Readers dial it up

Posted

It happened again. Over the past two weeks, I’ve gotten a hard lesson on how important crime information is to our readers. This time, it started with the June 14 edition of Clay Today.

That week, we had what seemed to be a record number of obituaries and death notices paired with what seemed to be a record shortage of pages. Three pages of obituaries and death notices and accompanying photos telling of the passing of loved ones overshadowed our weekly list of arrests and bookings as we tried diligently to place them all inside 32 pages.

Yet when readers called in to ask why the arrests and bookings were missing, and I explained that they were bumped due to obituaries being inordinately lengthy, my explanation did not matter. I even explained how the info box on page 15, beside the two scant police briefs, was there to direct readers to our website, claytodayonline.com. We had collected and compiled arrests and bookings, we just didn’t have room for them in the paper. We believed that posting arrests and bookings online in full would be enough. After two weeks of phone calls, I hear you loud and clear, Clay County.

For many callers, the online posting did not suffice.

“I don’t go online,” snapped one caller as I tried to explain our process.

If there is one thing I’ve realized since I’ve been in this position at Clay Today, our readers make it clear that they want to know who was arrested, where they were arrested and for what charges they were arrested.

However, with a tight 32-page paper, we had a quandary, which only led to a question. How do we balance the needs of all of our readers all of the time? The answer, which is ever-elusive, may not exist.

Now, of course, the June 14 edition of Clay Today is not the first time I’ve fielded a spate of phone calls from readers who want to know happened to a certain feature.

I’ll never forget the man who, after battling traffic from his commuter job in Jacksonville, came in almost at closing time one day to ask how in the world could we have screwed up the Sudoku two weeks in a row. From what he said, his wife reads Clay Today “cover to cover” but his only guilty pleasure was the Sudoku once she finished reading all of the articles.

“It’s the one thing I look forward to all week,” he said.

The look on his face gave me a sincere understanding of his frustration. It’s a feeling we’ve all shared.

In the last year, I’ve had to explain other changes in the paper. For example, CrimeWatch and Clay’s Most Wanted were ceased due to internal changes with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office – changes over which we had no control.

CrimeWatch, if you recall, was rather informative. It gave readers a snap shot of where thefts, burglary to structures, burglary to autos and criminal mischief crimes were taking place all over Clay County. The three times a week email from the sheriff’s office stopped when the CCSO rolled out a new web-based format with little fanfare or explanation to the public.

I wonder if anyone called the sheriff’s office with the same earful I received: “I don’t go online.”

About the same time of CrimeWatch’s demise, Clay’s Most Wanted just trickled away without any discussion or explanation.

Regardless of the lesson we learned about arrests and bookings – which returned to the paper last week and will remain going forward – it’s always great to hear from readers. It’s even better to hear from readers who are passionate about something.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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