Some of the stories are based on the calendar. The last Sunday of the year, for example, is reserved for our Top Stories of the Year package, and the Sunday before the Legislature convenes traditionally contains a story about what Southwest Washington expects from Olympia. The first Sunday in June is traditionally reserved for our high school graduation package, and so forth.
Exact stories and angles are suggested by the reporters, by the editors, or even better, by the readers.
Once a story idea makes the list, we bring it to a weekly meeting where the reporter talks about the plan with the other team members. This includes the story editor, the page designer, the photographer and the photo editor. News Editor Merridee Hanson leads these meetings, which are typically held at 3 p.m. Wednesdays. At the end of the meeting, we not only have a pretty good idea of what the story is about, but also about what images will accompany it, what graphic elements are needed, if the story will get special online treatment, and what the deadlines will be.
We always try to get what we call “leadable art,” which means that the story and its illustration can be the dominant image on the page. Our visuals experts are very good at coming up with ideas if we give them enough notice, even when a good photo opportunity is not apparent. Check Sunday’s paper for this year’s solution to the legislative preview story.
Of course, because we are working in advance, sometimes a story will fall through, or have to be delayed. Perhaps a key source is unavailable, or it will take longer than we thought to get some public records. And, of course, there is always the possibility that some other big story, what we call spot news, will cause us to pull our package.
Overall the system works pretty well for us, though there are some disadvantages. Because we plan so far in advance, we don’t often use Sunday A1 to react to news of the previous week.
But I think the advantage of making a Sunday A1 list works well for us, and for our readers.