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Larry Lough

Who are we? Your source for local news

Want the most complete coverage of the Rita Crundwell scandal?

You will find no better resource than this newspaper and its website.

High school sports in Lee and Whiteside counties?

Nobody comes close to our mix of reporting, photography and videos.

In fact, we might mimic the motto of some other newspapers by printing this on our front page every day:

The only newspaper in the world that gives a damn about the Sauk Valley.

It’s true.

UNTIL THE SECOND half of the 20th century, newspapers were all things to all people.

The definition of news, one prominent publisher said 30 years ago, is “what the editor says it is.”

There was a time that if a particular bit of news was not published in the newspaper, most people didn’t know about it. The editor controlled their access to news.

That was before television and satellites and computers and instantaneous global communication.

The world was a pretty big place back then.

Today, the other side of the planet is just a keystroke away.

IN THIS ERA OF specialization, targeted marketing, and niche publications, small-market newspapers like this one have narrowed their focus to doing well what they do best: Provide local news and information – in print and online.

We no longer are – have not been for a long time – people’s primary source for national and world news.

The really big stories cannot be ignored, of course, and we will always find a way to provide our audience with the important developments.

But if you want detailed 24/7 coverage from a place like Newtown, Conn., we suggest you do what most folks do: turn on the TV or check the website of a major market news outlet.

We will never compete with them.

THAT DISAPPOINTED Barry, who sent the editor an email last weekend to say he was disappointed to find our website wasn’t keeping up with “significant news like the Connecticut Massacre.”

“How much effort could it take to just post an AP story?” he asked. “I think your subscriber base may dwindle away because they will bookmark another site – rather than bother to go to yours. ...

“I understand newspapers today have to serve a local niche to survive – but am I wrong that you should not be ignoring the big stories that attract readers?”

Barry is right: We serve a local niche, giving our readers the local news and information that, frankly, they cannot get from any other news outlet – print or electronic.

Had a major development broken in the school shootings on Saturday or Sunday, we would have updated our website.

But there was no search for a killer, no mystery about what had happened, and no uncertainty about the outcome.

The drama was gone; only the tragic aftermath remained.

ANY RESOURCES WE devote to reporting national and world news are resources that cannot be used to do what only we do: provide extensive and detailed local news and information.

We always post and publish information on the really big stories around the world, but some days our local news reporting leaves very little space in the print edition for stories from the Associated Press or McClatchy-Tribune news service.

In fact, in recent years we have dropped some supplemental news services (Gannett, Scripps-Howard) and cut back the AP report to only its basic package.

That was done so that we could put the money where it did the most good for our readers – in the reporting of local news.

“People don’t buy our newspaper for national or world news,” we told Barry in an email, “nor do they turn to our website for that information. Survey after survey shows that people go to television for that news. ... We will never have the resources to compete with the detailed 24/7 attention the [Newtown] story received from TV or other much larger news operations, nor do the vast majority of our readers expect it.”

Not in the 21st century.

WE HEARD FROM some other readers about our coverage of the Newtown shootings.

One woman called the editor to say the Friday tragedy should have been on Page 1 of Saturday’s editions.

We devoted half of a page to a photo and the story on Page A9.

“That was a slap in the face of those little kids,” the caller said Monday morning.

On Page 1 we did promote the A9 story with a small photo of President Obama as he addressed the nation on TV just hours after the shootings.

“Nation stunned by Conn. schools shootings,” our headline said. A brief story summary ended with a reference to the full story inside the first section.

The rest of Page 1 that day was consumed with news and information from around the Sauk Valley – stuff that readers could not get anywhere else.

We meant no disrespect to the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

NEXT MORNING, WE received a phone call from a woman who said we should not have published a photo of a Dixon girl “with a gun” on Saturday on the Scrapbook page – the third page of the third section – where we place pictures submitted by readers.

The caller said this newspaper was “contributing to what happened in Connecticut” by printing that photo.

That picture showed the young girl with a deer she had shot while hunting in Ogle County.

There was no gun in the photo.

But these days, we’re all a little sensitive about such things.

Who are we? Your source for local news shaw-push-component-1