsettling local developments is part of what a newspaper does.

But our pages are filled with good news, too. During that same time, we had stories on students who excelled in a state science competition; people coming to the aid of a dog that was hit by a car; separate articles about locals stepping up to help the people in Japan, a local food pantry, U.S. soldiers overseas and AIDS victims; and a feature on an area restaurant that was being featured on a national TV show. A number of those appeared on Page A1.

The Press-Republican also still runs reader-submitted news — such as students making the dean's lists at their colleges — in our Students, In the Service and Newsmakers columns, something many newspapers have eliminated due to space constraints.

"Good news" that happens in our communities is important, too, and we make sure it gets good coverage and prominent position.

"You put that in just to sell newspapers."

One time, a guy called up to give us a hard time because his felony DWI arrest was in the Police Log. He said, as many people have over the years: "You sensationalize things just to sell newspapers."

Yeah, right, our sales are going to skyrocket that day because this guy's arrest ran as a one-inch item on the Public Record page.

The fact is, unless there is a murder or some other major news, our newstand sales are pretty steady. They just don't fluctuate wildly depending on the content.

If we know that we have a big story developing in a certain area, we might increase the number of available newstand papers there, in case more people are interested in buying them that day.

But I never once heard anyone in our newsroom say, "Let's play that story up so we can sell some more papers tomorrow."

"The Press-Republican is a Republican paper; you can tell by its name."

At one time, Plattsburgh had two newspapers: the Plattsburgh Republican, which started in 1811, and the Plattsburgh Daily Press, which began printing in 1894. They merged on Oct. 5, 1942, creating the Press-Republican. Hence the name.

While some people accuse us of being conservative, others believe we are part of the perceived nationwide media liberal bias.

Since I have worked here, our parent companies, first Ottaway Newspapers and now Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., have never tried to influence our editorial viewpoint. They do encourage locally written editorials on subjects of interest to the area, but they never tell us what stand to take.

Our newsroom is made up of a mix of older and younger, local and non-local journalists. I did a quick survey of newsroom personnel and found the majority are registered as independents. All of those who are registered with a party (I didn't ask which one) did so years before becoming journalists, most at age 18.

"You make up those Speakouts."

This is my favorite. I only wish we had the time — and imagination — to create the hundreds of Speakouts we receive here every week.

No one can make that stuff up.

Email Lois Clermont at