A loyal Columbian reader, Ray from Camas, dropped me a note earlier this week to talk about the front page of our Tuesday, June 23, edition. Our top story was by our police reporter, Jerzy Shedlock, headlined “County to push forward on body cams.” Jerzy talked to a number of local sources, and his story reported that local law enforcement is much more interested in equipping police with body-worn cameras in the wake of recent events.
Also on the top half of the page, or “above the fold” in newspaper lingo, was an Associated Press story “COVID-19 cases surge in West, South.” As you can interpret from the headline, it was the wire service’s daily roundup, or “main bar” in newspaper lingo, about the novel coronavirus.
The third story on the page, which we call the “center package” because of its dominant art, was a local story by Patty Hastings about how local Catholic churches are adapting Mass to comply with new health guidelines and still serve the faithful during the pandemic.
Ray wasn’t happy with the page. “I think you made a big mistake this morning,” he wrote. “… I don’t think there is anything more important right now than controlling COVID-19. … Your paper can’t control what people do, but it sure can have a powerful influence. Your primary headline in big print should have been the article on how cases are increasing.”
I don’t necessarily disagree with him — the pandemic is one of the biggest stories of my career, if not the biggest, and media does have a powerful influence on public behavior. But when it comes to making decisions on lead stories, and everything that goes on the front page for that matter, we try to think locally, not globally. We give a lot of preference to local news you can’t find elsewhere.