How we handle submitted content in the paper

Published 2:29 pm Thursday, June 13, 2019

We regularly receive questions about how we deal with submitted content in the newspaper, whether it be photos, contributed columns, press releases or opinion pieces. Many of those questions come on an individual basis, but if one person is asking, others in the community likely have the same question.

With that said, I’d like to specifically answer some of those questions now.

All content, submitted or otherwise, will be edited for grammar, style and clarity. If an article is submitted with a word misspelled, we’ll fix it. If the wrong version of a verb is used, we’ll change it.

We’ll also correct anything that isn’t in AP style, which is the style this newspaper and just about all others use. For instance, certain months are abbreviated (August becomes Aug.), exclamation points are frowned upon, and it’s always “toward” and never “towards.”

As for clarity, if a portion of a submitted article is not clear, or is ambiguous, we’re going to edit the work to ensure readers can understand what is being said. If we need to completely alter sentence structure, we’re also going to send it back to the author prior to publishing, to ensure they agree with the edits made.

Everything in the paper is also edited for length. Space varies as the paper is put together a bit differently each day, depending on advertising content and the number of pages available. As an additional note, opinion columns that are more than 400 words may have to be cut short. Letters to the editor should always be 400 words or less.

So what kind of submitted content are we looking for?

We love photos from events around the community, such as scholarship presentations, pageant winners, boy scout projects and field trips. We want calendar announcements of special programs going on in the community, so that we can add them to our ‘Briefly Told’ section or our church calendar. That might be special church events — like 50 year anniversaries — or local fundraisers.

We also want to know about certain staff changes at local organizations. For instance, if your local company has a new president, let us know and feel free to send us a press release. We’ll publish that. Hiring an intern for the summer likely does not rise to the level of publication.

We also often have to make tough choices when it comes to content that doesn’t publish. Given the space we have — and our obligation to fill that space with the best possible local news — we don’t publish minutes from local organizations. A group meeting for lunch is not newsworthy. What is newsworthy is when that same group meets and spends three hours picking up trash around town, although their lunch still wouldn’t make the paper. After all, most of us eat lunch every day.

Another topic I hear about often is our sports coverage. Many in the community want to see more focus on the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons or national sports in general. I completely get it. That coverage is important, and we include it when possible.

However, type “Atlanta Braves” into Google and you’ll quickly receive a million results on recent games, possible free agent signings, recent draft picks, NL East predictions and historical facts. The fact is, regional and national media organizations simply have more resources and do a better, more comprehensive job covering national sports than a local, community paper can. Our sports department consists of one, hard-working reporter. National outlets employ dozens of seasoned reporters to bring insightful stories to the masses.

On the flip side, if you Google any of the recent area basketball playdates that have filled our sports pages, you won’t find them anywhere else. The same could be said for the football, track and field, baseball, softball or tennis coverage we provide on our sports pages for local high schools and colleges. If we didn’t cover it, those student athletes would receive almost no coverage.

At the same time, when we do have an opportunity to provide national sports coverage, or Alabama and Auburn content, we do so. But, if you pick up a paper on a day where we covered five local high school football games, you probably aren’t going to find a story on the Braves-Marlins game from the night before. Instead, you’re going to find local stories on local athletes and plenty of photos to go with them too, a fact we’re proud of.

We pride ourselves on bringing you the best local news from this area every day. Some of our readers want us to focus exclusively on Valley. Others want us to continue to cover Chambers County and West Point, as we traditionally have. Some want to see less news from LaFayette.

Many times, we have a Troup County story that impacts our West Point subscribers, such as a new superintendent at the school system or a decision by the Troup County Commission. Those stories may not affect LaFayette, but they are important decisions affecting readers in our area.

I get plenty of messages about how we handle the balance of coverage across our area, so I know it matters to our readers. Trust me when I say we work hard every day to balance all of that and provide you the best news coverage possible from West Point, Lanett, LaFayette, Valley and all of Chambers County. We are not perfect, and our small, hardworking staff does make mistakes, to be sure. But, our overall goal is to be a community newspaper for every citizen in the Greater Valley Area.

I hope this peek behind the curtain helps clear up any community questions about our content. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email me at Daniel.evans@lagrangenews.com.