Gerber: Seeking feedback

Gerber: Seeking feedback

January 29th, 2012 by Alison Gerber in Opinion Columns

A question: What do you want to see in the Times Free Press?

We know readers pick up the paper for all kinds of reasons, some to keep up with the news, others to read about the Vols or play Sudoku or clip coupons.

But I'd like to know your opinions on coverage in the news pages: the A section, Metro and Region, Business, Life, Sports and the Times and Free Press opinion pages.

Too much crime? Not enough crime? What about politics? Overloaded or underwhelmed?

Health? Food? Business news? More videos on the website?

Are there things we aren't covering that we should? Are there things we cover that we shouldn't?

Think it over and let me know.

A just-formed committee of 11 journalists in the newsroom is looking at this very issue. From stem to stern, the committee is reviewing everything we do - stories, photos, organization, what we put on section fronts. The group is charged with looking at every detail - what we do well, what we can tweak, what we ought to completely blow up.

Once they've intimately studied the Times Free Press, committee members will make recommendations on the newspaper's direction.

But we'd like for readers to weigh in, too.

We've created an email address specifically for readers to provide feedback. You can send your thoughts on coverage in general or on a specific story, photo or headline to readerfeedback@timesfreepress.com.

We'll take all opinions into consideration and look for trends or see if a consensus is taking shape.

It's impossible to please everyone. One reader writes me each time we run a sports story on the front page because, while he is a football fan, he believes football games should run only in Sports. But I recently received a call from another reader who wanted to know why we underplay some sporting events.

"Big games should all be on the front page," he said the day after Alabama defeated LSU in the BCS championship. "Especially when Alabama wins."

Another reader complained that the Times Free Press is too sensationalist, saying we cover crime too much, while another complained in the same week that we don't write about enough of the crime that happens here. He thinks we shouldn't just cover homicides and big cases but should let readers know about all crimes, down to the smallest break-in.

What's the right answer? It depends on personal interest, and that's a hard thing to gauge.

Just a few years ago, editors sat in news meetings every day and debated what stories readers want to see.

Then the Web provided something measurable on a daily basis; it's easy to see what Web stories interest readers based on numbers of page views. Still, there are times when a story generates interest on the Web but doesn't play well in the print edition.

So perhaps the best option is simply to ask readers what you think.

It's your paper. So let us know what you'd like to see in it.

Alison Gerber is the managing editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at agerber@timesfree press.com. Send suggestions to reader feedback@timesfreepress.com.