Wick Communications CEO Tom Yunt has undoubtedly made countless observations since taking the reins last month. One of the things he has mentioned to me is the need to make it easier for readers to reach out to us.
There are a number of ways to accomplish that. You probably already have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Perhaps you need to work those networks harder. You can participate in the online commentary and forums that you host. You can hand out business cards while on assignment. You can hire a skywriter to write your telephone number in the clouds. That would be fun.
One of the easiest and most useful things you can do is to print your email address and/or telephone number with your stories. Some of us are already doing that; the rest of us should start doing so tomorrow. …
To me, this is particularly important online. While a print reader has to drag the newspaper to his computer (or, conversely, his handheld device to his newspaper) in order to email us, an online reader need only click a link to our email. That’s pretty handy.
I’m particularly impressed with the effort the Ontario Argus-Observer puts into the task. You’ll notice in the photo attached that Editor Scott McIntosh runs the reporter’s photo, his phone number and email address, and also the URL to the website for anyone wanting to comment on the story at hand. In a perfect world, I might add each reporter’s Twitter handle to that list. Scott says the newspaper has been doing it for about a month or so and that he was inspired by television news and the effort local TV puts into branding its own reporters.
“We’ve heard comments from a few readers that they really like it and they like knowing what the reporters look like,” Scott says in an email to me. He’s also thinking about running, at least irregularly, a box of some sort that would introduce the entire staff with contact information. That sounds like a good idea to me.
You might ask why. Why should we junk up our pages with @ symbols and long email addresses and phone numbers? Can’t readers find us if they really want to? Yes they can. But our business — more than most — is a two-way street. In 2013, you can not have a healthy news ecosystem without direct, daily contact with readers. Newspapers have always gone to great pains to simplify and to make information as easy to grasp as possible. We should take the same care when it comes to our own connections. Very little is more important.
I’m open to the most attractive and useful solutions. Perhaps it makes more sense to run all the editorial staff mugs and contact information in one convenient place and then simply include the email address under individual bylines. Maybe something simpler under the story is best. You tell me. But let’s all move in this direction.