“That story doesn’t belong on the front page.”
“Why isn’t that story on the front page?”
— A career’s worth of telephone calls from readers
I haven’t kept a running tally, but I know the above comments rank right at the top of the list of reader complaints I’ve dealt with over the years.
There were several recent instances that speak to the same point, namely news judgment.
One was a complaint that there was nothing in that day’s paper on the then-filibuster by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., blocking confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the CIA until the administration clarified its policy on using drones in the U.S. against citizens who are terror suspects.
The filibuster was important information, the woman said in her voice mail, and she couldn’t understand why there was nothing about it in that day’s paper.
When I called to point out that a story and photo had been in the paper on Page 5A, the conversation morphed into a different question.
“Why was it there? It should have been on an earlier page. People should be interested in it. That’s important news.”
The selection Wednesday of Pope Francis is a case that walks a line of a Page 1A presence.
While there wasn’t a story about the new pope on the front page, the headline about his selection and a photo were at the very top of the page, referring to coverage on Page 3A.
No other story, local or national, in that day’s paper received more space and coverage than the selection of Pope Francis.
Closer to home, the story about the FAA considering closing the control tower at Ogden-Hinckley Airport “didn’t belong on the front page,” according to one caller.
Why not, I asked.
Bad news, she said, doesn’t belong on Page 1A. Nobody wants to read that. It can go inside, but the front page should be good news.
What people “should be interested” in reading in their daily newspaper, good or bad, is a highly individual matter. No one can make anybody else “be interested” in a particular story or topic.
News is personal.
On balance, we try to pick stories with broad interest, appeal and impact to our readers and in our community.
But one thing is certain: For everyone who nods their head in agreement with what we decide, somebody else is shaking their head in disagreement. And often enough the same person is doing both.
RAMBLER UPDATE: I’m happy to report that Wasatch Rambler columnist Charlie Trentelman is out of the hospital following surgery related to an ongoing battle with pneumonia.
The Wasatch Rambler column is back on Sunday, and Charlie plans to be back in the office this coming week.
Dave Greiling is managing editor of the Standard-Examiner. He can be reached at 801-625-4224 and at email@example.com.