I've gotten a lot of answers to this question since arriving here at Berks-Mont Newspapers in mid-December.As managing editor, the guy essentially responsible for all editorial content in our nine local weeklies and numerous special editions, I've spent some time in all of our local offices from Hamburg to West Reading to Boyertown and now Quakertown.
I've worked with our already talented staff to improve the quality of all our newspapers and the service they provide to their communities.
However, that, of course, begs the question of exactly what that service should be.
When it comes to the local newspaper, a medium that arrives at our home every day or we pick up at our favorite convenience store or other local retailer, I've always found that readers are never shy about making suggestions.
That's pretty much as it should be when dealing with one of the few media where content is actually still created in our own community instead of halfway across the country or even halfway around the world.
Here at Berks-Mont Newspapers we've tried to make that connection with readers even more immediate by adding local columns from our editors like this one, listing our names and contact information in our papers and on our website at www.berksmontnews.com and now even by adding blogs from our editors on line.
By the way, four of our local editors now offer such locations in cyberspace: my own at http://www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs/berksmont/shawnh/blog.html, Matt Reichl, editor of The Boyertown Area Times at http://www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs /berksmont/mattr/blog.html, Heather Tassmer, editor of The News of Southern Berks at http://www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs /berksmont/heathert/blog.html, and Berks-Mont sports editor Ric Webb at http://www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs /berksmont/ricw/blog.html.
Comment sections on these blogs are more immediate than writing a letter or sometimes even then sending an e-mail or picking up a telephone. (We may not be in the office to respond to either at any given moment.)
With our home in cyberspace you can get on line anytime night or day and really tell us what you think but please watch your language.
Despite all these means to gauge our readers the question still persists: what does make a great local newspaper?
The answers I've gotten by talking to readers and even other editors and columnists have varied.
Some say it's a hometown folksy feel, or not just concentrating on the bad news or sensationalizing the way big daily newspapers are perceived to do. Some say it is controversy or popular columnists or covering just the right number of events from each community or juicy neighborhood gossip or photos or stories about the people you know.
Maybe I'm old fashioned. I think it's the news. We could take all the demographic surveys we wanted, assess all of our readers and study them to discover their habits and preferences.
Look to our newspapers to bring ever more of this information to you each week. Sure, we'll try to make it entertaining, stimulating and always unquestionably local, but most important we'll make it news you need to know.