Where we draw the line on paid and free advertising

The need for another “how newspapers work” article came up recently. We’ve gotten some questions on how we choose our local briefs and why some things are included while others are not.

The Sheridan Press decided to expand the local briefs section of the newspaper more than a year ago.

Prior to the fall of 2012, the People page consisted primarily of wedding, engagement, anniversary and birth announcements. If there was any available room left, it was typically filled with national arts and entertainment news. Local coverage on that popular page, and in the newspaper as a whole, has since expanded quite significantly.

It now features briefs on upcoming local events such as artist receptions, gallery exhibitions, nonprofit fundraisers, continuing education classes and food drives. These, of course, still run alongside the announcements.

Once items appear on the People page, usually a week or so before the event is scheduled to take place, The Sheridan Press also runs a reminder of those events in a section called “Local briefs.” This runs daily along with a list of the following day’s events.

This is done as a public service and we do what we can to get all events that are open to the public into these sections of the newspaper.

Granted we are not always successful. As anyone knows who has lived here for awhile, Sheridan County is a very busy community and it is difficult to keep track of everything that happens. Yet, we do our best.

The key thing to know about both the People page and the local briefs section is that we try only to include those events that are open to the public. Whether they are free or not, they must be open to the public.

Some clubs wonder why their meeting notices are not included while others are. This comes down to whether or not the public is welcome. Many times local clubs announce their speakers or programs for upcoming meetings and note that, “visitors are welcome,” or “the public is invited to attend.” We are always happy to run that notice if the information is received early enough.

If somebody calls about a special program or speaker at a meeting that is not open to the public, we invite that organization to purchase an advertisement.

There are a few reasons why we do this.

• First, we pride ourselves on having a majority of the newspaper’s content focused on local events, but there are only so many column inches in a given day’s edition. We’d like to save that space for events that are open to the entire community.

• Secondly, if the Press did not focus on events that are open to the general public, the newspaper could easily become a “newsletter” for all of the local clubs and organizations. This is not our primary mission.

• Lastly, the Press is a business. Like any other business, we rely on revenue to stay afloat. We choose to draw the line on free versus paid advertising based on public openness and availability.

This is not always a policy people or organizations like, but as our public service in this area continues to grow, it is one we hope readers will understand and appreciate.

About

Kristen Czaban

Kristen Czaban joined The Sheridan Press staff in 2008 and covered beats including local government, cops and courts and the energy industry. In 2012, she was promoted and now serves as the managing editor for The Press. Czaban has a journalism degree from Northwestern University.

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