Being a newspaper journalist is an easy job – unless you want to do it well.
Because it’s a creative endeavor, journalism doesn’t do well with forms and formulas.
Great writing, editing, photography and graphic design take practice, discipline, and a desire to keep learning.
That what our customers expect – and deserve.
If that’s too much work ... well, seek another profession.
DID WE MENTION the need for continued self-improvement?
Each year, newsroom staffers at Sauk Valley Media offer their journalistic resolutions for the New Year.
Again for 2014, more than half of the staff responded to the call for totally voluntary, job-related resolutions.
“I’m looking for your journalistic promise to readers and our community,” the editor’s note said. “As good as we have been, how do you plan to do your job even better next year?”
Did we say “good”?
Again this year, we were honored by the Associated Press Editorial Association with its General Excellence award, which recognized this as the best mid-size newspaper in the state. That’s the second time in the past 4 years for, perhaps, the smallest newspaper in the competition.
BUT WE WANT TO be better, to challenge ourselves, to pursue excellence.
How better to do that than to go public with our personal goals?
“We preach accountability and transparency,” the editor told the staff. “This is a chance to walk the walk.”
If you don’t see certain staff members listed below, they might have been on vacation or, perhaps, too shy to go public with their self-improvement plans.
But make no mistake about it: We all plan to continue to be and do better in 2014.
It’s the editor’s job to make sure of that.
JIM DUNN, Opinion page editor: My resolution for 2014 is to come up with a program to recognize the good writing done by people who send us letters to the editor. Their ideas and viewpoints are an important part of the Opinion page. The program might involve a contest and perhaps a get-together at our office.
CYNTHIA DAHL, Opinion page assistant: Even though I seldom meet Reader’s Voice letter writers in person, I have grown to know many of them personally through their words and opinions. I hope I can continue to help them entrust me with their letters and make the process of submitting a letter as easy as possible for them.
JEFF ROGERS, managing editor: My resolutions for the new year are to adjust our daily news coverage to focus even more on issues and trends than on meetings. What happens during meetings of a city council or school board is important, but what’s more newsworthy and interesting are real people and how they live with, and are impacted by, the matters officials discuss and decide. I also aim to develop a plan for us to be more active and consistent in posting news more quickly and effectively online, on Facebook, and via Twitter. Finally, personally, I plan to start a blog in 2014 about lists. I’ll create my own lists about entertainment, news and sports, share others I see that are interesting, and ask readers to participate. Who doesn’t love lists?!
DAVID GIULIANI, news editor: I want to surprise readers more often. Recently, reporter Matt Mencarini uncovered credit card spending in the Ogle County government, which included thousands in restaurant bills. We could have attended years of meetings and never found that out. The lesson: Look in unusual places for stories.
MATT MENCARINI, reporter: To make 2014 the Year of Coding. Computer coding is a skill that won’t immediately show up in my daily reporting. But over time, hopefully, it will allow me to find stories I otherwise wouldn’t be able to find and tell them in ways I can’t right now.
CHRISTI WARREN, reporter: The rules of good journalism are pretty obvious: be correct, be fair, and do it as quickly as possible. But when it comes to great journalism, to great writing, that’s not enough. Great journalists use details in ways that make readers forget, if just for a moment, that they’re reading a newspaper article. Their stories invite the reader to peer into the complex daily lives of those who surround them. They make their subjects appear whole, not just as words on a page, but as individuals – each of them unique, with feelings and struggles and families and histories. Real-life characters that readers can connect with, can feel like they know. In 2014, as always, that’s the kind of journalist I’ll strive to be.
CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN, night news editor: I’m not putting the cart before the horse. I’m new to news side, I’ve got a lot to learn and hope to have a firm grip on the position just in time for midterms. Only then am I looking forward to fully unleashing my creative spirit.
LUCAS PAULEY, copy editor: I want to make Plan!t Sauk Valley something very special in 2014. I would like to highlight more local entertainment and find ways to make it a stronger section in Thursday’s editions. I also would like to become a better editor of copy while I’m designing pages.
ANGEL SIERRA, online editor: I love to tell stories. 2013 was a year of innovative storytelling. In 2014, I’ll look for new ways to bring readers closer to our community, and share the compelling stories of the people who work and live here.
ANDREA MILLS, Community editor: Emailing proofs for Celebrations issues has been quite successful. I am now emailing 90 percent of the proofs, saving customers a trip. I also continue to offer proofing in the office for those who prefer it. The goal of being error free in Celebrations and SV Weekend’s community pages continues.
MARY NEAR, Community assistant: I will continue to focus on my typing and proofing skills and be aware of local events and stories to provide accurate information to customer inquiries.
PHIL HARTMAN, editorial assistant: I resolve to continue to work on accuracy and speed, getting customers correct information in a timely fashion.
MARLA SEIDELL, special sections editor: I will continue working to increase local content in special sections and magazines.
I will also work on making page designs more interesting for the reader.
DEAR READERS: What improvements would you like to see in your newspaper in 2014?
Let us know.
And start working on your list.