I often engage readers in conversations about the newspaper. I commonly field questions about why we do some of the things we do. Some themes re-emerge, enough so that they are worth addressing here with a simple true-and-false treatment:
False: The newspaper is hiding something or protecting someone.
I hear about how we are somehow in cahoots with this government body or that government body. We report the facts as clearly as possible regardless of who is involved in the story, but I know my protests to the contrary may fall on deaf ears. So if you think we’re in the pocket of the county commissioners, city council or Washington County legislative delegation, ask a member of these government bodies if they feel the same way.
If we haven’t reported something that you feel is important, it may be for several reasons, such as we have not been able to verify a story, or we don't know about it.
False: The paper favors one school at the expense of others.
I most often hear that with respect to the rivalry between North Hagerstown High School and South Hagerstown High School.
We have no motive for such bias. The newsroom currently employs graduates of Boonsboro, Clear Spring and North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown high schools, and editors and reporters have children in those and other local schools.
We can’t be everywhere, so we may have to choose one school to cover as a sample of a countywide story. Often internal logistics and circumstances dictate which school we cover.
The sports department tries to get to as many varsity games and matches as possible.
And we go to great lengths to be fair to students and parents. With the recent graduations of the Class of 2012, we published photos from each public school on the front page and related stories on an inside page. Reporters and photographers produced video and photo galleries from each.
True: We put a story on the front page to sell newspapers.
We are wary of sensationalizing a story, but we would have a sorry business model if we didn’t try to sell newspapers. When planning the front page, editors choose stories and photos that we believe are the most newsworthy and have the broadest appeal. We emphasize local news over more widely available national and world news.
False: The Herald-Mail is moving.
This is a new one following the outsourcing of the printing of The Herald-Mail in 2011.
Almost every Herald-Mail operation other than the actual printing of the newspaper still takes place at the longtime Herald-Mail offices in downtown Hagerstown. Most Herald-Mail employees still come to work at 100 Summit Ave. We’re not going anywhere anytime soon and are instead investing in renovating the offices.
If you have questions about our operations or our reporting of the news, feel free to ask.
Jake Womer is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by calling 301-791-7594 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.