It’s no secret we have passionate readers who care deeply about our community and their newspaper.

But I was highly impressed to see at least 30 people stop in for our first coffee with the editor early Thursday morning at the Nervous Dog Coffee Bar in West Akron. We nearly took over the entire business while chatting for 90 minutes about a wide variety of topics. (Many thanks to the Nervous Dog staff!)

Most of our conversations focused on our content, including how we plan to cover local elections this year, suggestions for our Wednesday food page and a plethora of ideas for various content features. There were also some questions about how we’re working to reach more younger readers, especially with the news that Youngstown’s daily newspaper is closing next month.

What’s often difficult about these conversations is helping our loyal print readers — who dominated Thursday’s crowd — understand why we’re being forced to spend more and more energy on our digital platforms. They’ve often subscribed to us for decades and, thankfully, still see the print newspaper as a vital part of daily life.

As our conversation evolved, Thursday’s group appeared to appreciate how the world has changed. They also got a taste of our challenge in providing various pieces of content to an audience with wide-ranging interests.

One of the more contentious topics involved our role in publishing news releases submitted by various organizations, including nonprofits. One reader was very frustrated her multiple submissions had never appeared in the newspaper. Another suggested we give preferential treatment to certain unnamed organizations.

While we welcome all submitted materials, our primary responsibility will always be to publish compelling and engaging content of interest to as many people as possible. For example, anyone would love to see their child’s youth league accomplishments get some ink. But very few others would likely care enough to read that item.

We can’t primarily serve niche audiences.

I did concede our team could do a better job of reviewing submissions and finding more items worthy of some mention or perhaps assigning to a reporter as a potential feature story. Please keep in mind we receive hundreds of emails to bjnews@thebeaconjournal.com every day. Follow-up phone calls or submissions clearly explaining why our readers would find your information interesting can help us prioritize.

Other suggestions included adding more sports stats, providing more information for how readers could contact local officials on issues we cover, adding more environmental coverage, the need for more conservative viewpoints on our opinion pages and more follow-ups on stories. Some of those requests are more feasible than others, but we will review them.

I also took the opportunity to explain how our regional network of nine other Ohio daily newspapers and numerous weeklies has allowed us to expand coverage in the past 14 months since GateHouse Media acquired the Beacon Journal. We’re actively working to build regional teams focused on key issues to deliver more in-depth reporting.

If you missed this coffee event, our next one will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 5 at Compass Coffee on the ground floor of The Well CDC, 647 E. Market St. You enter from the back of the old church there via the lower level.

 

Michael Shearer is the editor of the Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com. He can be reached at 330-996-3750, mshearer@thebeaconjournal.com or @MichaelJShearer on Twitter.