A reader recently asked why I was holding “Coffee with the Editor” sessions around Akron, wondering if I really wanted to listen to citizens or just answer questions about the Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com.

My simple answer was both.

That goal was realized on Monday when our second open meeting required an unplanned move to a much larger room to accommodate the crowd of maybe 100 people, many of whom stayed for nearly 90 minutes of conversation. (Thanks to the Compass Coffee team at The Well CDC for quickly helping us make the room switch!)

For any local media to thrive in the digital age, it’s important for the staff to engage with our readers and nonreaders to understand their interests and concerns. And as a relatively new editor in the community, it’s critical for me to hear from as many voices as possible.

Monday’s open format gave us a chance to discuss a wide range of topics and hopefully helped the audience better understand the challenge our staff of dedicated journalists faces every day in our fractured political and media environment.

It also helped me understand what’s important to local citizens, although there was clear but cordial disagreement on many fronts.

For example, some environmental advocates believe we don’t provide enough coverage of global warming. They came armed with examples and suggested we should provide more environmental coverage through our wire services.

A few supporters of President Donald Trump argued we’re biased in our coverage of his presidency, a claim that drew audible retorts from others. Some people wondered if we’re allowed to edit stories from our wire services such as the Associated Press, which we are as long as the integrity of the story remains.

One man argued we need to provide more critical coverage of the city of Akron’s efforts to spur development with various incentives to developers. Others wanted to see more coverage of specific areas or other issues they believed need more coverage. And one suggested we replace the “Things to Do Today” feature on A2 with a more reader-friendly things to do tomorrow. The latter is an idea we’ve discussed.

The one constant in the conversation was a concern for the future of local media, especially given the closing later this month of the nearby Youngstown Vindicator, which will make that city the largest in Ohio without a daily newspaper.

We discussed how our business is changing to cope with the demands of today’s customers, including efforts to connect with those who prefer news on their smartphones. I greatly enjoyed the feedback and conversation.

So, thanks to all who attended Monday. We’ll be announcing more times for September and beyond. I just need to find larger places!

TV interview: Leslie Ungar, who hosts a television interview show on Fusion PBS recently interviewed me about journalism, fake news and much more for her "Forum 360" program. It’s now available on YouTube and will air on the week of Aug. 25.

Times and channels include:


Western Reserve Public Media, PBS-TV, 45/49 Fusion channel: 8 p.m. Aug. 26 and 5 p.m. Aug. 31.
Hudson Community TV, various times during the week of Aug. 25.
Radio: WONE-FM 97.5 6 a.m. Aug. 25. and WAKR-AM 1590 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25.

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.