Wick Communications

Making the best of it

In journalism on 20 Oct 2016 at 3:11 pm


When I told Sierra Vista Herald interim Managing Editor Liz Manring how much I liked this Oct. 7 front page, her response was: “This one? Really?”

Liz and her staff are perfectionists. A “perfect” front page would undoubtedly consist entirely of well researched staff-written stories full of context and bursting with art. This is not really that page.

“I don’t know that this is the best example of our best work,” she wrote to me in an email.

I agree, but that wasn’t the point I was making. As a news editor, every day my reach exceeds my grasp. I always want to produce a better newspaper than I do, and frankly that is one of the things that has always appealed to me about newspapering. Tomorrow is always a day away and that means I have another chance right around the corner.

What I liked about this page is that Liz and her staff made the most of what they had that day. And there was planning involved that might not be evident. …Liz says her philosophy is to plan a good centerpiece with compelling art and an interesting issue-oriented piece for every edition and then to flow the breaking stuff around that.

Well, Liz would be the first to say that didn’t come together on this particular day. A reporter missed the features deadline and the story of Steve Troncale and his historic preservation became available for a subsequent centerpiece. From there, she assembled the treefrog story, which she harvested from the nearby Nogales International. She ran the Benson Pony Express story on the front page because it was interesting and had regional import.

I’m not a fan of AP stories on our front pages and neither is Liz. But if you have to run one in Sierra Vista, Ariz., this is the one to run. The border is always a hot topic in that part of Arizona.

These are the day-to-day editing decisions that string together to make a career. If these fine ships of the Fourth Estate ran themselves, we wouldn’t be necessary. The mark of a good captain is what she does when the thing lists a little bit. This is a fine save on a day when the boat could have taken on water.

Plan a centerpiece and an issue-oriented piece for each edition. Mine other sources, such as sister papers. Make thoughtful decisions with wire. Have art every day. Do all that and you will never produce a bad newspaper.

— Clay


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