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20 tips on covering speeches and meetings

You are the eyes, ears and brains for your audience when you cover a City Council, County Commissioners or a school board meeting. The following 20 tips help you produce an accurate, informative news story on deadline.  These tips also work for speeches and panels. Use a smartphone and a notebook Take a photo of

Stick to the basics: Present all sides of a story

Most reporters can likely relate to this scenario. Someone speaks up at a public meeting to unleash criticism about an individual or organization. Reporters have little difficulty presenting a balanced report – recording all sides of the story – if the accused is at the meeting. But what happens if the individual is not present?

Playoffs are around the corner: Here are some ideas for improving your sports coverage

With the high school football playoffs almost on us and prep basketball about to tip off, now is about as good a time as any to consider again about how to beef up your online sports readership. And while it may seem sometimes you’re having to rob Peter to pay Paul when it comes to

Help in localizing the health care debate

The debate over changes to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is especially significant to rural areas, and The Rural Blog has several stories that can help inform your local coverage. Obamacare’s private-insurance options are on life support in much if not most of rural America. A third of counties, mostly rural, had only

Could free distribution be an option for community newspapers?

Here is a common scenario, using a fictitious newspaper as an example. The Belleville Bugle is a high-quality weekly that has served its community for more than 100 years. The town the Bugle serves is prosperous. Households have more than doubled over the past 30 years. There is new industry. Belleville is also a bedroom

How newspapers can set themselves apart in a crowded information market

Last month’s blogpost was a warning that the attack on journalism by certain actors on the public stage is having an effect on community newspapers, and that social media are driving readers to spend more time with national news than with local news. How can community papers can adapt to this radically changed news landscape?

Local editorials are the franchise of local newspapers

What’s the first word you associate with editorials? Editorials can serve a variety of roles. They educate. What are the current rental codes and how would they be strengthened under a proposed ordinance before the city council? What’s the process, and the pros/cons, for annexing land to a city? They enlighten. Newspapers might feel an

Distrust of national media may affect the credibility of local newspapers

Trust in “the mass media, such as newspapers, TV and radio” in polls taken by the Gallup Organization was at 32 percent last year, the lowest ever – and was significantly lower than the 40 percent recorded in 2015. Rural newspapers have often presumed that such trends don’t affect them, because they’re in closer touch with smaller

Four quick fixes any newspaper can use to improve writing

Community newspapers are always looking for ways to improve the reader’s experience. We’ve improved design and photography and even experimented with larger point sizes and more readable fonts (And somewhere, Ed Henninger is smiling). But nothing improves the reader experience more than readable writing. Some editors just glaze over when they start thinking about making

New federal policies may bring big changes to communities

Big changes in Washington will mean big changes in your county, and we’ve been covering them on The Rural Blog. President Donald Trump’s pledge to deport undocumented workers could lead to a labor shortage in agriculture, in which an estimated 16 percent of the work is done by people who are in the U.S. illegally,

The readers we have vs. the readers we want: a circulation dilemma

One of the dilemmas faced by any medium is the extent to which journalists give readers what they want – no matter what that is. So do we cater to the needs of the readers we have, or do we try to include content that reaches the readers we want?  And if we do that,

Trump policies to impact rural areas

Rural votes played a big role in Donald Trump’s victory, and he plans some big changes that will have a big impact in rural communities. Extractive industries do most of their extracting in rural areas, and Trump promised “to topple just about every major energy and environment policy enacted in the past eight years,” Robin